After her performance over the past two days, it’s safe to say the TAPPS state track meet has never seen a Class 2A distance runner quite like Celia Holmes.
The Live Oak sophomore put on a dominating display Friday and Saturday at Baylor’s Hart Track and Field Stadium, sweeping the three longest running events by setting new records in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs and adding another gold in the 800.
“In the 36 years I’ve been coaching, she may be the best total package I’ve ever coached and been around,” Live Oak coach Steve Howard said. “She’s determined, she works incredibly hard, she’s a great person and mentally tough as she can be. You tie all that together, you have somebody with the talent, the discipline, the mental toughness and the work ethic, and I don’t know what you say. But the best thing is she’s just a great person.”
Holmes began her statement weekend Friday night by obliterating not only the field in the 3,200 but also the state mark. Holmes’ time of 11 minutes, 26.25 seconds lowered the standard of McKinney Christian’s Carolyn Bell — that had stood for 11 years — by 12.04 seconds, and placed her nearly 32 seconds ahead of her nearest competition.
“I’d say I’ve learned from (being well ahead of the competition) because I changed my race to focus on my pace throughout the whole time,” Holmes said. “Even though there might not be a physical competition, there is always a mental and myself competing against my best time.”
Holmes closed her portion of the meet with another record in the 1,600, although this time it was much closer.
She was again all alone as she sprinted down the home stretch, hearing it from a home crowd that was trying to help her reach the finish line. Holmes raised her hands in victory after seeing her time of 5:12.78, which bettered the old mark of 5:12.89 set in 2000 by Abilene Christian’s Ruth Nanyinza.
“I was watching the clock a little bit,” Holmes said. “I didn’t exactly remember what the record was, so I was just trying to finish as fast as I could and see how close I could get to it.”
Holmes stayed in the middle of the pack for the first 200 meters, then stayed on the heels of Shiner St. Paul’s Natalie Jackson as the two separated from the rest of the field by the end of the first lap. Jackson continued to lead until the home stretch, when Holmes burst around her to the outside and pulled away to win in a time of 2:22.14.
“It’s hard being long-distance and coming down to an 800,” Holmes said. “So I was definitely trying to save energy for the last sprint because I knew that everybody running the 800 if they were sprinters before they have a better sprint, so I definitely wanted to hang on to her and get her on the last area.”
Holmes’ 30 points helped Live Oak finish fourth as a team with 58.5, and she was the only athlete from Waco to bring home a gold medal in the meet, although one of her teammates came agonizingly close.
Natalia Stringer got off to a fast start and led the entire race in the 100-meter hurdles before being overtaken at the wire by Victoria Faith’s Hope Burns. The final lean gave Burns a time of 16.44, four-hundredths of a second ahead of the second-place Stringer, who added the silver to a bronze she won in Friday’s high jump with a height of 5 feet.
Live Oak also showed its distance strength on the boys’ side Friday, when Ridley Holmes and Timmy Bierwirth finished second and third, respectively, in the 3,200. Holmes hit the tape in 9:58.79, trailing only the record run of 9:53.18 from Fort Worth Bethesda’s Doyle Spencer. Bierwirth put up a time of 10:17.85.
Ridley Holmes came back Saturday to earn another second-place finish in the 800, again trailing Spencer, with a time of 2:04.15. Daniel Bailey rounded out Live Oak’s medal haul by soaring to a 19-7 ½ distance in the long jump, good for third place.
“I’m real proud of the guys,” Howard said. “Every one of the boys in the last two days has either PRed in their event or run extremely well. That’s all you can ask them to do. That’s all you can ask them to do is set a personal record, whatever that happens to be. They’ve all performed very well.”
In the 4A ranks, Reicher’s Tyler Zander came away with a silver medal Friday after clearing 13-6 in the pole vault.
Vanguard’s best chance for a top-three finish came from Philip MacLemore, whose height of 6 feet in the high jump was part of a four-way tie for second. But after everything was counted up, MacLemore had to settle for fourth.