An unusually strong field of 1,600-meter specialists will take aim at one of the Jesuit-Sheaner Relays’ oldest records.
In the infant days of the meet, Falfurrias miler Robert Gonzales made the seven-hour trek from South Texas worthwhile with a winning time that converts to 4 minutes, 8.4 seconds in the 1,600-meter distance of today’s event.
Gonzales’ 48-year-old record could be in jeopardy in the meet’s 51st edition Friday and Saturday at Jesuit’s Haggar Stadium.
Six contestants have seeded times below 4:20, a list headed by the 4:14 of Frisco Independence junior Carter Blunt, the Class 4A state champion in 2014.
“Carter is a competitor,” said Independence coach Mindy Briones, “and with the quality of runners that will be there, the record is within reach. But Carter’s season is so much longer than most. Our aim is the state meet, so right now the 3,200 is strongest race.”
For the first time in the event’s history, the 3,200-meters will be on a Friday evening, so the distance runners will not be faced with two events in one day.
“People believe it is just talent, but Carter is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around,” Briones said. “Racing on consecutive days is tough, but he is very strong willed.”
Blunt was named Texas’ cross country runner of the year after a victory in the Class 5A division last fall.
Other top 1,600 seeds are Highland Park senior Griffin Beitter, a pair of Southlake Carroll runners — sophomore Reed Brown and senior Eli Canal — and Jose Viegra, a senior at Pflugerville Hendrickson ranked No. 5 in the state. Beitter will attend Kansas, and Canal is headed to Texas A&M.
For some added Red River spice, Oklahoma 2014 Class 6A state champion Bryce Balenseifen, an Oklahoma State signee representing Edmond Deer Creek, is giving up his spring break weekend to compete.
“When I first told Bryce about the invitation, his only comment to me was, ‘Sign me up,’” Deer Creek coach David Riden said. “The competition is the reason we wanted to come down. When you get five or six kids pushing each other, that’s ideal for breaking records.”
What hasn't been ideal is the weather. Many athletes have had fewer opportunities to compete this year with early-season meets being canceled.
This year’s meet is drawing athletes from four states, with more than 100 schools represented.
“Some say this meet is Texas Relays North,” said the tournament’s namesake, Herb Sheaner, who has seen all of the previous 50. “Every event will be competitive.”