New Waverly senior Roman Pray can already envision it, standing on the medal stand with a gold medal hanging around his neck.
If he has his way, Pray will see that happen four times at the UIL Track & Field State Meet in Austin on Friday and Saturday.
After a stellar spring in which he’s won district and regional championships, the Bulldog senior is set to compete in four events at the state meet this weekend at the University of Texas’ Mike A. Myers Stadium.
“I’m feeling good. I’m really proud of myself that I made it this far and that I have family to help me get this far,” Pray said. “I just keep practicing to do the best I can so I can win and get these golds.”
Pray will be competing in 110-meter hurdles, triple jump, 300 hurdles and the long jump.
Pray won regional championships in the 110 hurdles and the triple jump. In the state meet, he has the fastest regional time in the 110 hurdles (14.5 seconds) and the second-best mark in the triple jump at 45 feet 10 3/4 inches. Pray is also seeded fourth in the 300 hurdles and the long jump.
“I have good hopes going in,” New Waverly boys track and field coach Melvin Williams said. “I’m very confident in the events he’s going in. The 110 hurdles are by far his best race to me. He’s going in with the best time, so I feel like he can come out with a gold in that race. The 300 hurdles, he’s good at it but it’s a challenging race for him. Jumping-wise, triple jump is his best event.
“The thing with Roman, if he feels like someone is going to push him, then he’s going to do better. He likes to compete against people. His work ethic is what puts him past a lot of people. The last two weeks since we’ve been back from regionals, he’s been working very hard trying to stay in shape. We’ve been working on conditioning just so we can get that 300 hurdles time down.”
The state meet gets underway for Pray on Friday afternoon at 4 in the triple jump. On Saturday at 8 a.m., the New Waverly senior will compete in the long jump. Pray’s running events are scheduled for Saturday at 12:55 p.m. for the 110 hurdles, then the 300 hurdles at 2:15 p.m.
Pray thinks his best shot to bring home a gold medal is in the 110 hurdles as well as the triple jump, the events he won at the Class 3A Region III meet. Based on regional times, Pray has the fastest time in the 110 hurdles, but by .17 seconds ahead of Goliad’s Ricky Waer.
“My best events are the 110 hurdles and triple jump,” Pray said. “I think I should bring home two golds. The goal is to bring home four golds. The 300 hurdles and the long jump, the people that’s in front of me right now, they’re going to have to fight for that spot. It’s not going to be easy.”
By qualifying in four events in a single state meet, Pray has accomplished something that possibly hasn’t been done before by an athlete from Walker County.
Heralded track and field athletes and state champions from Huntsville High School Cleo Tyson — now known as Cleo Tyson VanBuren — and Justin Gilbert ran in three events in 2003 and 2010, respectively. Out of New Waverly, sprinters Cameron Estes, Eli Amador and Tyren Watts each ran in three events and helped bring home state championships in all three relay races in 2010.
“It’s really a blessing,” Pray said. “I want to thank God that I had the stamina. It wasn’t easy to be out in the sun and practicing every day.”
“I’ve told him that he has done a great job this track season,” Williams said. “Not only for yourself and your family, but he’s representing his school and community the way it should be represented by a student-athlete. When I first got here to New Waverly, I asked the kids what they were going to do to leave their mark. What teams have done in the past is good to look up to, but you want to leave your mark. With him making it to state in four events, he’s leaving his mark.”
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