When Criselda Cruz and Alice High School’s track and field coaches talk about this weekend’s state meet, they aren’t content with just going to Austin and competing against some of the best high school athletes in Texas.
The goal for Alice’s star runner is to win a medal, and not not a medal… a gold medal. Cruz is running in the Class 5A 300-meter hurdles at the UIL state track and field meet. She is one of eight girls from around the state in the event.
The meet, the biggest high school meet in Texas, is at Mike A. Myers Stadium at the University of Texas in Austin beginning Thursday. Cruz is scheduled to run in the 300-meter hurdles Friday night. It’s then that coaches expect Cruz to shine.
The group can afford to be confident. See something happened in the finals of the 300-meter hurdles at the Region IV track and field meet in San Antonio’s Alamo Stadium two weeks ago. Cruz had a solid star, but stumbled on the third hurdle near the back curve. She didn’t fall, but she did stumble. She was able to regain her composure, make-up ground and sprint to a second-place finish.
Cruz, a junior, finished with a time of 45.22 and was behind April Polansky of Flour Bluff, who had a qualifying time is 44.90.
Cruz laughs off the hit hurdle at regionals and dismisses it as adrenaline.
“It was just running too fast,” she said. “I was running too fast for my steps. It was really just mental. That’s something I’ve been working on. I think if I can work on my mental state at the time of the race, I’ll be better for state.”
Alice track coach Leonard Tipton agrees. He believes Cruz has yet to run her best race this season, and he’s hoping it happens Friday night in Austin.
“I still think she has her best time ahead of her,” Tipton said. “Hopefully it’ll be Friday night. Hopefully she can finish this race a second better. If we can get at least a second better we’ll be the stats champion. We were happy just to get here, but after looking at the qualifying times, we’re going for the state championship.”
Her fastest time in the 300-mete hurdles this season is 45.1 Tipton is aiming for Cruz to turn in a time as much as a second faster.
Cruz is aiming even higher. She believes an improvement of some two whole seconds is possible.
“I still think that I can do better,” Cruz said. “I think I can run a 43.”
It’s a lofty goal, but if there’s an athlete capable of such huge strides, it’s Cruz, Alice assistant track coach Marissa Acosta said.
“It seems like she’s on pace to ‘PRing’ (setting a personal record).” Acosta said. “She keep working hard and doing all the things that she need to do. She’s the kind of athlete that can be successful in any sport. She’s already been successful in all the sports she’s competed in.”