FHS girls looking for podium in state track meet
The podium’s calling the Billies.
If everything falls together, they will answer with multiple medals.
Fredericksburg High School varsity girls’ quartet of senior Megan Daley, freshman Anna Gold, sophomore Aleah Constantine and junior Molly Pluenneke, along with alternates Molly Ross and Sydney Holster, have the talent and times to hang with the state’s best once they get to the UIL Class 4A Track and Field State Championships, set for Friday and Saturday at Mike A. Myers Track Complex at the University of Texas in Austin.
Daley, Gold, Constantine and Pluenneke will run the 4x400-meter relay. Daley is set for the high jump and 100- and 300-meter hurdles. Gold will compete in the 400-meter run.
The podium’s the goal, and it will take solid finishes in all five events to get there.
“I think it’s going to take everyone getting a new personal best, getting mentally prepared to exert everything we have, taking care of our bodies, getting good sleep, eating well and going in with the mindset that if everyone does the best that we can, we can accomplish that goal,” Pluenneke said. “We definitely want to get on the podium.”
It’s hard to tell how the girls line up in their events when looking at regional times, but their overall body of work this season indicates they have a shot at a top three finish in the meet.
“Every state meet’s a different meet,” coach Dan Aldrich said. “You can look at everything in what we’ve qualified on paper in the regional meet ... all those qualifying times are based on regional performance. You take Region IV where we were at in Kingsville. The times weren’t great from Region IV, but they were fast from some of the other regions.
“As far as heat, elements, some of that other stuff, you can’t really compare the times, but if you want to compare times, we’re sitting in a good spot to compete,” he said. “If we run our best times of the year, we have a chance to get on the podium. We’ll have a chance to get on the medal stand.”
Entries in five events gives the Billies a shot at doing just that, with the hopes of medaling resting with the final event at state: the 4x400-meter relay.
FHS’ 4x400 squad of Gold, Constantine, Pluenneke and Daley stands to earn the team its most points from a single event since relays earn double the points of individual events.
The relay team has the fourth best seed time out of all nine qualifying teams, with third place Dallas Carter — last year’s silver medalist in the 4x400 — ahead by roughly one second.
The 4x400 team secured the Region IV-4A team title by winning its race in the regional meet April 27-28 at Javelina Stadium in Kingsville.
“Last year, I went by myself,” Daley said. “This year, we get to go as a team. That’s so cool. And we got to win the region, so that was even cooler. We knew going into it that if we won the mile relay, we would win the region. That was so awesome.”
The quartet makes up four of the Billies’ top track athletes this season, but it’s not just ability that makes them work well together.
Aldrich thinks the camaraderie and competition among the band of runners makes them strong.
“You can have four girls who can be the fastest girls in the school and run a great 4x400 time,” he said. “They’re going to pass the baton off and say, ‘Go do your thing,’ and the next person runs. These four girls, whenever they’re working well together, they’re watching Anna run the first leg. They’re cheering her on. They want her to run her best time. They’re cheering on the next girl and as soon as Anna finishes, she’s not walking off and going to sit down by herself. She’s turning around to support her teammates.
“That’s how you can tell if the girls are working together, or they’re working against each other or by themselves.”
Going for the trifecta
Megan Daley will have a full workload in Austin this weekend.
The senior, who’s returning to Austin after winning silver in the high jump and making it in the 300-meter hurdles in 2017, won the Region IV-4A championship in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles, in addition to finishing second in high jump and running the anchor leg of FHS’ 4x400 relay.
“It feels pretty good (to qualify in all four events),” Daley said. “That was my goal, so I’m really excited.”
Daley fought pressure from the expectations of qualifying in all of her events to end up as a four-time state qualifier this year, which Aldrich believes is a first for FHS girls’ track.
“Everyone told me that’s what I was going to do,” Daley said. “But I was really, really nervous going into it. I was like, ‘Okay, everyone’s expecting this of me. I really hope I do.’ I figured I would, but nothing’s ever for sure.”
The future Baylor athlete will have her slate loaded over the two-day meet, going through the high jump Friday and competing in the three running events Saturday.
A year-round approach to training has her ready for the challenge. Daley spent the rest of the year working on her events and even throwing some javelin to prepare for a potential future as a heptathlete.
“I worked every single day,” Daley said. “Even in the winter when it was about 17 degrees, my dad and I would come out here. I probably shouldn’t have been out there because it was too cold, but I really wanted it.”
A medal in each of her three individual events isn’t out of the question, with regional times placing her mere seconds or inches off the medalist seeds.
“Hurdles are a technical event — very technical,” Aldrich said. “Megan has a great opportunity to land on the medal stand in one, and you never know, in two. In the Texas Relays, a girl fell in a hurdles race and Megan got on the medal stand. She ran a season best (personal record). That’s something that can happen at any time.
“If you don’t run a clean race with a steel-based hurdle (like the ones used at state), it’s going to knock you over. If she runs a PR, you never know. Two years ago when we took Chase (Whiting) to the state meet, the girl who ended up winning that year came in as the second to last place time.”
Frosh flying to fast start
The FHS’ freshman phenom has already shattered the school’s 400-meter dash record.
Next on the list is getting a state medal on her first try.
Qualifying times suggest Anna Gold, who won Region IV-4A’s 400-meter dash title in Kingsville, can get there with just a little bit of improvement leading up to the meet.
“She’s sitting fourth in the 400, based on her qualifying time, but she won by 15 meters in Region IV,” Aldrich said. “There are four girls running a 57 (second 400), our goal is to run a 56. I think if she does that, I think she can win it. But I don’t necessarily want to say that’s she’s going to win it. She still has to compete and still has to show up that day and the other girls might do the same thing.”
The moment’s not too big for Gold, who’s up to the task of running against 4A’s best athletes in both the 400 and running the first leg of the 4x400.
It’s not a surprise that she runs as fast as she does as a freshman considering Gold set the AIAL’s 400-meter record by clocking in at 61:88 while running for St. Mary’s School last season.
“I thought it could be a possibility if I put enough effort into it,” she said. “Now I’m going to state.”
Fellow freshman Danika Washington of Fort Worth Benbrook School has the event’s top qualifying time of 57.23 seconds, which is only a few steps faster than Gold.
She’s shaved two seconds off her first open 400 time of the season, a 59.56-second quarter recorded in the Marble Falls Mustang Relays on March 24.
“When she came in, we knew what she was capable of doing. She had the potential. Everyone talked about that the 400 was her race. Where she started the year and where’s she’s finishing, it’s huge.
“As far as progressing the way we wanted her to … I wish we had three more weeks (to train for state),” Aldrich said. “She’s still learning how to run the race. She still has work to do, but she has a lot of potential inside of her. For a freshman, it’s pretty impressive.”
UIL Class 4A State Track
and Field Championships
Mike A. Myers Track Complex
University of Texas in Austin
Schedule of events for FHS athletes:
Friday, May 11
• High jump (Megan Daley), 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 12
• 100-meter hurdles (Megan Daley), 12:45 p.m.
• 400-meter dash (Anna Gold), 1:45 p.m.
• 300-meter hurdles (Megan Daley), 2:05 p.m.
• 4x400-meter relay (Anna Gold, Aleah Constantine, Molly Pluenneke, Megan Daley), 3:05 p.m.