Mineral Wells Index
By CLINT FOSTER
AUSTIN – Senior DaShawn Hicks and junior Juvaree Sutton had dreams of returning to Mineral Wells with gold medals from their respective events at the UIL Track and Field State Meet.
But despite strong starts, both athletes were hampered by untimely, mid-race injuries over the weekend in Austin and saw their championship aspirations unfulfilled.
Both Hicks and Sutton finished sixth in their events at state: Hicks in the 100-meter dash and Sutton in the 300-meter hurdles.
For Hicks – who had designs on earning a gold medal to cap off a remarkable comeback from a December knee injury that required surgery – 2014's state meet turned out to be the last chapter in a long line of hard luck in each of his previous three appearances in Austin.
Last year, it was a false start that disqualified Hicks from the 100 at state. This time, it was his knee – choosing the most inconvenient time to nag him despite carrying him to a gold-medal finish at regionals in Lubbock just two weeks before.
"I got a good start out of the blocks and then my knee popped and it just threw me off balance," Hicks said of his final race as a Ram. "I slowed up and just went through the rest of the race. I guess I just wasn't ready to go that fast, yet. I don't know.
"It sucked. I mean, I didn't really hang my head on it, though. I was just blessed to be able to run there anyway. It bothered me [to not win], but not extremely."
Hicks finished in 10.80 for sixth. It was well off of the 10.61 he ran at regionals to qualify and his personal-best 10.28 at last year's area meet.
Head coach Jackie Harvey said he was surprised Hicks wasn't able to run at his peak at state, especially considering the good week of practice leading up to the trip south.
"It's always in the back of your mind whether 'Shawn fully recovered from his surgery and stuff," he said. "But I don't know. Who knows? I thought he'd be fine and be able to go do it, but evidently he wasn't."
Sutton came in to state not only healthy, but fresh off of a personal-best, silver-medal performance at regionals, where he ran the 300 hurdles in 39.53. But whatever bug was in the University of Texas' Mike A. Myers Stadium that day got a hold of him, too, as leg pain kept him from finishing strong.
"[My opponents] were talented, but I felt confident going into the race," he said. "Coming out of the blocks I felt good and thought, 'I'm going to win this.' But I just cramped around the fourth hurdle. I couldn't handle it. You can tell on my video – I had a couple of friends record it for me. I was struggling trying to get over the hurdles."
Running with a cramp, Sutton crossed the finish line in 40.12 to lock up sixth place in his first appearance at the state meet.
Harvey speculated that the weather and the big stage might have contributed to Sutton's misfortune.
"With Juvaree, I think more than anything, he was nervous," he said. "Of course, a kid going into his first time at a big meet like that is going to be nervous. The heat maybe had a little bit to do with it, too."
Looking back at both of their races, Hicks said it was a shame that he and Juvaree were hampered by injuries in what could have been their finest hour.
"Neither one of us ran our best, at all," Hicks said. "There's not really much else you can say. If we would have run our best, I'm sure both of us would have come home with gold medals.
Regardless, both Mineral Wells athletes said they enjoyed their time in Austin.
"I felt like a kid in a candy factory," Sutton said. "It was exciting. All the talent and everything just shocked me. It makes you want to go back every year. But I only have one year left, so I've got to make the best of it.
"I'm just glad that me and DaShawn had the opportunity to go. It was a good experience for me, being my first year and all."
With one year left of eligibility, Harvey said Sutton has a great chance to return to state as a senior and finally capture a gold medal. He said it's Sutton's work ethic that gives him the most reason for optimism.
"Juvaree will work and get stronger," Harvey said without hesitation. "Hopefully, he can make it in both hurdle races next year and maybe even a relay also."
In addition to continual hard work, Sutton said he believes the key is more potassium.
"I'll make sure to eat a more bananas, too," he said. "A lot more."
Although Hicks' high school career is over, he still has a bright future ahead of him as a scholarship track athlete at the University of Texas in Arlington.
Hicks said he has no worries about his knee and hasn't consulted a doctor about the pop at state. However, he said continuing to build his knee's strength this summer is his top priority.
Harvey said such continued work is imperative to Hicks' success at the college level.
"He just needs to continue working," he said. "I don't think he can afford to just sit around this summer and do nothing. They're going to expect him to come in in decent shape. They don't want him just coming in overweight and out of shape. They'll want him to continue to work to get his leg stronger where he won't have any problems with it."
Although the end results at state may seem disappointing, Hicks' and Sutton's representation of Mineral Wells was a fine feather in the cap of what was nothing short of a fantastic track and field season for the Rams and Lady Rams. It can also serve as a great launching point and motivator for both athletes moving forward.