Robert E. Lee girls track coach Demeeka Jones pushes her athletes to always compete, no matter the odds. And not just to compete, but post a better time, distance or height than you did the previous meet.
The Lady Raiders made their coach very happy last week at the District 11-6A meet by doing just that. Despite being on the outside looking in for the majority of the events, as far as seeding, REL reached the finals in 800-meter, 400-meter and 300-meter hurdles.
“Sometimes the girls are defeated before they even start (the race) because they know who they are going up against,” said Jones, who led REL’s young team to a 12-point improvement from last year’s district meet as the Lady Raiders finished in sixth place overall with 56 points.
“You never know what is going to happen at district. You just have to go out there and compete and upset somebody.”
Senior Mary Claire Neal qualified for area in 3,200, 1,600 and 800 meters with Sarah Niedrauer joining her in the 3,200 meters.
Junior Mah’Layzga Johnson was competing in shot put at the JV level just a month ago. Her best was 26 feet before delivering a 31-7 at a meet in Garland. Coach Jones liked what she was seeing and decided to move Johnson up to the varsity for the district meet.
Johnson produced a career-best 32 feet on her first attempt.
“She came back to me and I was like, okay, now that you did your best, I want you to throw a 35,” Jones said.
On Johnson’s next attempt, she produced a toss of 35 feet and 1 inch - shattering her personal record. Her toss gave her a second-place finish and a spot in the area meet.
“When she did that, I was like, okay, now I want a 40,” Jones said. “She didn’t get it (at this meet), but there is (another chance at area).”
Teammate Gabriella Billington delivered a toss of 34-10 in shot put and threw 98-06 in discus, both of which were season bests.
Freshman Aliesha Rivers figured her first district meet was over after finishing ninth in prelims with a time of 62.48. It was later determined that a runner scratched, which put Rivers into the girls 400-meter final. Rivers produced a career-best time of 62.45 in that final race to end up sixth overall.
“Those were points we weren’t even supposed to get based on my early calculations, so that was great,” Jones said.
Also delivering a personal-best time for REL was sophomore Genisis Emanuel in the 300 hurdles. After she qualified for the finals in seventh, Emanuel moved up a spot in the final to take sixth in a time of 48.50.
The Lee girls 4x400 relay produced a season-best time as well, narrowly missing out on qualifying for area. Emanuel, Rivers, Jayla Chandler and Naomi Emanuel finished with a time of 4:15.37.
“These ladies competed well and gave it their all,” Jones said. “My goal was to get as many girls to (running) finals as possible. They definitely made progress (this season).”
The 11/12-6A area meet begins at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at E.H. Hanby Stadium in Mesquite with the 3, 200 meters. Field events follow with the track events scheduled to start at 5 p.m.