Even during football season, the Denton track team was talking about Friday’s Class 5A state track and field meet at Texas’ Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin.
After qualifying for last year’s regional track meet, the Broncos entered this season with a different attitude. They had a taste of success, but this year they would only settle for a district championship and a trip to the state meet.
The Broncos pocketed the team title a month ago for their first district championship since 2004.
The boys 400-meter relay team of Chris Miller, Bradley Devore, Juan Campos and Emonnie Miller then won the regional meet with a time of 41.76 seconds to become Denton’s first relay team to qualify for state since 2003.
The Broncos say their chance to win the state title is as good as any other team’s — including track powerhouses such as Lancaster, Mansfield and Missouri City Marshall, which the Broncos got a good look at on their previous trip to Austin for the Texas Relays.
Following the Broncos’ 400 relay victory at the regional meet almost two weeks ago, assistant coach Lonnie Teagle, who also coaches Chris Miller, Devore and Campos as Denton’s wide receivers coach, asked his team how it was dealing with the moment.
“I actually asked them after the race, ‘How nervous were you?’” Teagle said. “Those guys said they weren’t nervous. They felt like they belonged. That’s the mindset we want to have. You have teams that have been there traditionally, and I want our guys to understand that we belong there. We’re only a couple of tenths off their times.”
With the Texas Relays, Teagle said, the coaches wanted to expose the boys to that environment in preparation for Friday’s relay that starts at 6 p.m.
They were wide-eyed at the big crowds, but now that the team has that under its belt, they feel as if they’re ready for anything.
“We’ve already been there, so it won’t be anything new to us when we go back,” Devore said. “We were looking at the times at the beginning of the season, and we saw that we had a really good shot of going to state. It feels really good knowing your hard work actually paid off. Going to state is a wonderful experience. We know we can compete with these guys.”
The Broncos have been practicing for the past several weeks on every aspect of the relay. At this point, the hard work has been done. The time drops are coming naturally as the boys continue to get into peak shape, but they are focusing on the smaller aspects of the relay that they hope will make a big difference on race day.
They’re working on their endurance, concentration, lane awareness and hand placement, which is a big factor in baton handoffs.
The handoffs, Teagle said, are possibly the most crucial aspect of the relay, so the past weeks have been focused on them.
“You only get one shot,” Teagle said. “You don’t practice handoffs over and over and over again. We do two half speed, we do two three-quarter speed and we do two full speed. If we don’t get them, then you don’t get them that day. You have to wait until the next day because you have one shot. It just builds that mindset.”
The Broncos’ mindset is built around the idea that anything can happen in the finals. If a team slips, the Broncos could be right there to claim its place.
“There’s a saying in track,” Teagle said. “If you make it to the finals, everybody has a chance. That’s how we felt. Once you get into the finals, all eight teams have a chance, especially in the 400 relay because of the handoffs and the timing. We’re in the finals. We’re on the track. We understand that our times are going to drop.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.