If you ask Denton coach Justin Schuff, the true mark of an established athletic program is how a team performs at its district track meet.
After sending just one athlete to regionals last season, this year at the District 5-4A meet the Denton boys qualified eight in six events for the Class 4A Region I meet in Abilene at McMurry.
Schuff attributed the jump in success to the commitment of seniors Ke’Von Buris and Maurice Wharton as well as an infusion of talented underclassmen.
“Last year we had one pole vaulter make it to regionals, and this year, due to the fact that we’ve had some strong freshman and sophomore classes, we’ve managed to up the standard and take 11 [with three alternates] this year,” Schuff said. “We’re getting guys that may not have contributed in the past to hang around.”
With Buris and Wharton sticking around, leadership has developed and stabilized the team.
Buris will be at regionals for the first time in his four-year track career and said staying to compete wasn’t a hard decision.
“I just fell in love with it,” Buris said. “I wanted to stay and help the team go to regionals. For the past couple years we couldn’t fulfill our dream, but now we did and we got the team to do it.”
Schuff said Buris, who also played receiver in football, has a chance to make the state meet.
“He’s been awesome. ... The seniors tend to step away from track,” Schuff said. “They hang around to play football or other sports, but when it comes time for track they’re disinterested. Everything about him is explosive. If you watched him in football, you knew he could catch the ball and take it 90 yards anytime.”
After not advancing last year, Buris said there’s extra pressure now that he’s made it in three events — the 100 meters, the 800 relay and the 1,600 relay.
“I really wanted to go,” Buris said. “The team we have now is better than last year’s. At the district meet, I thought I could win it all. Then at regionals, it’s more pressure because everybody’s looking down on you. My family is coming down from Gainesville and Sherman to watch me.”
The Broncos worked all week to prepare for regionals, particularly on baton handoffs. Buris has been working on how he finishes off races.
“His biggest thing that he’s improved on this year is his finishing,” Schuff said. “He started out his races very well and he’s a really efficient runner, so he makes it look easy, but he needed to know how to finish races and really put everything into the end of the race. That’s what he’s done this year that’s let him lead our district with the fastest time and I believe the third-fastest time in the state. He’s got special speed.”
To Buris, finishing races isn’t a physical challenge.
“It’s mental,” Buris said. “When I see people in front of me, I just try to fetch them so I can give my team that edge to win.”
Buris and Wharton will be joined in the relays by Juan Campos, a Lake Dallas transfer who could have been a force in the 400 meters but he was asked to compete in all three relays, including the 400 relay squad that didn’t qualify.
“He had won the open quarter mile last year,” Schuff said. “He made a very selfless move and chose to run all three relays. Even though the 4x100 missed, he was a critical part on the others making it.”
The 800 relay team placed second behind Guyer at district, and the 1,600 relay team took the top spot.
“We’ll have to show some improvement to get to state, but with the guys we’ve got, that’s possible,” Schuff said. “Coming out of our talented district and you work hard at regionals, we’ve got a shot.”
The Broncos also have Cody Roche competing in the pole vault, Rowdy Clark in the shot put and Alex Goff in the 800.
The Lady Broncos are sending two to the regional meet, as Makayla Minter took second at district in the shot put and April Pena advanced in the high jump and the 400.