On Friday, Sweetwaterâ€™s Jayci Shelton has two chan-ces to end her high school career with a gold medal at the 3A state track meet. Thatâ€™s twice as many as a year ago when Shelton made her first trip to Austin and had a fifth-place finish in her only event, the girls 300-meter hurdles.
A higher finish this year seems likely, because Shelton has yet to lose a race in the 300 hurdles, and her only runnerup finish was in the 100 hurdles two weeks ago at a regional qualifiers meet held in Lubbock where Shelton was just .03 seconds behind the winner.
Sheâ€™s certainly worked at getting better. Shelton started her offseason workouts this past October under her coach Jessica Withrow. Her first competitive meet was in February at Texas Tech University, where she won two medals â€” a first in the 55-meter hurdles and a third in the 400 dash â€” in races that had several Class 5A and Class 4A runners.
On Friday, Shelton will stay in Class 3A to run the 100 hurdles at 6:45 p.m. and 300 hurdles at 8:05. She goes to state with the third-fastest regional quali-fying times in both events, having run a 14.90 in the 100 hurdles and 45.17 in the 300 hurdles. The latter time is well under the 46.02 she clocked at state a year ago. However, her best times this year are 14.38 and 44.6, respectively.
Despite her remarkable success this year, Shelton isnâ€™t obsessed with captur-ing two more gold medals this week. â€śI just want to run my hardest,â€ť she said. â€śJust knowing that no one can take this (going to state) away from me, and being one of the top nine girls in the state is pretty neat.â€ť
Shelton expects both of her events to be closely contested. â€śI think four or five girls have a chance,â€ť she said. â€śIt will be just who has the most heart.â€ť
Withrow holds the Class 3A regional mark of 43.56 in the 300 hurdles. Shelton also is within range of her older sister Morganâ€™s school-record time of 43.93 which she set as a senior at the 2009 state meet. And in March, she beat Withrowâ€™s old record of 46.54 at the West Texas Relays in Odessa while setting a new meet record of 45.56. But she said that breaking records isnâ€™t a major concern.
â€śI donâ€™t like comparisons,â€ť she said. â€śI just want to be myself and not base my success on what my sister has done. I just want to do my best. But Iâ€™d be happy if I win a medal.â€ť
Whatever happens, she will have a lot of people rooting for her. â€śIâ€™ll have tons of family and friends there and theyâ€™re all pumped up,â€ť she said. â€śItâ€™s pretty fun having my own support group.â€ť