The Gonzales Apache track and field program has been raising the bar year-after-year. This weekend, juniors Devon Williams and Antonio Hernandez will be examples of the kind of progress being made, with Williams competing in the discus and shot put throws and Hernandez running in the 800-meter race.
Williams returns to the state meet after making her debut last season by placing fifth in shot put with a distance of 39-6 ¾ and seventh in the discus with a distance of 120-2.
This year, Williams has more than exceeded her 2018 final throws, reaching 41-5 ½ in shot put and 146-8 in the discus at the regional track meet.
“I’ve been more consistent on my throws, been breaking it down more, focusing on each part,” she explained.
“I just got to be calm,” she added. “Last year I was nervous. This year I just got to believe in myself going in. I know I can throw, so I just go to go out there and throw what I’ve bene throwing at practice and the rest of the season.”
One other change for Williams is the addition of Hernandez to the bus ride up to Austin. Although this will be his first time at the state meet, his presence is expected to impact Williams in a much more positive way.
“This is Antonio’s first year and I’m excited because he’s a great supporter and I know he’ll be cheering me on and I’ll be cheering him on,” she said. “We both believe in each other, so that’s a good factor to have, to have somebody right there who believes in you, who also will be competing in state.”
Hernandez is set to take on the 800-meter run. He placed second in the Region IV-4A meet, running 2:00.17 behind Stafford’s Sterling Riles who finished at 1:59.52. Hernandez’s personal best is a flat 2:00.00.
“I’m excited,” Hernandez said of his upcoming state meet debut. “I’ve listened to my coaches about training, I trusted the system, I’m just excited to be there. I really hope that I can put on a show, get myself a chance to get to the medal stand.”
The ever-busy junior track athlete believes his mentality plus his training during the cross-country season as well as his time on the soccer field has helped pushed him to finally reach at the state meet.
“Last year I was doing the same workouts, same everything but it was just me,” he explained. “My mentality [wasn’t] in the correct spot. I was thinking so many negative stuff, telling myself I wasn’t going to be there. This year I believed in myself, saying ‘you’re going to be there, you’re going to get there,’ and I trusted the system, trusted my coaches and I got to where I am now.”
“I know he can do it, he’s been working so hard,” Williams said of her state-meet companion. “I see him every day after I get done throwing. I believe he can do it and he knows it deep down. He’s a little scared, he just needs to shake it off and run his heart out. I believe in him.”
Williams’ presence has been very important for Hernandez.
“It helps because she’s another person I can look up to,” the long-distance runner said of his teammate. “We’re really good friends, we encourage each other, we push each other to be better athletes. It’s going to be challenging for the both for us, but we know we got each other’s back. I don’t expect anything less from her than getting on the medal stand and I know she expects the same from me. It’s going to be a great day. We’re both going to give it our all and just see what happens.”
It is medal stand or bust for the Apaches this weekend. As expected, both athletes will face tough competition, but it’s not like the road to state was easy. Every meet since the district meet was a battle. Whether it’s the shot-put competition against Ebony Wolridge, last year’s state champion out of Giddings, who Williams beat this year at the Region IV-4A track meet, or Rio Grande City Grulla High’s Abigail Flores who had an impressive 160-6 throw at regionals, Williams has experience throwing against the best.
“They’re very good athletes” the Lady Apache thrower noted. “I’m glad to be competing against them because they give me a challenge and I love challenges. It’ll be fun throwing against them this year and I wish the best for all of us.”
Hernandez has faced top competition as well, placing second at the Region IV-4A meet to Stafford’s Sterling Riles who has a top-four seed time.
“I know they’re going to be fast, I know they’re going to want to be in the medal stand as well, so they’re going to be competition,” he explained. “I just got to compete and give myself a chance.”
Nonetheless, the goal is reaching the medal stand in all three events. And both athletes will be there to motivate each other and hopefully come home with some medals.