Bovina coach has high hopes for state

By Dave Wagner

BOVINA — Boys track coach Tony Epps thinks Bovina sophomore Edgar Ortiz has a chance to do something pretty special in this weekend’s Texas Class 1A state 3,200 at the University of Texas in Austin.
Actually, just getting to this point is quite a feat — only eight 1A runners from around the state, two from each of four regionals, make it this far.
“He doesn’t realize what he’s accomplished, I don’t think,” Epps said of Ortiz, whose race is scheduled for 9:20 a.m. (CDT) on Friday.
Also traveling to state for the Mustangs as an alternate will be senior hurdler Jake Steelman. He finished third in the regional in the 110 hurdles, but would be able to compete if something prevented one of the top two in the region from running.
In Class 3A, the Muleshoe girls will send sophomore Jessica Withrow in three events along with their 1,600 relay, which also includes Withrow.
Ortiz, whose family moved to Bovina from Mexico when he was in the second grade, set the school record in the 3,200 earlier this spring at 10 minutes, 25.88 seconds. He qualified for state by placing second in regional competition with a time of 10:29.97.
The soft-spoken Ortiz started out running the 800 and 1,600 last year as a freshman, and said he prefers the 1,600.
“It’s going to be hard,” he said. “I’ll try to drop my time. I’ll try to run 10:10 or 10:15.”
Epps said he’d like to see Ortiz in that range. His regional time ranks seventh of the eight runners this weekend, but his school record time would move him up a notch or two.
“Realistically, I’d be tickled to death if he finished in the top five,” Epps said. “Hopefully, his youth doesn’t affect him mentally.”
Bovina doesn’t have a track facility to practice on, making the accomplishment in getting this far more impressive.
Ortiz competed in recent meets at Carlsbad and Hobbs, Epps said, “just to try to get a feel for running in a bigger stadium.”
In 3A, Withrow competes in high jump at 6 p.m. on Friday, and in the 100 hurdles at 12:55 p.m. and the 300 hurdles at 2:25 p.m. on Saturday (all times CDT). The 1,600 relay runs at 3:25 p.m. on Saturday.
Withrow was first in high jump and the 300 hurdles and second in the 100 hurdles in the regional. On paper, her best chance appears to be in high jump, where her height of 5-6 is tied with Celina’s Becky Christensen for the best mark from the regional meets.
Withrow’s top jump this year was 5-8.
“Her best chance is probably in high jump, but I think she stands a pretty good chance in the 300 hurdles,” Muleshoe girls coach Benjie Jay said.
The relay team, consisting of senior Eva Pylant, freshman Brandi Wood, junior Sara Benham and Withrow has the No. 6 time coming in at 4:07.81. Jay thinks the Lady Mules will have to go under 4:05 to do well, and he’s confident about their chances.
“If the girls will get out and run like they’re capable of running, I think we’ll be closer to 4 (minutes) than 4:05,” he said.
The fact the other three girls will be fresh for the race should help, he said. “I think Eva and Brandi are both capable of running something between 60 and 62 (seconds),” Jay said, thus setting the table for Benham and Withrow.
Sophomore Lindsey Wood, Brandi’s cousin, will make the trip as a relay alternate.