Although Friendswood Mustangs track and field teammates Daniel Armstrong and Mike Hermes compete in very different types of events, they share one common thread in their journey to this weekend’s UIL State Track and Field Championships in Austin.
Hermes qualified for the state meet in the high jump two years ago as a sophomore, but came short of making it back last season. This year, Hermes’ senior campaign, he could not settle for anything less than a return to state to compete in the high jump on the big stage once again.
“It’s unbelievable,” Hermes said. “I was hoping so much to come back, and after last year not going, it kind of reignited my motivation to really push hard to be able to go to state again.”
While only a sophomore, Armstrong felt he was good enough to reach state in one of his running events last year, and now feels somewhat validated in that belief having qualified this year in the 400-meter run — although going into regionals, he felt the 800-meter run was actually his best event.
“I didn’t think I was going to make the 400; I was kind of surprised when I made it,” Armstrong said “In the 800, I wanted to make it so bad. It’s kind of funny how things work out.”
Hermes is returning to state courtesy of a second place finish in the high jump at regionals, where he cleared 6 feet, 5 inches with no misses in a tightly contested field. Having experienced the size and scope of the state meet once before, Hermes feels like he’ll be right in his element this time around.
“Sophomore year, it was good to just kind of get the nerves out of the way and let that time be the time to get used to it,” Hermes said. “So, I think this time, it’ll be second nature, kind of. I’ll be more comfortable and relaxed.”
In a razor-close 400-meter race at regionals, Armstrong finished second to punch his ticket to Austin. Armstrong was just 0.1 seconds behind the winner, and roughly 0.08 seconds ahead of the third place finisher. At state, Armstrong is confident he won’t get overwhelmed under the bright lights and in front of a large crowd.
“I usually perform my best when I’m running at these bigger meets,” Armstrong said. “I get that extra adrenaline rush.”
Hermes, who recently signed a track and field scholarship with the University of Pennsylvania, began competing in the high jump in seventh grade and continued with it as he proceeded to set school records and rack up medals — and also as he noticed he possessed an impressive vertical leap on the basketball court.
“In basketball I’ve always been able to jump really high; I’ve been able to dunk since eighth grade and windmilling as a freshman,” Hermes said. “So, just having fun with dunking helped a lot in applying it over to high jumping.”
Armstrong has been competing in track since sixth grade and initially started the sport to help himself get faster for football.
“But, I was winning, so I thought I’d just do track,” Armstrong said. “And I liked it a lot, too. I just like the grind in it. It takes so much heart, too. You’ve got to push yourself. There’s not that much room for error.”
Understanding the high level of competition at state, Hermes said he’s been putting a major focus on fine-tuning his technique. At state, Hermes said he’ll be trying to best his personal record of 6 feet, 8 inches and hopefully earn a medal with that clearance.
“I’ve noticed that I’m getting really good height, but I’m really trying to hone in on my technique to get the optimal height that I can,” Hermes said.
The Class 5A state meet will be held Friday at the Mike A. Myers Track and Field Complex on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. The high jump is scheduled to start at 8 a.m., while the 400-meter run is set for an 8:15 p.m. start.