The Dickinson Lady Gators track and field program will be sending a four-timer and a first-timer to this weekend’s UIL State Track and Field Championships.
Senior jumper Koi Johnson has now made the trip to Austin every year since her freshman campaign, while sophomore hurdler Destiny Smith will be getting her first taste of the big stage.
“I’ve been told it’s tough competition, and I’m looking forward to winning,” Smith said of competing at state for the first time.
Johnson has steadily improved in her performances at state, with a fifth place finish in the triple jump her freshman year to a bronze medal in the event her sophomore year to winning gold in the triple jump last year.
“I’ve definitely matured, and I definitely understand that there’s always something new coming out to the track,” Johnson said. “There’s always someone new coming to beat you, there’s always somebody chasing you.”
There will actually be a first for the Class 6A triple jump champion Johnson this go-around at the state meet, as she will for the first time compete in two events. A second place finish in both the triple (40 feet, 9.75 inches) and long (19 feet, 2.5 inches) jumps at the April 26-27 regional championships qualified her for both events at state.
“I’m looking to finish off my senior year with a big bang,” Johnson said. “I’ve been consistent on the board with my jumps, and I’m starting to peak. When regionals hit, I was kind of worried because I had sprained my ankle two days before. I didn’t know if I was going to make it past regionals or not, but I made it through.”
At regionals, Smith came within less than 0.08 seconds of claiming the gold in the 300-meter hurdles in what was a razor-close finish.
“I started off pretty good, but the finish I felt like could’ve been a bit stronger,” Smith said. “But, overall, I feel like it was a strong race. It was a PR.”
Smith’s time at regionals of 43.46 seconds was a new personal record, but after battling through a mid-season injury, she feels like she can clock in even quicker at the state meet.
“I had a rough start to the season because during a track meet while running a relay I strained my hamstring, and I was out for two weeks,” Smith said. “It put me on a major set-back to come back. I’m still going through it.”
Both Johnson and Smith will compete Saturday at the UIL State Track and Field Championships held at the Mike A. Myers Track Complex on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. The long jump is scheduled for 11:30 a.m., the triple jump for 4:45 p.m., and the 300-meter hurdles for 8:35 p.m.