TRACK AND FIELD: Overcoming uncertainty with injury, Van Horn’s Renee Rivera leaps her way back to state championship meet

Van Horn’s Renee Rivera competes in the long jump event at the Region I-2A Track and Field Championships Friday morning at Ratliff Stadium.

By Justin Lee

Used with permission from Odessa American

Renee Rivera found herself encircled by a fog of uncertainty for much of her senior season.

Van Horn’s decorated sprinter and three-time state-gold-medalist entered her final run of high school competition this February with eyes set squarely on ending her Eagles career with more accolades, more memories and more special moments — until a hamstring injury in just her second meet this season threw all of that in doubt.

Suddenly, Class 2A’s defending state champion in the 100-meter dash was left wondering if she’d have the chance to return to the state meet at all.

But Friday, Rivera leapt free from that cloud of doubt.

Rivera soared 17 feet, 11.75 inches to capture gold in the girls long jump competition at the Region I-2A track and field championships at Ratliff Stadium — and to ensure her illustrious career will end where it should, at the UIL state championships in Austin.

“I definitely feel good about that,” Rivera said with a smile Friday, standing just off the sand pit on the Ratliff grounds.

Since her injury, Rivera hasn’t been able to match the sprinting speed that won her state gold on the track last year, but in that sand, she has found some salvation.

Her final leap in the long jump Friday was a personal best.

“If I don’t make it in sprint, I have this to focus on,” Rivera said. “I love jumping.”

Van Horn head coach Luis Garcia said Rivera was out three and half weeks after suffering that hamstring injury in late February. When she was able to get back on the track, she starting the 800-meter and then the 400-meter to try and get her strength back.

In the District 6-2A championships earlier this month, Rivera put down a minimal two leaps in the long jump, just trying to get in and out of the event and advance without reinjuring or straining her hamstring.

Then, in the area meet, she put in a few more jumps, but still passed on the full allotment.

Friday morning, sporting a brace on her thigh, she let loose en route to hitting at 17-11.75 and setting a new PR on her way to Austin and the Class 2A championships set for May 13.

Rivera had region gold cinched by her final leap of the day, already topping the 16-8 laid down by Miles’ silver medalist Skyler Brooks.

But after spending most of her senior season restrained by injury, Rivera chose to soar.

“I was trying to get that 18,” she said. “It’s crazy that I missed it by a quarter-inch.”

Garcia was glad to see it.

“She hit that 17-8 (on an earlier jump) and her PR was a 17-10,” Garcia said. “I said, ‘That 18 is there. You’ve got to explode right there at the end.’”

Now, Rivera has her sights set of hitting 18 feet in Austin.

She’ll also compete in the region’s 100-meter dash final today with hopes of advancing there, too, but she’ll enter on the outside looking in.

Rivera qualified for the final during the preliminaries later Friday afternoon, hitting a time of 12.82, which marked the fifth-best qualifying time going into the final.

After that injury, she’s still behind the 12.56 that won her state gold last season — but that hasn’t stopped her from getting into the blocks and giving it a shot.

“Usually I’ve never been seeded this low, but I’m ready to give my all and see if I can make it again,” Rivera said. “I know there’s a lot of competition this year, so I’m going to try my best to make it to finals and see what I can do.”

Either way, she has leapt her way to Austin with the long jump — and a newfound focus in the sand has her topping the 17-8 mark that won her bronze in the event at state last season.

“I think it’s there,” Garcia said of that 18-foot mark. “I think we’re going to save the best for last.”

That’s the idea for Rivera — despite the injury and uncertainty and all.

“It feels great, knowing that I’m going to go in better — and knowing that I have it, to get to an 18,” Rivera said.

FIFTH-PLACE FINISHES: Wink freshman Jonnah Smith cleared 5 feet in the high jump on Friday, ultimately finishing the event alone in fifth place.

McCamey’s Kiana Brown took the same spot in the pole vault, after clearing nine feet.

Both won district championships this season en route to their finales in those events at regionals.

Smith won the District 6-2A title in the high jump by clearing 4-8 on April 15. Brown cleared nine feet to win district gold in that same event.

Follow Justin Lee on Twitter @OAJustinLee

Region I-2A Championships

Friday, Ratliff Stadium


Team Scores

1. Sundown 19; 2 (tie). Panhandle 18; Lockney 18; 4. Irion County 16; 5. Wellington 12; 6. Post 11; 7 (tie). West Texas Stinnett 10; Van Horn 10; 9 (tie). Abernathy 8; Miles 8; 11. Haskell 7; 12 (tie). Seagraves 6; Christoval 6; 14 (tie). McCamey 2; Wink 2; 16 (tie). Iraan 1; Floydada 1.

Individual Results

Field Events

Discus: 1. Haley Walker, Lockney, 150-0; 2. Macy McNutt, Irion County, 129-5; 3. Sirena Minjarez, Seagraves, 118-11; 4. Keelan Smith, Sundown, 118-2; 5. Kalli Dubose, Abernathy, 114-4; 6. Rae Howell, Post, 114-2.

High jump: 1. Taylor Packebush, West Texas Stinnett 5-4; 2. Carley Hale, Panhandle, 5-2; 3. Tobi Davis, Wellington, 5-2; 4. Maricela Riojas, Christoval, 5-2; 5. Jonnah Smith, Wink, 5-0; 6. Kylie Rickets, Floydada, 4-10.

Long jump: 1. Renee Rivera, Van Horn, 17-11.75; 2. Skyler Brooks, Miles, 16-8; 3. Tobi Davis, Wellington, 16-7.5; 4. Kelby Tidwell, Post, 16-4.5; 5. Maricela Riojas, Christoval, 16-4; 6. Alexi Vigil, Sundown, 16-3.5.

Pole vault: 1. Hunter Heck, Panhandle, 10-6; 2. Makenzie Cramer, Irion County, 9-6; 3. Baylea Pittman, Post, 9-6; 4. Myrah Geter, Abernathy, 9-6; 5. Kiana Brown, McCamey, 9-0; 6. Kasie Isbell, Haskell, 9-0.

Running Events

3,200: 1. Andrea Sanchez, Sundown, 11:36.71; 2. Ryiann Araujo, Lockney, 12:08.40; 3. Franziska Lutz, Haskell, 12:18.90; 4. Alyzah McGlasson, Sundown, 12:33.08; 5. Hailey Woodard, Abernathy, 12:37.90; 6. Lynda Martinez, Iraan, 12:43.43.


Team Scores

1. Sundown 16; 2. New Deal 14; 3 (tie). Abernathy 12; Wellington 12; 5 (tie). Farwell 10; Stratford 10; Iraan 10; Albany 10; 9. Clarendon 7; 10. Wheeler 6; 11. West Texas Stinnett 4; 11. Lockney 4; 13 (tie). Ozona 1; Sunray 1.

Individual Results

Field Events

Discus: 1. Xavier Rivera, Abernathy, 171-9; 2. Bryce Spencer, Sundown, 158-9; 3. Parker Hanna, Stratford, 158-1; 4. Russell Spurlock, Stratford, 153-5; 5. Bryson Daily, Abernathy, 145-8; 6. Josh Pipkin, Sunray, 139-10.

High jump: 1. Roberto Trevizo, Farwell, 6-6; 2. Jordan Lacy, New Deal, 6-6; 3. Traylen Drake, Wheeler, 6-4; 4. Dalin Williams, West Texas Stinnett, 6-4; 5. Dax Neece, Albany, 6-4; 6. Jacob Jeffers, Clarendon, 6-2.

Triple jump: 1. Axcel Santana, Iraan, 46-0.5; 2. Dax Neece, Albany, 44-5.5; 3. Jordan Lacy, New Deal, 44-0; 4. Jaden Rosales, Lockney, 43-10; 5. Luke Williams, Wellington, 43-6; 6. Tommy Fay, Ozona, 42-9.5.

Running Events

3,200: 1. Andrew Rueda, Wellington, 10:01.07; 2. Steven Quintanilla, Sundown, 10:01.14; 3. Bryce Grahn, Clarendon, 10:13.21.


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