Outbreak ends state dreams for hurdlers
An invisible hurdle blocked a pair of senior track athletes from state meet returns.
Fredericksburg High School’s Aleah Constantine and Harper High School’s Gracie Green eyed UIL State Track and Field Championship returns before the COVID-19 pandemic ended spring competition.
Constantine finished second in last year’s Class 4A 100-meter hurdles race and is a two-time state qualifier.
The Incarnate Word-bound athlete is a standout on a team with state-medal aspirations entering the spring.
“Our team goal this year was high as always, but we knew we had an amazing opportunity at a possible team state medal stand appearance in May before we ever began the season,” FHS head girls’ track coach Dan Aldrich said. “Season preparation begins as soon as the season ends the year before, which our top performers went right back to work at to prep for this season. Unfortunately, nobody could have predicted the abrupt pause to our season right when we were beginning to perform where we need to be for the championship phase or our season.
“We were headed toward a district-area-regional title and now all of that (has changed.)”
On an individual basis, Constantine had a chance at five district gold medals, including both 100 and 300 hurdles, pole vault and long jump.
She had a shot at state glory in all four events and in the 4x400-meter relay, which has Constanine as one of its four legs.
“In the region, she was ranked No. 3 in the pole vault, No. 1 in the high jump, No. 1 in the 100 hurdles, No. 3 in the 300 hurdles, and No. 1 in the 4x400 relay,” Aldrich said.
That kind of ability gave her a chance to threaten current Baylor track athlete Megan Daley’s school record of 30 points at the state meet.
All of that is a disappointing what-if scenario.
“It is very upsetting to not be able to see your best athlete in the program finish off her senior year, especially when you were planning on a storybook ending,” Aldrich said. “We were planning on five district event titles, five area event titles, three regional event titles, and a handful of state medals to cap off the year and elevate her to be one of the most recognized multi-event track athletes in FHS history.
“Now with the season ending, we cannot see any of that in the record books for her senior year and we will have to just know what if.”
Now, her focus turns to NCAA DI competition and preparation for higher level track.
“My coaches from UIW have also been in contact with me, checking in on my family and myself,” Constantine said. “They continue encouraging me to stay active, strong and positive.”
It’s a bitter end for Green, who competed in two spring sports.
She had a chance at a fourth straight qualification in the 2A 100 hurdles competition, which includes a pair of bronze medals, in addition to defending last year’s district softball MVP award.
“It’s my senior year, so I knew it was going to come soon, I just didn’t know it was going to come this soon,” Green said. “It’s been pretty upsetting because I didn’t get to finish out what I wanted to do … it’s really sad to me.”
Reality hits hard, so Green’s taking the time to introduce herself to the working world.
A lot of her energy normally dedicated to track or softball practice now goes to working a new job.
“I got a job, actually, so I feel like I have a little bit of free time, but just about the same amount of working, other than sport,” she said. “It’s just a job now.”
Green’s coach, Willie Reid, has an optimistic outlook on the situation.
“Gracie is my only senior and as I thought about what to do for her to give her some closure, I realized that she had won the last race she had run in at the Antler Relays,” Reid said. “There are only a handful of people who can say that, so we are gonna leave it at that. For the rest, be glad you have another season and prepare well for it.”