The Melissa Lady Cardinals track team competed at Highland Park’s Tracy Willis Invitational on March 22 against plenty of stiff competition.

Melissa was the only Class 3A team entered in the meet, which featured 12 large schools including Allen and Odessa Permian as well as schools from Arlington, Mansfield, Prosper and Wylie. Despite being outnumbered by as much as 10 to 1 versus some teams, the Lady Cards finished fourth in a display of teamwork and depth.

"This was our first meet this year to field something close to our full team," said Melissa coach Michael Bardgett. "I knew coming in that we wouldn’t be embarrassed today because we’ve got a talented bunch that really works hard. But to finish fourth at such a prestigious meet, well, I won’t say it was unexpected, but it sure was a nice surprise."

The top point earners for the Lady Cardinals were Karrington Lewis, who placed second in the 100m, Hannah Tenney, who placed second in the pole vault and the 4x400 and 4x800 relays teams, both of which finished second.

"Karrington has been impressing us all season, so when she finishes second at a meet like this while also grabbing another school record it has almost become routine," Bardgett said. "That’s a testament to her talent and work ethic. But the relays were definitely the stars today. Our 4x800 was neck-and-neck with Highland Park the whole race, which is pretty impressive considering their well-earned reputation as the most storied girls distance program in Texas history."

The 4x400 also challenged Highland Park for first, finishing just behind. Both relays smashed school records and both are now ranked No. 1 in the state for 3A. The 4x800 consisted of Rhiannon Yazzie, Ashley New, Sophie Bennett and Elise Hawn, while the 4x400 was comprised of Karrington Lewis, Emily Bates, Maddie Kane and Sophie Bennett."

"Even going beyond having a lot of girls score points at a big meet like this, I thought this was one of the best performances across the board for a Melissa girls track team in my time here," Bardgett said. "Overall, I counted 16 girls who improved their [personal records] today. Considering we haven’t even started peaking yet as a team, I’d say we’re in a good position heading towards district in a couple of weeks."

The Lady Cardinals will be split between two meets next week. Most of the team will travel to Whitewright for the final regular season meet, while a select group will travel to Austin for the 87th running of the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays. The Texas Relays is the second biggest track meet in the nation behind only the Penn Relays. Teams must run qualifying times to be invited to even run in the meet. Melissa has qualified Ashley New in the 1600, as well as the 4x200 and 4x400 relay teams.

"We’re looking forward to the event this year," Bardgett said. "We’ve made the trip the past couple of years, but never with this many qualifiers and never with a legitimate shot at really competing on that stage. It should be a fun weekend!"

Also scoring points for Melissa were:

Jackii Thomas - 5th in 3200

Erin Nelson - 6th in 100m hurdles

Gill Gray - 6th in 400

Ashley New - 3rd in 1600

Priscilla Adejokun - 6th in shotput and 4th in discus