The Melissa Cardinals rolled to a first-place finish at the Melissa Invitational track meet March 5 at Cardinal Stadium. The team took gold in all three sprint relays and all three individual sprint events, as well as in four field events and a distance race.


In claiming first place in the five-team field, the Cards topped their closest competitor - Class 5A Denton Braswell – by 66 points. Melissa’s girls, with 158 points, placed second to Braswell at the meet, earning first-place finishes in the all three individual sprint races, one sprint relay and a distance event.


The Cards’ 4-by-100-meter relay team of Xylohn Posey, Antonio Robinson, Carlos Branch and Braylon Brown took first with a time 44 seconds, while the 4-by-200 team of Robinson, Brown, Ashton Mitchell-Johnson and Chanse Holiday finished in first with a time of 1 minute, 30.91 seconds. In the 4-by-400 relay, Mitchell-Johnson, Robinson, Lucas Tauch and Tyler Burton bested the field with a time of 3 minute, 43.62 seconds.


Holliday also earned gold in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes, posting times of 11.02 seconds and 22.37 seconds, respectively. Mitchell-Johnson picked up first in the 400 with a time of 52.71 seconds and, in the 800 meters, Lucas Tauch finished in a first-place time of 2 minutes, 3.74 seconds.


Field event gold-medal winners for the Melissa boys included Tavion Cook, who cleared 6 feet, 2 inches in the high jump; Ross Barham, with a pole-vault of 10 feet, 6 inches; Posey, who hit 20 feet, 6.5 inches in the long jump; and Caleb Kroese, with a 43-foot, 9.5-inch shot-put toss.


Other Card point-getters included:


Trevon Cook; second place, triple jump; 47 feet, 7.5 inches


Caden Hayes; second, shot put; 43 feet, 3 inches


Posey; second, 100 meters; 11.02 seconds


Zander Gonzales; second, discus; 110 feet, 2.5 inches


Tavion Cook; third, triple jump; 39 feet, 11 inches


Caleb Kroese; third, discus; 106 feet, 1 inch


Jaylen Williams; third, 110 hurdles; 17.6 seconds


Brown; third, 200 meters; 23.56 seconds


Tristan Weaver; third, 1,600 meters; 4 minutes, 57.89 seconds


Weaver; fourth, 800 meters, fourth; 2 minutes, 10.66 seconds


Jayden Wallace; fourth, 110 hurdles; 18.44 seconds - Branch; fourth, 200 meters; 23.84 seconds


Braeden Smith; fourth, 300 hurdles; 48.68 seconds


Isaac Stonesifer; fourth, 1600 meters; 4 minutes, 59.99 seconds


Caden Hayes; fourth, discus; 101 feet, 7 inches


Last year, the Cards sent 10 athletes to the state meet - the most Melissa boys to state-qualify in school history. There, the team tied for seventh place out of 51 teams that scored points. Melissa’s Judson Greer won state gold in both the 3,200- and 1,600-meter races that year, setting a new Class 4A state record in the 3,200.


Before this Melissa meet on March 6, first-year Cards head coach Nathaniel Hemsley commented on the team and the season so far.


“It’s started off pretty good,” he said. “We started at the Anna meet and pretty much would’ve won it if we had all our athletes there. … Judson ran at the Coppell meet and Lucas ran at the Lovejoy Relays. So you figure if you get those points alone we win that meet, probably, by at least 17 points or so – against some good-caliber talent.


“I would say right now, the strength of our team is probably in our distance guys, believe it or not. We do have a good core of sprinters still, returning from last year. Anytime you lose a guy like [2019 graduate] Kennedy Lewis that’s a big hole to fill. But we’ve got a lot of guys that are more than capable. I anticipate by the end of the year, we’ll be right where we were last year.”


All the sprinters from last year’s two state-qualifying sprint relay teams, save for Kennedy, are back. They include Ja’Bray Young, Holiday, Mitchell-Johnson and Brown – and now Posey is added to the mix.


“It’s a jigsaw puzzle, trying to fit all the pieces together,” Hemsley said. “That’s actually a good thing because we’ve got a lot of guys that can actually run it.”


Hemsley noted that Mitchell-Johnson won the 400 at Anna with a time of 52 seconds – and that was an early race in cold weather. Hemsley expects that time to drop to 50 or 49 later. Burton, Robinson and Tauch will be the other key 4-by-400 performers.


“My goal is to get as many kids to state as possible. And the best way to do that is your relays. Mind you, we have a couple of kids that have a chance to advance in the individual events as well. … If you’ve got 18 kids in the meet, as long as you can place somewhere in the top 3 or 4, the odds are you’ve got a good chance to win it.”


Greer and Tauch will again be the big guns in the 1,600 and the 3,200, with “a bunch” fighting for that third spot, including Stonesifer, Weaver, Carson Ross and Jaden Smith. Those latter four also run the 800. Tauch and Geer do not.


In long jump, Hemsley looks to Posey and Branch, with Branch having come close to breaking the school record a year ago. Tavion and Trevon Cook are the Cards’ best option in the triple jump while in the high jump, the Cooks, Posey and Ryan Johnson lead the way.


Kroese and Hayes have started out well in the discus and shot put, Hemsley said. “They’re two solid guys who are going to go out there and compete every day.”


Asked how his first year at the Cards’ helm is going, Hemsley said, “You find out all the little things that [former head coach Travis Roberson] used to do before me. … It’s been great so far. But you’re dealing with 30-something different athletes and their different little attitudes and nuances and trying to motivate them. It’s always something new every day to try to get them going.


“I welcome the challenge and am excited to help lead our track program into the future along with my fellow coaches Jacob Arvin, Kyle Crawford, JR Elliott, Travis Pickup and Lawrence Williams. Lady Card sprinters shine


For the Lady Cards at the Melissa meet, 2019 state-medalists Kaylee Lewis and Bria Bullard posted first-place sprint finishes. Lewis claimed gold in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes with times of 12.15 seconds and 25.39, respectively, while Bullard bested the 400-meter field in a time of 59.39 seconds. Lewis’ 100 time set a new Melissa school record.


The Lady Cards’ 4-by-100-meter relay team of Lewis, Bullard, LaGayla Philliph and Tavariah McQueen also placed first, coming in at 49.84 seconds. Tori Tauch won the 1,600-meter event with a time of 5 minutes, 59.14 seconds.


Other Lady Card point-getters at Melissa were:


McQueen, Deb Ramirez, Diamond Allen, Kaitlyn Reeves; second, 4-by-200 relay; 1 minute, 56.18 seconds


Reeves, Philliph, Ramirez, Sonya Mauldin; second, 4-by-400 relay; 4 minutes, 37.72 seconds


Mauldin; second, 300-meter hurdles; 54.66 seconds


Bullard; second, 200 meters; 25.48 seconds


Malori Pletcher; second, high jump; 4 feet, 10 inches


Tauch; second, 800 meters; 2 minutes, 40.05 seconds.


Mauldin; third, high jump; 4 feet, 8 inches


Mauldin; third, 400 meters; 1 minute, 6.55 seconds


Jade Cohen; third, long jump; 13 feet, 3 inches; - Rachel Adejokun; fourth, long jump; 12 feet, 10 inches


Adejokun; fourth, shot put; 31 feet, 1.5 inches


McQueen; fourth, 100 meters; 13.42 seconds


At state last year, Lewis won gold in the 200 and silver in the 100 while Bullard picked up 200 silver and 100 bronze.


“One of the strengths of the team this year is we have a little more depth,” Lady Cards head coach Clay McCarter said one day after the Melissa meet. “Kaylee and Bria are both running really well, but we’ve added some distance runners into the mix. We’ve spread our talent out a little bit more this year which … helps you - if you can steal a point here or steal a point there.


“And I think the culture of track has gotten a little better this year. There are girls that are kind of fired up about it. And we have more girls running track full-time as their primary sport than I think we’ve had in a few years.”


As for sprints, McCarter said, “We’re about where we were last year. Last night I think we ran like 49 and some change in the [100-meter] sprint relay which is pretty close to where we were last year. And we did that with different personnel than we had last year. That was good to see that if we shuffle that up we’re still very competitive. And if I’m unlucky enough to get an injury at the wrong time, I’ve got a couple of girls that can slide in and still keep us at that level.”


In the 400, Mauldin seems to like that distance, McCarter said, and he has convinced her to give the 300 hurdles a try. McCarter also noted Bullard’s first-place finish in the 400 the day before. “That kind of stirs the pot a little bit if you’ve got her running the third sprint. That could help us a bunch, points-wise, going into area and regional. … I don’t know that we would ever sacrifice [her 100 and 200] for the sake of the 400. I told Bria, it’s like having an insurance policy. If the 100 or the 200 doesn’t go well that gives you another opportunity to go [to state.]


McCarter added that Lewis “can easily run under 60 [seconds] in the 400 if she wanted to do that. If you have those two running the 400 that’s a lot more points. That could be big-time in the end.”


The sprint relay teams are still being put together, McCarter said, but he’s optimistic that the 4-by-100 relay has a shot at state. “It’s right there on the bubble but it’s definitely something we’re looking at.”


Freshman Abi Bass, a cross country state-qualifier last fall, is getting back from injury, McCarter said, and should be a state contender in the 1,600 and the 3,200. Junior Madelyn Graham will be another force for Melissa in distance running. “Madi is a strong as I’ve ever seen her,” McCarter said. “She’s going to help us out in the both the mile [1,600] and 2-mile [3,200].”


The sophomore Tauch, who missed most of last season with a foot injury, is healthy and running the 800 and the 1,600. “We just didn’t have an 800 runner last year,” McCarter said. German exchange student Liv Unkel will also contribute in the in 800 and the 1,600, he added.


“Last year we were loaded in the 3200. That was kind of our only distance race, though. Now we’ve got a potential state-qualifier in the two-mile and the mile and we’ve got Madi Graham who’s going to do well in championship season. Then we’ve got Tori and Liv who are right there in the mix in the 800 and the mile.”


In the field events – shot put, discus and jumps – McCarter said a lot of freshmen and new faces will need to step up, adding that Malori Pletcher, a recent move-in from North Dakota, has good potential in the high jump.


Regarding long jump and triple jump, McCarter said, “We’ve got some kids trying it for the first time. We have some young athletes there. We’re kind of waiting to see how that’s going to play out.”


In the pole vault, McCarter pointed to Reagan Knight, who has focused on the event since last year and has a solid chance to reach the regional meet.


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MELISSA INVITATIONAL


Varsity Boys Team Finish


1. Melissa 248


2. Denton Braswell 182


3. ILT-Garland 58


4. Dallas Covenant 56


5. North Dallas 39


Varsity Girls Team Finish


1. Denton Braswell 251


2. Melissa 158


3. Dallas Covenant 46


4. ILT-Garland 46


5. North Dallas 19


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