For Orlando Juarez, it’s tough to put in words how it felt to finally qualify for the UIL State Track and Field Championships.
The Kermit senior triple jumper has been overcome with emotion the past few weeks after becoming the first Yellow Jackets’ athlete in two years to qualify for the event.
“It’s been a very crazy experience,” Juarez said. “I’ve been overwhelmed with a lot of emotions. You’re friends and family are all congratulating me. It’s really nice.
“It’s been two years since the last state qualifier from Kermit. Not many people get the chance to go. It means a lot to me. It took a lot of work. Coach Brian Williams has been pushing me. I talked to him before the year and told him that I really needed a good year.”
He’ll look to make the most of his opportunity when he competes with the best in the state.
The two-day championship meet begins today at Mike A. Myers Stadium on the University of Texas campus in Austin.
The Class 3A boys triple jump is slated to begin at 1:15 p.m.
Heading into this season, Juarez knew he needed to push his personal record if he was to have any shot at going to state.
“At the beginning of the season, I was jumping around 42 feet,” Juarez said. “I told my coach that I needed that 46 range if I wanted to go anywhere. He told me to come and work and that I would get there.”
He may not have reached 46 feet yet, but he’s flown far enough to book his trip to the state capitol.
His personal record now stands at 45 feet, a mark he posted on March 30 at Crane shortly before district.
“I went into the meet knowing what everyone else was capable of jumping and I knew what I was capable of as well,” Juarez said. “So it really came down to who wanted it more in the end.”
At the regional meet in Abilene in April, it ended up becoming a battle for second place as first-place finisher Jace Davis of Millsap was jumping two feet farther than anyone else in the competition.
Juarez’s jump of 44 feet and 8.5 inches barely earned the runner-up spot and state berth that goes with it.
Juarez finished one-half inch ahead of third-place finisher Quevon McDaniel of Slaton.
“We all knew that Davis was going to win,” Juarez said. “He jumped much further than I did. It was pretty much a race between me and McDaniel.
“I ended up only beating him by less than an inch. Just to know that I was going and seeing my coaches and my mom from the podium was crazy.”
This week will be his last track and field meet as Juarez plans on attending Odessa College. After that, he said he’ll likely transfer to UTPB and study agriculture.
But as he prepares to make the most of his first, and only, state appearance, he’s hoping for a top-three finish.
“I want to place and finish with a medal,” Juarez said. “If I can do that, I’ll be happy.”