WINK As Wade Halterman grew up, he dreamed of running around the oval at the UIL State Track and Field Championships.
As he grew older, he let others know where he wanted to end up. Wink assistant hurdles coach Ashley Hardin remembers speaking with Halterman when he was a seventh grader at Kermit Junior High School about his desire to compete at state.
“I’ve always watched the videos, I’ve always watched the races,” Halterman said. “I even looked them up during football season, just watching the hurdle races and all that, just watching how people did and what their reactions were on the podium.”
Now a 16-year-old junior at Wink High School, Halterman gets the chance to live out that state-meet fantasy. He’ll put his feet in the starting blocks for the Class 2A 110-meter boys hurdles’ title around 5:45 p.m. Saturday at Mike A. Meyers Stadium in Austin.
Halterman will be competing against eight other runners and will wait for the starting gun to fire from lane No. 5, directly in the middle.
After winning the Region I-2A title in the discipline two weeks ago at Ratliff Stadium, Halterman comes into the state meet with the third-best qualifying time at 14.84. He trails only Lindsay’s Joshua Wallace (14.49) and Valley View’s Cale Kassen (14.17).
“It’s just great, just knowing that I can compete with the top in the state and just put my name out there,” Halterman said.
His first trip to Austin nearly happened last year as he made it to regionals in two events, but couldn’t advance.
Since stepping off the Ratliff Stadium track last spring, he’s worked on shaving tenths off his time in a few spots. The easiest place to see a difference is before the race even begins as Halterman’s grown a few inches over the past year.
Halterman says that’s helped with his stride, as he has to take fewer steps to reach the finish line and in between each hurdle.
“He’s very coachable,” Wink assistant hurdles coach Jason Archibald said. “He’s been open to any change that we wanted to make, even though he’s been doing it for awhile and had some success.”
One aspect in Austin that Halterman knows will be different from almost every race he’s participated in this year is what will be to both sides of him.
According to Hardin and Archibald, Halterman has comfortably won most of his races this season. Halterman won the Region I-2A title by more than half a second.
Knowing the four runners to each side of him are the best in the state only motivates Halterman. He has no room for error as the slowest qualifying time of the Class 2A state finalists belongs to Hubbard’s Thomas Couch (15.39).
“I have a couple people that will push me because the past track meets, I’ve usually just been out ahead of people with not too much pressure … my times really are decent, but knowing that I’m going to have real completion at this track meet, it’ll push me a lot harder,” Halterman added.
While plenty of eyes will be on Halterman at the state meet, one pair in particular could push him just as much as the competition.
Halterman’s 12-year-old sister, Carson, has been in and out of the hospital as she’s dealing with complications of cystic fibrosis, a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Halterman wasn’t sure earlier this week whether his little sister would be in attendance for his race, but even the chance for Carson to be in the bleachers “means a whole lot,” Wade said.
He’s far from the only Wink athlete to have Carson on their minds. Last season, each member of the boys basketball team signed a ball for her. There have also been plenty of signs and t-shirts made to support her.
It might brighten her day most to see her brother bring state-meet hardware back to West Texas.
Halterman will wear the same cleats and spikes as last season with the letters CH and CF written on the heel of his left shoe.
His time under the bright lights in Austin should last less than 15 seconds, and as his younger self always wanted, he gets a chance to add his name to the record books forever.
“It’d mean the world to me,” Halterman said of the thought of winning a state title. “I’ve always wanted to be on the podium ever since I was little. I think I’d cry honestly.”