HIGH SCHOOL TRACK AND FIELD: Byford jumps at chance to advance to regional meet

Odessa High School’s Paige Byford compete in the girl’s high jump event during the 1-6A/2-6A area meet Friday morning at Ratliff Stadium. (Eli Hartman | Odessa American)

A tough start to the day had a great ending for Odessa High’s Paige Byford.

The sophomore cleared five feet on her first attempt at that height in the high jump and that eventually held up to win the title at the 1-6A/2-6A Area meet Friday at Ratliff Stadium.

Byford advances to the Region I-6A Meet at Maverick Stadium on April 24 in Arlington.

It was a different feeling after she had finished fifth in the triple jump earlier in the day.

Abilene High’s Perside Ebengo won that event with a jump of 37 feet, 6.25 inches.

Wolfforth Frenship’s Jentre Kennedy, El Paso Americas’ Alani Hupstead and Peyton Mayberry from San Angelo Central all qualified in that event.

Byford said that taking a different approach and not over thinking things in the high jump proved to be a major difference.

“I’m just really excited,” Byford said. “I feel like during the triple jump I was really critical and hard on myself. During the high jump, I was just trying to focus on myself and the way that I can enjoy my time here.”

Byford will be one of three Permian Basin athletes to advance to the area meet in the high jump. Loredana Fouonji of Midland Lee and Aubre Liggins of Midland High were second and third, respectively, to earn regional spots.

Odessa High’s Deoshanay Henderson finished in her first year competing.

All four are also basketball players for their respective schools and Byford added she is looking forward to going to Arlington with Liggins and Fouonji.”

Her jumping coach, Perry Johnson, credited Byford for being able to bounce back.

“She’s an even-keeled kid and she was disappointed when things don’t go her way,” Johnson said. “But she bounces back really quick and she gets her emotions in check and she performed.”

Byford said that she was also proud of her effort to go to regionals for the first time.

“It just means that all my hard work has paid off and it just tells me to keep working and reaching for my goals,” she said.

She added that her goal at regionals was to clear 5-2 and just keeping things simple.

“Run fast and jump high,” she said of her strategy.

Byford was not the only Permian Basin athlete to have a standout day.

Midland Lee’s Leah Acosta is the area champion in both the discus and shot put.

Acosta won the shot put with a top throw of 37-6.5 and the discus with a throw of 149-1.

Lady Rebels teammate Emma Builta qualified for the regional meet after finishing fourth with a top throw of 111-1.

“It’s an amazing accomplishment,” Acosta said. “We’re such good teammates and we take pride with everything we do.”

Midland Lee’s Garrett Whitehill won the boys shot put with a throw of 52-4.75.

For Whitehill, it was the first time that he competed in shot put at the high school level.

“It’s been really nice,” Whitehill said. “I’ve been throwing since junior high and it’s nice that we’re getting closer to what everything used to be.”

The only other Ector County ISD athlete competing in the area meet was Permian’s Rodney Hall, who finished seventh in the long jump.

Midland High’s D’Cambrion White finished fourth to earn a qualifying spot in that event. Caleb Stewart of El Paso Americas won the event with a jump of 22-3.75.

Midland High’s Taylor Gonzalez finished second in the long jump and Midland Lee’s Dominik Barraza finished tied for second in the pole vault with Mont Packer of El Paso Franklin to advance to the regional championships.

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