By Greg Ford
For one, it will be her first time at the state track meet.
For the other, it’ll be the third straight, and hopefully this one will be the charm.
The former is Wylie East sophomore Halie Daniel, who powered her way into the state meet with a top-two finish at regionals in the shot put. The other is Wylie senior Andrea Nwachukwu, who once again will be vying for the top-three finish at state in the triple jump after taking fifth the previous two seasons.
Daniel and Nwachukwu will each compete at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the University of Texas’ Mike Myers Stadium.
Daniel, who has been tossing the shot put since the seventh grade, enters her competition with the sixth-best throw (41-04.50) coming out of regionals, where she finished second behind Lancaster’s Deja Erskine (43-05.25 and No. 4 seed). Cedar Park’s Crystal Onwukaife (46-00) was the top seed heading into the state meet.
Nwachukwu’s leap of 38-05.75 at regionals placed her as the No. 7 seed, taking second behind Mansfield Summit’s Ivy Walker (38-11.50 and No. 3 seed) during the Region II competition. Arielle Mack of El Paso Burges at No. 1 (40-06.00).
In 2013, the Lady Pirates leaped 38-05.50 at state and followed that last year by jumping 37-02.00.For Daniel, making state culminates an excellent season during which she consistently performed at a high level, especially during the postseason.“I thought after the season last year, (considering) where she placed at the regional meet (then), she was going to be better than she was last year,” said Wylie East head coach Jason Olford. “We came into this year with the feeling that she had the opportunity to get to the state meet.”While Daniel making the state meet may not have surprised Olford, it did come as something of one for the sophomore.“I’ve worked hard to get where I’ve gotten so far,” she said. “I have worked hard, been in the weight room; I have put in that time and effort. Yes, I was surprised, but I also was very blessed to get to where I am.”She added, “It was kind of a shock, but then it was like ‘I am really going to go.’ I have always wanted to go to state. It’s been a goal of mine. I was really blessed to have the chance to throw.”Daniel credits her coaches with developing her as a shot putter, adding she would not be where she is without them.Now that she is at state, Daniel’s aiming to set a personal record.“My goal for the year was to hit 43 feet, and I’m almost to 42,” she said. “With all of my extra lifting, I think I can get to my goal.”The good news is Daniel will have two more years to improve, and possibly return to state as well. “She’ll get a whole lot better,” Olford said. “She’s very coachable, and she’s got a huge upside to her. I really believe she’ll be at 45 feet next year. The sky is the limit for her.”