The top high school track and field athletes from across the Lone Star State gathered Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Mike Myers Stadium in Austin to complete the long road to the UIL state championships.
The weekend’s action was highlighted by several record-setting performances and highly-competitive pushes to land on the podium, a few teams and athletes stood out due to their historic accomplishments.
Here were the top seven standout storylines from the 2022 UIL State Track and Field Championships:
FLOWER MOUND’S NATALIE COOK DOMINATES 6A GIRLS DISTANCE RUNS
Flower Mound senior Natalie Cook made headlines earlier this year when she broke the national high school record in the girls 5,000-meter run.
There were no medals for Cook to win in the 5000 at the UIL State Track and Field Championships on Saturday, but it did little to slow her down or prevent her from seizing headlines again with her performance in the 6A girls distance running events.
Cook, an Oklahoma State signee, highlighted an elite contingent of distance runners representing Flower Mound by dominating the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs.
Despite having already broken 6A girls and all classification UIL records for both events earlier this season, The Jaguars’ senior bested herself again in the 1,600 and 3,200 in a pair of record-breaking races.
Cook won the first race of the day by an astounding margin, as she finished with one of the few sub 10-minute 3,200 times in UIL history.
Cook clocked in at 9 minutes, 48.25 seconds which placed her 35 seconds ahead of her closest competitor and shattered the state meet record, a 9:58.77 mark set by Denton Guyer’s Brynn Brown last year. She finished less than a second behind the national high school record (9:47.88) in the girls 3,200-meter run.
In the final race of her high school career, she edged out her sophomore teammates Nicole and Samantha Humphries to help the Jaguars sweep every spot on the podium in the 1,600-meter run.
Cook raced her way into the record books again by crossing the finish line in 4 minutes, 40.29 seconds to lock up first place by 3 seconds. Her state-championship-winning run eclipsed the previous 6A girls and UIL all classifications state record for the 1,600, a 4:40.97 mark set in 2015 by Houston Lamar’s Julia Heymach.
MANOR’S CHE NWABUKO WINS THREE GOLD MEDALS, SETS 5A STATE RECORD
No sprinter left a bigger mark on the 2022 UIL State Track and Field Championships than Manor senior Che Nwabuko
Nwabuko, a Pitt football signee who also plays running back and wide receiver, qualified for the 5A state meet in three events — the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash and 4x100-meter relay — and helped the Mustangs lock up gold in all three.
The senior sprinter entered the state championships with the top qualifying time (10.44 seconds) among all 5A boys state finalists in the 100 and showed why Friday night. Nwabuko ran the fastest 100-meter dash time of the weekend and won first place with a time of 10.17 seconds, giving him a 0.22-second margin of victory.
Nwabuko was at his best, though, in a highly-competitive 200-meter dash final where he finished 0.02 seconds ahead of Highland Park’s John Rutledge for first. He clinched his second gold medal of the day and set a new 5A state meet record in the 200 with a personal best 20.53-second finish.
Nwabuko completed a perfect day at the 5A state meet when he also served as the second leg on Manor’s 4x100-meter relay team. He earned his third gold when he and teammates Isaiah Crosby, Carter La’Dontae and Trevon Harris won the 4x100 by crossing the finish line in 40.52 seconds.