Mansfield Timberview sprinter Aldrich Bailey and Mansfield Legacy thrower Shelbi Vaughan have a lot riding on this weekend's UIL Class 5A state track meet.
Yet the Austin trip could also turn out to be a footnote on their Wikipedia pages if everything falls into place for the two Mansfield ISD athletes who share a lot more than the same hometown. Both are defending state champions, both broke national high school records this spring, both are headed to Texas A&M, and both have already qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials next month in Eugene, Ore.
"Going up there and trying out is probably going to be one of the greatest experiences in their lives," said Olympic gold medalist Jon Drummond, the Team USA head relay coach and a former TCU sprinter.
Drummond said he is "wowed" by Vaughan's ability to throw the discus and was impressed by Bailey's humility upon meeting him.
"It's going to make them hungry to go up against people they may have admired," Drummond added. "When you're at a track meet and you see someone like a Jeremy Wariner or a Stephanie Brown Trafton, versus when you're at a track meet, and you're standing next to them actually about to compete against them, it's two completely different things."
Each athlete is adamant that they are taking it one step at a time. The next step is the state meet.
Bailey's time of 45.19 seconds April 28 in the Class 5A Region I meet at Texas Tech tops the 1993 national record of 45.25, according to the National High School Sports Record Book.
For Bailey, competing this weekend at the Mike A. Myers Stadium at the University of Texas is an opportunity to prove that Lubbock was not a fluke.
"My goal this year is 44 (seconds)," Bailey said. "People look at me crazy when I say it, but it's always been my goal."
The Timberview sprinter will also anchor the 4x100 and 4x400 teams at state.
Bailey's Lubbock time is third in the nation this spring, according to USA Track & Field. It's also seventh in the world by the International Association of Athletics Federation. Though Bailey is excited about reaching the automatic qualifying standard for the Olympic Trials, which guarantees him the opportunity to run in Oregon, he said that his time at the state meet could determine whether or not he attempts to make the 2012 team.
"I know I already met the 'A' standard but I want to see where I am at," Bailey said. "You don't want to go there and not compete; I want to go and compete. So if my time is near the top in the world then I'm going to go for it. Why not?"
Vaughan has just as much at stake this weekend after breaking the girls' national high school record in the discus with a throw of 191 feet, six inches at the Texas Relays on Mar. 31. She is also a two-time defending state champ, winning the 5A title last season and 4A gold for Azle as a sophomore.
Vaughan has not only won gold at all nine meets this year in the discus, but she has broken each site's record. She needs a throw of longer than 161 feet to beat the state meet record, which she set a year ago.
The Legacy thrower is currently ranked 10th by USATF and is a 'B' or provisional qualifier for the Olympic Trials. She needs a throw of at least 196 feet, 11 inches this weekend to reach the 'A' standard but is aiming at accomplishing her ultimate goal of 200 feet.
The 17-year-old is also a heavy favorite in the shot put.
"State is always a big thing to go to," Vaughan said. "Even if I've gone through it two other times it's a great track meet, and there is going to be so many people there. It's also another opportunity to get my 200."
Vaughan's scholarship to Texas A&M is actually for volleyball, which could further complicate the next several months. Yet, the Aggies' willingness to accommodate both her volleyball and track abilities was one of the reasons she decided to sign with them.
Each athlete is about to embark on a whirlwind tour of life-altering experiences that could include, but is not exclusive to, the following events: The UIL state meet this weekend in Austin, high school graduation at the beginning of June, the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials in Eugene, Ore., in late June, the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London in late July/early August and then enrollment at Texas A&M as student-athletes at some point in August.
Perhaps Bailey summed up best just how crazy this summer could turn out to be.
"It will be fun. I might be on a Wheaties box or something," Bailey said. "I mean how many high school kids can say that?"
Jarret Johnson, 817-390-7760