State and National Champions: Catching up with Cedar Hill Track

State and National Champions: Catching up with Cedar Hill Track (Copyright (c) 2021 VYPE - All rights reserved)

It's no doubt that a team has had a good season if they top it off with a gold medal at State. In fact, it's a great season if they top it off with three gold medals at State, but what word do you use to describe a season that closes out with three gold state medals and a national championship? VYPE DFW was able to catch up with Cedar Hill- a team who did just that- after their phenomenal track season.

UIL State Medalists

Senior jumper Brya Brewer won a gold medal in Triple Jump at the state meet earlier this season with a personal best jump of 42 feet, seven and a half inches. Brewer finished her high school career as the top girls high school triple jumper in the country.

On the boys' end of things, seniors Kaleb Green, Diallo Good, Brian Rainey, and DaCorey Ware won the gold medal in the Boys 4x100 Meter Relay by a millisecond with a time of 40.49 seconds. Green, Ware, and Good went on to join junior Robert Richardson in the Boys 4x200 Meter Relay where they won the gold medal with a 1:23.99 time.

National Champions

Green, Good, Rainey, and Ware went on to win the boys 4x100 Meter Relay at Nike's Outdoor Nationals with a 41.31 time.

Returning to the Track focused

After a weird season the year before, Cedar Hill proved to come back poised and ready to do whatever it took to finish at the top. For head coach Kevin Benjamin, keeping the athletes focused wasn't a difficult task at all. "This team was very fortunate to have a veteran coaching staff and a strong core group of seniors to help guide and keep us focused. The relationships we built and developed over the years were vital in helping us navigate through the canceled 2020 season and the uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic. We were able to lean on and also strengthen those relationships by embracing our circle of trust," Coach Benjamin told VYPE DFW in an interview.

"As a coaching staff, we didn't have to do a lot [to keep the athletes focused]," added Cedar Hill track assistant coach Marcus Hutchins. "Our athletes knew exactly what they wanted to accomplish and they were able to hold each other accountable."

For soon-to-be senior Robert Richardson, staying focused came in many different forms. "I stayed working out; I'm always preparing for the next season," Richardson said. "Especially when I transitioned from DeSoto, I knew I had to work harder because there is always a competition between those two schools."

Recently graduated senior Diallo Good said what kept him focused was his goals. "Knowing what I needed to do to get to where I wanted to be," said the North Carolina A&T State University commit.

Accomplishing Goals

This past season was unlike any other. On any other year, coaches and athletes alike have goals such as "winning district" or "winning state." However, this year many coaches across the state had one main goal: remaining healthy. This was no different for Cedar Hill. "The main goal we stressed coming into this UIL season- as a staff and a team- was staying healthy. This was a priority knowing that our athletes were entering the season not having competed in almost a calendar year or were following up the grind of a long fall season," said Benjamin. On top of staying healthy, another goal was "Making the city of Cedar Hill proud each time we stepped onto the track," said Hutchins. It's safe to say that the track team did just that.

Benjamin knew from the start of the season that he had something special stepping onto the track. "We knew we had a special group coming into the season. We had three runners returning from our 4x100 relay team that was ranked third nationally during the 2020 COVID-cancelled season," said Benjamin. "National Championship aspirations meant that the team had to make another commitment to continue working out for two additional months after the UIL State Championships. Winning gold at Nationals…. That was just pure dedication and resiliency on the part of our athletes."

As far as next season goes, big goals remain. "The goal of the program is always 'D. P. S.' To win District, Playoffs (including Area and Regional meets), then a State championship," said Benjamin. With the athletes, Good summed it up best in saying his goal for next season is to get stronger by "preparing for the bigger picture."

Bigger than Competition

As a whole, this season has meant a great deal to many people- coaches and athletes alike. After missing a full year of competition, getting back to the track was something that was looked forward to by all. "As a whole, this was a bitter-sweet season," said Benjamin. "Selfishly, our 9-10th graders missed a lot of opportunities and mentorship time with a special group of seniors that we cannot replicate. However, I'm grateful for the limited time we had together and very proud of what this team accomplished in the midst of a global pandemic."

"[The season] meant the world," echoed coach Hutchins. "Words can't explain how proud and blessed I am to be a part of a great coaching staff, athletic department, and most importantly: a great group of kids!"

Secrets to Success

The coaches can agree that creating relationships with their athletes has been a key part to their success as coaches. On top of that, they agree that a major component to such a successful season was the athletes trusting each other and putting the team's needs above the individual needs.

"Our mantra is to compete at Longhorn Speed," added Benjamin. "It's about always having a sense of urgency, pace, and intensity to compete as fast as we can for as long as we can both at practice and meets. Longhorn Speed is as much what's in the HEART as what's on the stopwatch."

For the athletes, a variety of keys to success came into play. For Good, "Trusting the process and staying humble," was the biggest key to his success. "We had a lot of switching around this season, but we just stayed humble and did what we all needed."

Texas State commit, Kaleb Green, added that for him, "locking in" and "focusing ocfn the mission"was the key to his success with the team. Along with hard work, dedication, and focus another key factor- according to Rainey- came with relationships. "The secret to the team's success was building a bond that couldn't be broken," said Rainey.

Learning As Coaches

As much as coaches teach their athletes, they can also learn from their athletes. For Hutchins it can be summed up in two words: "Patience and trust." While Benjamin added "The biggest lesson learned from our athletes this year was to listen and give them a chance to voice their opinions. By giving our athletes some ownership in the decision-making process, we were able to make some key changes and decisions that was in the best interest of the team."

Just as coaches have learned from their athletes, a lot of times they draw from their life lessons and turn those into teaching moments as well. Applying all moments to coaching helps a team succeed on and off the field, court, and track. "The best piece of advice given to me is really very simple," said Benjamin. "Teach to the Test. Individuals have different learning styles... if you want all of your kids to be successful, find the best way to reach them individually to ensure they know exactly what's being asked of them."

Making Memories to Last

Being a part of a team means different things to different people. For some athletes, high school is their time to shine and they have no desire to go on to the next level. For others, they go on to compete at some of the highest levels in their sport and look back on their time in high school as a pivotal moment that helped turn them into the great athlete they have become. For Cedar Hill's track team, making memories has been a fond moment for each runner and they each have something that they hold special to them from their time with the team.

"Winning state or nationals," was Rainey's favorite memory. "Nobody in Cedar Hill has actually won the 4x100 before." Green echoed Rainey's memories saying that his own favorite memory came from "winning state." Good added that for him, "winning state in both the 4x100 and 4x200" was his favorite memory with the team.

For Richardson, his favorite memory draws back to encouragement. "My favorite memory from running with Cedar Hill was my first track meet with them. I wasn't sure if I wanted to run and my teammates and coaches convinced me to run."