Jordan Carter, one of Stephenville High School’s four state track and field qualifiers, has to look no farther than her high jump coach for a little family support.
Her dad, Joe Carter, is the high jump coach for SHS.
Carter, in the girls high jump, along with Nadine Arredondo (girls discus), Kylee Ponder (girls 100-meter dash) and Blake Aragon (boys high jump) will be competing in the Class 4A state competition starting Friday at Mike Myers Stadium in Austin. Each of them earned a spot by finishing second in their respective events at the Region I-4A meet held April 29 in Lubbock.
Carter, who has a grade-point average of 104.75, said having her father as her coach has helped her understand what happened any time she fails to clear the bar.
Her father said he grew up in Sundown, and was a high jumper in school there. He has been coaching high jump for 20 years, and previously was Stephenville’s boys soccer coach.
“We talk about it in the car. I think we can communicate better than it would be with different students,” Joe Carter said of his relationship with his daughter as her coach. “I’ve had regional qualifiers before. This is special because you know it’s your own.”
This is the third straight year Jordan Carter qualified for regional in high jump, and she took fourth place a year ago. She was the runner-up this year with a height of 5-4. Jordan, who was voted first-team all-district for the 2016-2017 basketball season, has a personal-best mark of 5-6.
Jordan was heartbroken last season when her track hopes were crushed by shin splints and a hip injury.
“I was one of the favorites to win regional, and I didn’t perform very well because I had a minor injury,” Jordan said. “It was a mess. I jumped the best I could.
“I”m extremely excited about it. I’m also a little nervous because I’m a perfectionist. I’m working hard in practice, to do the best I can at state. It’s pretty exciting because I get to experience it with the best coaches.”
Ponder’s father, Pat Ponder, also is a track coach — at Tarleton State University. At SHS, under girls track coach Mike Copeland and sprinter coach Jeremiah Butchee, she posted her best-ever time of 12.04 at the regional meet.
Like Carter, Ponder was disappointed last season when she became sidelined with injury woes. She injured her right knee, which turned out to be a broken knee cap.
“It was very painful,” Ponder said. “It was very heartbreaking — I’m not going to lie. I was in a straight leg brace for six weeks, and I did rehab with the athletic trainers. I tried to run in a meet and I hurt it again, 15 meters into the race.”
With encouragement from her coaches and what she called “smart” workouts to minimize stress on the knee, she is ready for the state meet.
“It’s a lot of nerves, but I think it’s pretty cool,” said Ponder, who said she is the only SHS senior girl participating in track this year.
As for getting track advice from her father, she said he coaches distance runners at the university.
“I’ve been around track my whole life. He gives me some tips sometimes,” she said. “He doesn’t want me to feel pressure.”
Ponder said she is “still debating” whether she may try to run in college. She mentioned that one option may be to attend TSU and study radiology.
This year marked the second season in a row that Arredondo qualified for the regional meet in discus. She was second a regional this year with a distance of 126-01.
Arredondo is a three-sport standout, having qualified for the state powerlifting meet in February, and being a key player on the school’s 10th-ranked softball team that won the District 8-4A championship and captured a bi-district title this season. She belted 12 home runs this season for the Honeybees while driving in 53 runs and batting .517 — all team-highs.
The Honeybees were eliminated in the area softball playoff round by Brownwood, two games to one in their best-of-three series.
The 6-foot, 5-inch Aragon is another multi-sport standout for SHS. He also earned varsity letters in football and basketball. He gained honorable mention all-district in football in 2016, and was the district’s Newcomer of the Year in basketball.
Aragon’s all-time best high jump was an SHS school record 10-0, at this year’s district meet. His runner-up height at regional was 6-6, just one inch lower than the winner.
Aragon said his best mark in the high jump progressed from 5-8 his freshman year to 6-0 as a sophomore before elevating it by half a foot this year. He said the improvement came mostly from his mental approach.
“Just my mindset,” Aragon said. “I honestly think I can jump as high as I put my mind to it. When I jump, I just think ‘up.’ The rest will take care of itself.
“When I first started the season I didn’t think making state was in the picture at all. But I saw myself progressing. It’s just the competitiveness in me. I wanted to be the best. I’m focused, but at the same time this is something I love to do — represent my hometown.”
Joe Carter, also Arredondo’s high jump coach, said, “He has a really good chance to medal. His best (6-10) is the best in the state this year. His regional jump put him fourth in the state, and 6-8 would probably get him a medal.”
Copeland stated that any of the four state qualifiers are capable of coming home with a medal.
“All four of them are great workers and leaders for us,” he said.
Arredondo, Aragon and Carter are scheduled to start their state competition on Friday morning. Ponder will have to wait until Saturday evening at about 7 p.m.
“Any time you get to Austin and you know you’re one of the nine best in the state, that’s a huge thrill,” Copeland added. “The (Class) 4A and 6A schools will be Saturday night. There will be a massive crowd.”
John Clark Giddings was the last state track qualifier for Stephenville, two years ago in boys pole vault.