AUSTIN – When Adam Mendoza won the state championship in the Class 3A 800 meter run as a sophomore, it was viewed as a surprising finish.

As the defending state champion, the Pilot Point junior’s ability to defend his crown was surprising for a different reason.

“I had a lot of people tell me they were coming for me,” he said.

Mendoza more than accepted the challenge and his final burst capped a late charge that allowed him to overtake Hebbronville’s Eric Rodriguez and return to the top of the podium at Mike A. Myers Stadium on Friday night.

He won his second straight gold with a time of 1:56.23 that nipped Rodriguez’s effort of 1:56.54 in the final steps before crossing the line.

“It was a really great race,” Mendoza said.

Garrison’s Justin Garcia, who was fourth in 2017, took bronze at 1:57.88 but the top two spots were going to come down to Mendoza and Rodriguez as they were in front of the pack for the entire second lap.

Mendoza had the lead at that point before Rodriguez made his move with about 200 meters left.

“Once he passed me I knew he was going to kick and I was going to give whatever I had with a last kick,” Mendoza said. “Looking at the times coming in, he had the fastest time. I didn’t think I had enough. I ran my hardest and got the win.”

As they hit the final stretch Mendoza went all out and the effort was rewarded.

“The whole spring I’ve been starting off faster than I used to and just trying to get a better finish,” Mendoza said. “That’s been my whole focus since last year.”