There isn’t much McAllen Memorial’s Ayden Granados hasn’t accomplished during his four-year track career with the Mustangs.
The senior distance runner has won back-to-back District 31-5A titles in the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs, also adding consecutive Area 31/32-5A and Region IV-5A championships in the 1,600 and 3,200.
Granados also holds the Valley record in the mile run, clocking in at 4 minutes, 9.42 seconds during 95th annual Texas Clyde Littlefield Relays on April 1.
Only one thing is left to add to Granados’ extensive resume: a state title.
Granados will get his chance to add state gold this week, set to compete in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs at the 2023 UIL state track and field championships at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin.
“You have to have a reason to run, a reason why you’re doing it,” Granados said. “That is something I’ve shared since middle school. As a freshman my coach (Jesse Trejo) asked me what records I want, and I said all of them. He followed it up by asking how bad I would want a state title and I said I’d do anything I could to get it. This is it. I’m putting my life on the line for the state title, and I’ll do anything I possibly can for it.”
Granados enters this year’s meet as one of the top contenders in both races, holding the top time in the 1,600 in Class 5A and the No. 3 mark in the 3,200 according to Athletic.net.
He also is riding a nine-race win streak in the mile run, including a victory over some of the state’s top competitors at the 95th Annual Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays.
The mark set during the event moved him to No. 1 in Valley history in the event, passing several RGV legends.
“Ayden, in the 1,600, he is No. 1 (in the Valley) and look at who he beat for it,” RGV track and field historian Carlos Vela said. “He beat Basilio Garcia from Weslaco (High), who ran for Baylor. He beat Todd Harbour, who coached at Baylor University and ran for Port Isabel. This kid is just so humble, too.”
The Oklahoma state signee came close to earning a pair of gold medals during last year’s state meet. Granados came within 1.14 seconds of the first in the Class 5A 3,200-meter run, finishing in 9:08.91 behind only Grapevine’s Walker St. John (9:07.78).
He also added a silver medal in the Class 5A boys 1,600-meter run, clocking in at 4:11.75. Austin McCallum’s Chris Riley won the event with a time of 4:08.56.
With just two races left as a Mustang, Granados isn’t ready to let off the gas yet, hoping for his best marks of his career Friday.
“It is one of those things where I’m feeling really good going in, but I’m also kind of sad,” Granados said. “I came into the program as a freshman ready to break records and give it everything I could. In a way, I feel like I accomplished my goal. These are my last two races and I’m proud to be going back to state to do it. It is a little heartbreaking, but I know in the end this is all for a reason. As my coach says, it is hard to let go but it is time to let the next generations have their shining moment.”
Granados is just one of 16 RGV athletes set to represent the RGV during this week’s running events at the state meet, including seven other regional champions.
Harlingen High’s Faith Franklin enters the state meet with the most state berths of any Valley athlete, qualifying in three events at the Class 6A level.
The Cardinals’ sprinter won regional titles in the 200- and 400-meter dash, while adding a second-place finish in the 100-meter dash.
Edinburg North’s Keyshawn Garcia and San Juanita Leal join Franklin in representing the RGV at the 6A level, each capturing a pair of regional titles to secure berths at the state meet.
Leal repeated as champion in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs, while Garcia captured the titles in the 400- and 800-meter runs, earning him the first state bids of his career.
Weslaco East’s Gael Romo joined Granados with a pair of regional titles at the Class 5A level, blazing past the competition for first in the 100- and 200-meter dash. The UTRGV signee set personal bests in both events, including a time of 10.37 seconds in the 100, the second fastest mark in Valley history.
La Villa’s Kaycei Salazar was the RGV’s lone sub-5A athlete to capture multiple regional championships, running away with the Region IV-2A titles in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs. The Cardinals sophomore enters the state meet with the top time in Class 2A in both events.
Mission Veterans Carla Guerrero and La Feria’s Julian Dominguez rounded out the Valley’s regional champions, winning the Region IV-5A girls and Region IV-4A boys 800-meter titles, respectively.
The 2023 UIL State Track and Field Championships begin with the Class 3A and 4A events Thursday at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin. The meet continue with Class 2A and 5A on Friday, with Class 1A and 6A wrapping things up Saturday.
For a full list of the Valley’s state qualifying runners, visit www.RGVSports.com.