WESLACO — Senior Amity Ebarb has accomplished a lot during her time at Weslaco High.
The Panthers’ decorated distance runner has racked up district and regional titles, made numerous state championship appearances and broken school, regional and Valley records repeatedly, occasionally besting a few she had already set.
The only thing she is missing from a lengthy list of cross country and track accolades is an individual state championship.
Ebarb will look to capture that elusive title when she takes the track for the final time in a Weslaco uniform for her eighth state championship race Saturday at the UIL’s Class 6A State Track & Field Championships at Mike A. Meyers Stadium in Austin.
“I feel lucky to even have the opportunity to have another meet,” she said. “After all the COVID shut down last year I learned to take in every meet and appreciate having the chance at another opportunity to compete especially at the bigger meets since that’s where we got shut down last year.”
Ebarb makes half of a pair of Panthers to advance to the state meet, joining sophomore Jayda Hough who will represent Weslaco in the high jump.
Hough and Ebarb enter the state championships riding a wave of momentum after each capturing individual regional titles in their respective events.
Hough set back-to-back personal records in the area and Region IV-6A meets with jumps of 5 feet and 4 inches and 5 feet, 6 inches, respectively.
She has first place in the high jump in seven of eight meets this season, finishing as the runner-up at the District 32-6A meet. That minor setback has spurred Hough to kick into another gear and elevate her performance in recent weeks in the lead-up to the state championships.
“Everything I dreamed of is happening right in front of me at the best time,” Hough said. “I was a bit disappointed placing second at district, but went into area with even more confidence and grit and ended up placing first with a PR. I’ve dreamed of clearing it for a while now. Going into regionals, I wanted to push for another PR but not obsess over qualifying for state. Little did I know that not only (would) I PR again, but (became) a regional champion.”
Hugh enters as a prime contender for an individual state title in her debut at the 6A state championships with her jump at the regional meet falling within 2 inches of her highest-seeded competitor.
With Ebarb’s veteran presence and savvy alongside her, she feels confident about her chances to leap onto the podium.
“It’s really nice because I get to become closer with Amity, and yes she’s been giving me lots of advice and what to expect,” Hough said. “It still feels so surreal and amazing. I’m so thankful for this opportunity. I’m really excited rather than nervous. … It’s a blessing and I’m going to take this opportunity to show how incredible the Valley, my school and our track program are.”
“I’m actually really excited to be able to have a teammate to be able to join me this year,” Ebarb said. “Jayda is amazing and it makes me proud to see more people from my school making it out, especially at her age. I know she has the opportunity to make it in her next year’s, which makes me excited for our program.”
Ebarb, meanwhile, surges into the state championships after making history for Weslaco in two successive meets.
The Panthers’ track star posted all-time area records in both the 800 and 400-meter runs in the area meet in mid-April at PSJA Stadium in Pharr, sweeping first place in all four of her events that also included PRs in the long jump and triple jump.
In an encore performance, Ebarb set a new personal record in the 800 at the Region IV-6A meet in San Antonio and shattered the all-time regional record for the event with a time of 2 minutes and 10.42 seconds.
“It (felt) so amazing,” she said. “I just wanted to go out there and make my coaches and family super proud and being able to see the excitement on my coaches’ faces whenever I broke the record was the best feeling ever.”
Ebarb’s performance at the regional meet gave her one of the top five times across Texas heading into the 6A state championships and has positioned her to vie for the state title.
After running two individual and two relay races at the state track meet as a freshman and sophomore and racing in three cross country state championships, the Weslaco senior feels more prepared for the gravity of the moment than ever before.
“I think the state meets have definitely prepared me for my final state meet,” Ebarb said. “I learned how the atmosphere is and I even learned lessons on how to not freeze up and run my own race. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to have been able to experience it before so that I know how it’s like out there.”
The symmetry of this pinnacle moment in Ebarb’s career hasn’t been lost on her either.
After missing out on the opportunity to return to state as a junior amid the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, she accepted a scholarship offer to continue running for the Texas Longhorns.
Now after a long road back, Ebarb is looking to finish what she started and conclude one of the Rio Grande Valley’s all-time greatest high school careers in the stadium that she’ll call home as a college athlete.
“It makes me so excited actually,” she said. “I can’t wait to get a feel of how it is at my future home stadium. Not many people can say they’re finishing their high school career at their future college track, which makes me feel so lucky.”