Bush girls track

Bush’s Raylen Russell (right) prepares to hand the baton to Rachel Joseph during a meet. Russell, Joseph, and the rest of Bush High School girls’ 400 and 800-relay teams are headed to the state meet this weekend as one of the best teams in the nation so far this season. (Contributed photo)

Bush High School’s girls relay teams are tired of finishing in second place. And armed with some of the best times in the nation this season, they’re looking to finish first at the highest level.

The Lady Broncos are sending two relay teams to the UIL state track meet in Austin next weekend, with both their 400 and 800 relay squads punching tickets last week at the Region III-6A meet. And they are headed to Mike A. Myers Stadium with one goal in mind.

“We want the gold,” senior Raylen Russell said.

Russell, a four-year letterman in the Lady Broncos’ track program, runs the opening leg of both relays. In particular, the 400 relay team of seniors Russell, Rachel Joseph, and Christina Pleasant along with freshman Amariya Hardeman has taken a huge step forward this season under first-year head coach Tiwana Stewart.

The quartet posted the best time in the nation (45.40 seconds) in the event according to AthleticNet during the area meet on April 21. Their qualifying time of 45.49 at last weekend’s regional meet was the best seed time in the state in Class 6A by nearly four-tenths of a second, giving them a legitimate shot at the title when the state’s best converge on Austin this weekend.

“I’m so thankful, and I’m excited…because I know we can do some big things (in the 4x1),” Joseph said.

According to Russell, Bush has long been known for the 800 and 1600 relays – but not so much the 400 relay, making this season’s exploits even more special.

“Having a team actually go to state (in the 4x1) is really shocking to people,” she said. “…This season was such a complete opposite (180-degree) turn from last year. Just knowing that we made (it to) state, regardless of what happens, is amazing.”

Adding to the motivation of the 800 relay – which includes Russell, Pleasant, and Hardeman along with senior Demeri Duplechain – is the sting of finishing as the state runner-up to Desoto at last year’s state meet. Russell, Joseph, and Pleasant all ran on that team, which was the second Lady Broncos’ 800 relay to be the runner-up in the last three seasons.

But they want more. The 800 relay’s qualifying time of 1:37.66 at the Region III-6A meet was the third-best seed time. It was also the fifth-best time run by any team in Texas this season regardless of classification, and the eighth-best time in the country.

“We don’t want the silver anymore,” Russell said. “We’re tired of being second place, being the runner-up.”

And in the eyes of their coach, there’s no team more motivated or prepared to win it all. Russell and Joseph – both four-year lettermen – have used their experience to guide the teams this season, according to Stewart, making her job a little bit easier. Russell has a scholarship to Houston Baptist University, while Joseph is committed to run at Iowa State next year.

“These girls are very experienced and have been through this program…they want to be successful, and they know how to be successful,” Stewart said. “And that’s gotten them to where they are today.”

With their eyes on the prize, the Lady Broncos are looking to make their mark – and they won’t look back.

“We’ll just do whatever we’ve got to do,” Russell said.

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