Milano has a good cop and a bad cop on its boys track and field team.
Senior distance runner Parker Jones stays positive while he and his teammates are struggling through tough workouts. Senior sprinter Devonte Jones is more likely to push a teammate who isn’t giving full effort.
Both will be necessary contributors for the Eagles when they try to defend their team title at the UIL state track meet Friday and Saturday at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin. Milano scored 74 of a possible 80 points to win the Class 2A championship last year and could score a possible 78 this time around. Milano also won the 2A Region IV title for the first time in school history three years ago and has won it each year since.
“I think that’s a big part of why we won last year, because most schools, they’re stacked in just sprint or just distance, but we’re in both, so we can take points away from just sprints or just the distance,” Devonte Jones said.
Last year’s title was a first in any team sport for Milano. Head track coach David Westbrook said the success has encouraged more athletes to come out for track and helped Devonte Jones and Parker Jones reach their goal of returning to the state meet.
“As a coach, I knew that we needed another person or a relay along with these two,” Westbrook said. “We’ve got it, and we’re set to make a run at it. It’s going to be a very competitive meet, but we should be in contention. There are about five teams that look like they have a shot at winning this thing, and we’re one of them. We’ve positioned ourselves well.”
Devonte Jones ran on the winning 4x400- and 4x100-meter relays teams last year, anchoring the latter. He also finished second in the 300 hurdles and took third in the long jump. He’ll compete in the 100, 300 hurdles, long jump and 4x200 relay at this year’s state meet. Augustus Downey, Christian Thurman and Alijah Demeritt will join him in the 4x200, and Thurman also is in the 100. Parker Jones is the defending state champion in the 1,600 and will compete in and the 3,200 this week.
“I guess I wasn’t really much of a super athlete,” Parker Jones said. “I can work hard. I may not be the most athletic on the field, but if I just put the work in, I will see the results.”
Devonte Jones is a vocal leader on the track, but he wasn’t always so enthusiastic about the sport. His family pushed him into summer track when he was 8 years old as a way for him to stay active when school wasn’t in session. He didn’t like it at first — he says he wanted to be lazy during summer vacation — but fell in love with the sport and now holds the Milano school records in the 100 and 200 and a part of the record in all three relays.
“My family pushed me to be the best that I could be,” Devonte Jones said. “That rubbed off on me, so I want to make everyone else around me do the best they can.”
Parker Jones started running in middle school and now holds school records in the 4x400 relay, 800, 1,600 and 3,200. He will compete for Stephen F. Austin next year.
Devonte Jones still is undecided about his college future, but he says Texas A&M is his dream school.
“We’ve been blessed the last three or four years,” Westbrook said. “I think next year, we’ll have six athletes in the last four years that are running at the next level, which is really unheard of in 2A. It’s unprecedented, at least for here anyway. It’s been quite an accomplishment, the work they’ve put in. The teams of the past and these two have just led the charge and continued. It’s been an amazing run, and hopefully we can cap it off with another state championship. But at the same time, I’m not putting any pressure on them.”
Though there is a lot of potential this year for Milano, Parker Jones and Devonte Jones don’t feel pressure, just pride in being from Milano. Last year’s state title energized the community, and they know they have its support no matter what.
“It could be the incoming freshmen that are on the rise, or it could be some of the elementary kids that you see running around the playground, but every time we hear cheering or we hear clapping or we hear ‘good job,’ it’s just like, ‘Wow, we have all this support, and they’re all looking up to us to do good,’” Parker Jones said. “So we’re just trying to put a face on the program.”