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July 12, 2017     Hays Free Press
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Section B LITTLE FREE PAmllY Middle school teams up with local scouts to provide free goods. - Page 1C HaysFreePress.( July 12, 2017 Page 1B BY MOSES LEOS III Competing against top competition isnt a new experi- ence for incoming Lehm- an High freshman Nikayla Fitzergald. When she began her track and field career at age 9, Fitzgerald had to prove herself as the only girl on her team. The experience, however, pushed her to improve her skills. "It pushed me more to go faster and to compete," Fitzgerald said. Armed with that experience, Fitzgerald eyes a chance to hit the podium this summer as she qualified for the 2017 Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympics, which will be held July 26 to Aug. 5 in Detroit, Michigan. It marks the second straight year Fitzgerald has quali- "It's fun and challenging, you learn so much when you're around (an Olympian) ... You want to take it all in." - Nikayla Fitzergald fled for the AAU Junior Olympics. Fitzgerald said compet- ing at the Junior Olympics is a fun experience. She said it provides athletes a barometer of their skills. It also allows athletes to recognize which skills they need to improve. This summer, Fitzgerald will run in the 100-meter and 200-meter dash, while also competing in the long jump. Helping Fitzgerald reach the Junior Olympics is Olympian Charles Aus- tin, who she's trained with on a regular basis. Austin won the gold medal in the men's high jump at the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, GA. Under Austin, Fitzgerald began to run faster and place in more events, aid- ed by tough workouts that are fun and challenging at the same time, she said. Fitzgerald trains approxi- mately four days per week, while training with Austin twice a week. During the winter months, Fitzgerald participates in basketball, which also helps with her conditioning. "It's fun and challeng- ing, you learn so much when you're around (an Incoming freshman Nikayla Fitzgerald lands into FITZGERALD, 2B long jump. the sand COURTESY PHOTO pit during an attempt in the Rebel senior overcomes severe injury to return to the gridiron BY MOSES LEOS III Like many times before in practice, Hays High football player Marcos Barrera knew his role when "F- right" was called in an October 2014 game at Anderson High. As an offensive lineman, Barerra's job was to block down and help set up a lane for his running back. What seemed like an exer- cise in the routine turned into a nightmare scenario. "I was blocking down and then I remember hearing a snap in my leg," Barrera said. "I then couldn't get off the ground." But what was thought to be just a broken leg turned into three years of turmoil for Bar- rera, who has endured more than 20 surgeries, and even a threat of potential amputation. After an aggressive physi- cal therapy regiment, Barrera, who was once told he may never play football again, aims in his senior season to com- plete an arduous climb back to the playing field. THE INJURY The injury itself was a quick action. Marcos was engaged with a defender on the . game's first play when another foot- ball player inadvertently fell on his right leg, which was planted in the turf. Pain from the injury didn't hit Marcos until five seconds afterward. He then looked down and saw why other play- ers were calling for coaches and athletic trainers. "My leg was almost in half. It was dangling," Marcos said. "I started to freak out." First on the scene were Hays coaches Stuart Foreman and Gary Gaddy, who tried tb calm Marcos down. Maggie Barrera, Marcos' mom, was in the stands with her husband, Mike, and saw her son was down on the field. At first she thought he was suffering from leg cramps. She then saw he had a compound BARRERA, 2B PHOTO BY MOSES LEOS III Hays High senior Marcos Barrera simulates his stance on the offensive line, which he hopes to use during the 2017 football season. After suffering a severe leg injury in his freshman year, which nearly had him lose the limb, Barrera has been cleared to participate in practices this summer. He hopes to potentially reach the field of play this season. BOTrOM PHOTOS COURTESY OF MAGGIE BARRERA From the Sidelines by Moses Legs III Maybe it's the return of those lovably gaudy tequila sunrise jerseys. Perhaps Sports Illustrated was right when they pro- claimed the Astros 2017 World Series champions on a 2014 front page story. However you character- ize it, few can look past the success of the Houston Astros in the first half of the baseball season. A barometer of that success has been building over the last few months. Houston's 60-29 first half record, highlighted by an uplifting 19-1 rout of the Toronto Blue Jays last week, showed the domi- nance Houston has had on the league. It also gives them home-field advan- tage in the World Series, should they get there. According to ESPN, the Astros' mn differential at the All-Star break (+162) is the fourth highest of any team in the history of baseball. On Tuesday, six Astros, one of those being injured pitcher Dallas Keuchel, made the roster for base- bali's much hyped, low stakes All-Star game. The Astros are first in their division, first in the American League. And to think it was only four years ago the Astros were an abysmal mess that lost 111 games in a season. How far the Astros have come s'mce that time has been nothing short of re- markable. The rebuilding and restructuring effort conducted millionair6 Jim Cranehas been a gargantuan feat. Since he took over the team several years ago, Crane brought in the talents of George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Carrera. He helped stock- pile a bullpen with the arms of Keuchel, Lance McCulllers, Jr. and so many others. Having so much talent ASTROS, 2B I !