PAWNEE – Taelor Brown watched the disc land on the field at Western Heights High School in Oklahoma City and turned to Sara Llamas-Howell, who was next up.
“Come get me,” Brown said to her best friend.
Brown had just thrown it 126 feet and 1 inch, her personal best and good enough for first place.
Llamas-Howell came up for her turn and did just what Brown told her to do, throwing the disc a foot farther to earn the Class 2A State Championship.
“That day was crazy,” Llamas-Howell said. “None of us got our bests until the last time up. There were a lot of nerves, but I got that mark and I was so happy. I was proud of Taelor, too. It is the way things go sometimes.”
Brown would give the Black Bears a second title on that early May day, as well, with a personal best at the shot put with a distance of 38 feet and 5 inches. Llamas-Howell finished third, almost 3 feet behind Brown.
“Being the one on the very top and looking into the crowd and seeing everyone clap for you, finally getting the medal that you have been working for for years now and finally achieving that goal, there are no words for it,” Brown said. “Nobody can take it away from me.”
The duo capped their incredible all-around careers at Pawnee High with a slew of medals and the honor of All-Area Girls Track and Field Athletes of the Year for the Stillwater News Press.
The friends, who also excel at softball and basketball, made each other better in every single sport thanks to a desire to be the best.
“Me and Sara, she pushes me to do my best in every single thing,” Brown said. “Softball wasn’t really my sport, but the past two years, she has pushed me to be better. She really makes me work for what I want. In basketball practice, we go after it and it makes us both better. It just made us want to go even farther.”
For the two, who helped bring Pawnee softball to the state tournament for the first time in 15 years and a district title in basketball, it is just business as usual trying to maintain the same standard no matter the sport.
“It definitely gets hard sometimes, but we are there pushing each other and we have to be leaders for our team,” Llamas-Howell said. “I guess we just go through the year one season at a time and move on from one to the next. We did pretty good.”
Pawnee track and field coach Russell Cook said Brown and Llamas-Howell always knew what to do when it came to a meet. That’s a credit to their hard work and some training they got along the way.
Brown, who has been throwing the shot since the fifth grade, always wanted to be better than where she was. Her junior season, she started participating in discus when family friend Kirk Harding came over from Cleveland to help her and Llamas-Howell push themselves.
“Before him, I was throwing the shot with pure arm muscle,” Brown said. “He really helped me get to where I am right now. I give it all to him really. He made two state champions and a runner-up. I am thankful for him.”
Llamas-Howell, who actually ran her first couple of years in track, said thanks to Harding, her and Brown achieved their dreams.
“He was just there pushing and encouraging us to keep going,” Llamas-Howell said. “He made everything really easy for us and took what we already had and used it more efficient and made us do stuff we didn’t even know we could do and it helped us compete.”
Thanks to their perseverance and resiliency in athletics, the two both earned scholarships to college, as well. Brown will continue her track and field career at Oklahoma Christian in Edmond and Llamas-Howell will take her pitching prowess on the softball field to the University of Tulsa.
Llamas-Howell, who hopes to someday play softball professionally, is looking at a career in pediatric medicine when her career is over. She loves to work with younger kids, as she has two younger sisters herself with Jaslene, 10, and Yessenia, 2.
Brown, who hopes to add possibly the hammer throw and javelin to her repertoire at OCU, is looking forward to college.
“I plan to be an occupational therapist and help kids with disabilities overcome their struggles in life,” Brown said. “I want to do some art with helping kids and finding motor skills through art.”
Both of their illustrious careers in the black and red might be over, but they will never forget their time at Pawnee or how they finished it as state champions.
“A unique thing about our group of seniors in our journey is we got to experience what it is like to compete at every level and we know what it is like to be at the bottom of the bottom and not be able to win anything to the top and finishing in the state tournament,” Llamas-Howell said. “Just improving every year. That is one thing very special to help us become the athletes we are and I will never forget it.”