The next step for town track and field athletes is going to be steep, as district came and went, to be followed by the area meet, Thursday at P-SJ-A Stadium.

Fresh off team titles at Pharr, the Lady Jags and SaberCat boys will headline the event, with tickets to regionals in San Antonio riding on the outcomes.

District 31-6A qualifiers will take on the best from District 32-6A, including athletes from Brownsville, Harlingen, San Benito, Weslaco, and Los Fresnos. Meanwhile, districts 30 (McAllen, Mission, La Joya) and 29 (mainly Laredo) will face off in their own area clash, and the top four finishers from each will travel to the Alamo City later this month.

Handicapping the Lower Valley league (32) shows traditional excellence at Weslaco in the girls’ category, along with some super sprinters from Los Fresnos and Brownsville Hanna. Brownsville Rivera is strong in the distance races, as Andrea de la Rosa swept to victory in the 1600 and 3200, setting up an area battle with Vela’s Lili Perez.

Los Fresnos has an excellent hurdler, Brianna Alex, who went 15.20 in the 100-meter hurdles at district. Vela’s muscular Gabby Solis, gaining steam with every meet, will seek to spar with Alex and the rest of the field.

The Lady Falcons possess one of the region’s fastest girls, Luisa Cruz, who has run 12.34 in the 100 and 25.75 in the 200. Vela ace Sophia Ramirez is set to take on Cruz and the rest in the 200, with Mallory Grannum of Harlingen South also a powerful threat (a 26.19 PR).

Econ’s sprint relay team, first over Vela at district, will see a Hanna foursome that went 51.19 at district, while the Lady Eagles also won the 4x2 and 4x4 in the Lower meet. The Lady Jags went off at 51.10 at district, and their winning 4x2 time of 1:49.32 at Pharr compares to Hanna’s 1:47.95 performance. In the sprint, Weslaco has clocked 50.16 this season, San Benito 50.34. The Pantherettes claim a 1:44.28 in the 4x2 and 4:00.99, ahead of Harlingen’s 4:05.42, in the mile relay.

Right now, one of the main favorites to get through is Econ thrower Brittany Cantu, gold winner in the shot and discus at district. Weslaco’s Ciera Gonzalez is her main competitor in the discus.

As for the jumps, Natalie Martinez has a good shot in the high, while Monique Rodriguez will face off with Eleanor Arndt and Bri Guzman of Weslaco, both worthy foes.

For the boys, Harlingen and South are enjoying solid seasons with the Cards having the edge in running, the Hawks in field events. Los Fresnos has a great sprinter in Nico Valencia while Harlingen middle distance Art Benavides has been hot lately, especially in the 800.

As for the long distance runs at area, it should come down to Gomez-Pena again, as Memorial’s Cruz Gomez and North’s Tristan Pena – who went neck and neck at district – will be matched up again. Brownsville Rivera has a chance in the long runs. Rivera also has a strong 4x2 relay team that has run 1:30.28, meaning good competition for Econ (1:30.95) and P-SJ-A (1:30.14) in area. Weslaco also has marked a 1:30.32 this season, so the 4x2 should be a meet highlight.

Best bets to vie for spots in regionals: Econ’s Gus Vazquez in the long and triple jumps plus Pena of North. Pete Segura will work in the high, but not the long after a disappointing disqualification in 31-6A event.

Field events start at 9 a.m. Thursday, running to commence at 5 p.m.