EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – 23 Borderland athletes qualified for the UIL State meet later this week at the University of Texas in Austin.

There’s multiple repeat performers hoping to win gold once again, as well as a Horizon high jumper looking to raise the bar at state after he left something on the table in 2022.

Horizon senior Ricardo Leyva fell into high jumping by complete accident in middle school.

“My coach came up to me and said, ‘come do it, you’re going to get third place regardless, there’s only two people doing it.’ So I said, ‘ok fine, free medal.’ That’s all I cared about in middle school was free medals,” he said with a smile.

Free medals six years ago have turned into a passion project for Leyva. As a senior, he’s become maybe the best high jumper in the Lone Star State. The University of North Texas signee heads to state this week with multiple leaps over 6’11 this spring.

“I actually try not to think about that. I do the opposite, I say to myself, ‘it’s not that high, I can do it, it’s not that high.’ And then I jump it and then I’m like, ‘it’s pretty high.’ but at the time I try to be more positive,” Leyva said.

This is Leyva’s second straight trip to the state meet. As a junior in 2022, he finished in fourth place, mere inches off the podium. It’s driven his work for the last 365 days.

“He was actually very disappointed last year (about getting fourth place),” said Horizon track coach Anthony Mata. “He’s had a goal since last year and the goal is to get on the podium and get seven feet. We’re just grateful that we get another shot at it.”

Leyva knows he could be going jump-for- jump; there’s two other competitors at state that have hit the 6’11 mark this year. He wants to out-jump them and get the gold medal.

“It would be crazy and a dream come true. If I could jump that seven feet and leave that mark at this school, it would be a great feeling because I would have accomplished everything that I wanted to,” Leyva said.

Leyva will jump at 9 a.m. CT on Friday in Austin.