The Next One: Rebels excited for 2018 track season

Published 8:47 pm Thursday, March 22, 2018

It didn’t take long for Brent Wagner and his coaching staff to prepare for 2018.

Wagner, the head track and field coach at Boyle County, said he and his staff were talking about the 2018 season on their bus ride back to Danville after winning the 2017 Class 2A girls state championship.

It’s competition that drives the Rebels — from their coaching staff to their athletes. Boyle has won two-straight girls state titles, and this year, both the Boyle boys and girls are in the mix for a state championship.

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“The boys team, we have a lot of bits and pieces, a lot of parts coming back form last year,” Wagner said. “We’re very balanced. We’ll score high in a lot of events. We have sprinters, distance, relays, throwers, vaulters. Other teams will score, I know they will. But we’re not built around one person, one group of kids. That’s what I like about us. I’m not looking at the distance kids and saying ‘we need to go 1-2 in the mile to win.’ That’s going to make all of us that much better because they can just go out and compete.”

The Boyle boys placed fourth at the state meet last year — and had just one senior in one event at the meet.

Landen Bartleson won the 100 meter dash last year, and he’ll lead a talented group of sprinters into this season. Throwers Mitchell Paycheck and Ezarious Roller, both of whom placed in the top eight in the discus at state last year, return. Seniors Gary Wood and Derek Bernard placed top eight in pole vault.

On the distance side, Ezekiel Harless joins a talented group of distance runners for Boyle. It can be a strong year for the Rebels, but it’s March. There’s a long way to go and plenty of unknowns this early in the year.

And, right now, plenty of weather to fight.

“With the weather and stuff like that, every team is dealing with it. It’s not just Boyle County that is getting out of school,” Wagner said. “We’re mindful of it, at the end of the day, we’re not three kids. Our practices are very competitive. We can go side by side, get out there and go. If you don’t want to compete, next guy up and let’s go. It’s eat or be eaten. It’s not a favorites, it’s not a ‘more experience.’ None of that stuff. It’s you getting picked based on results. What you do in practice is how we judge what we’ll do.”

The girls side is similar — Boyle’s got plenty of talent. But replacing senior leaders Emmie Harris and Kylie Thompson will be no small task.

“It’s kind of the same thing on the girls side, we’re going to do well in several events on the girls side,” Wagner said. “It’s going to be tough to beat. We’ve been around, it’s not May right now. It’s March. We don’t need to talk about the state meet right now, we just need to go out and get better.”

Becca Tarter and Daneezia Patton return for the Rebels. Chelsea Elmore, Kaylee Lanigan, Ally Anderson and Amelia Fogle, all of whom scored at state last year, are back.

Wagner said the competition stays fierce between the athletes, and with premier programs like Danville and Mercer County being consistent opponents, it’ll make for some electric meets.

“Competition makes us better, makes everybody else better,” Wagner said. “Now you’re seeing them all the time, so you have to bring your A game. I’m sure there’s a little friendly rivalry stuff in there, no one wants to get beat. We never want to go win meets by a ton of points, we want to scrap and fight for every point. But we train for May. Regardless of what we’re ranked or what we have coming back, Mercer boys are the state champions. Until somebody beats them, they’re the state champions and there’s no reason to not think that.”

Will there be a new name step up this year for the Rebels?

We’ll have to wait and see. But Wagner said that mindset is what he and his coaches are instilling in his team with every practice.

“Our slogan is ‘The Next One,’” he said. “That’s because at the end of the day, we remind them that the most important thing is the next: The next rep. The next meet. The next push-up, sit-up that you have to do. The next event. If something doesn’t go right, the next one is the most important. We tie that into, who’s the next person we’re going to rely on? Who will we be talking about in 2019? Who’s going to be the next kid that takes us over the top? We’re very positive and very motivating atmosphere.”