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Danville boys roll to top spot, girls finish second

Danville wasn’t going to be denied.

On a hot Saturday at Admiral Stadium, it was the hosts who burnt up the track to take home two trophies in the Class A, Region 5 track and field meet.

The Admirals won 13 of 18 events on the boys side and placed the top two in three events. It was an absolute drubbing: Second-place Lexington Christian Academy scored 76 points. Danville boys scored 196.

“I’ve been holding my breath,” head coach Chris Verhoven said. “When you have the target on your back and you have high expectations, you just hold your breath and hope you get through the region and live up to those expectations. I think we did that. Everybody that should have advanced did, and 95 percent of the ones who advanced, advanced well. We should be in the hot heats and in the preferred lanes at state. That leads to better competition and hopefully produces the results we hope to have on Thursday night.”

The Admirals will head to the state meet at the University of Kentucky on Thursday. The UK campus has treated Danville well this year — the Admirals won a state football championship there in December.

“We’ve been making comparisons with football, we’ve got some of the same athletes,” Verhoven said. “Same mentality, the football team had high expectations all year long, the No. 1 ranking. We’ve had the same. But they don’t crown paper champions in football and they don’t in track. There’s a lot of unknown. I’m not going to speak for coach (Clay) Clevenger, but I think they were basically to the point where the only people that could beat us is ourselves. And I feel the same way about this track team.

“I feel like we’re the best team, but there’s five or six other schools that have a whole lot to say about that.”

Mr. Football D’Mauriae VanCleave won the 100 and triple jump — the first time he’s competed in the triple jump this season — and was on two winning relays.

Gabe McKnight dominated both hurdle events and won the 200 meter dash. He was also on the 4×200 team that placed first.

Jaleel Warren placed second in the triple jump and shot put, and had a first-place long jump finish. Jaxxyn Wood won the pole vault, Don Harris won discus and shot put to round out the top finishes by the Ads.

“Junior Brennen McGuire placed fourth in the 100 and third in the triple jump, and like VanCleave, hadn’t participated in the high jump until this week.

“We talked about it, we haven’t had the same lineup all year. We knew we’d change some things up and that’s the gamble that you take. It was one of those days that we look pretty smart,” Verhoven said. “D’Mauriae hasn’t jumped in a meet all year. He’s had a couple days of practice in the triple and he’s advanced to state. Brennan, same thing in the high jump. He scored points for us and was a big boost. Then we had PRs: Gabe in the 300 hurdles, Chase in the 400, Zach in the 400, Gabe in the 200, D’Mauriae in the 100, the 4×2, both shot put. That’s what you wish for, and to see that come to fruition, it’s awesome, to know that the guys lived up to the hype. Now they’ve got one more time to do this.”

Despite an incredible region meet, the results Danville had from region would result in two state-champion finishes on Thursday.

“We’ve won the region but we haven’t won anything at state,” Verhoven said. “We’ve put ourselves in the right place at state, but just like it was today, we’ve got to go out and be business-like, we’ve got to perform and rise to the occasion. If we do that again, I think we’ll be talking about a state championship. But if we don’t bring our best, there’s five or six other schools that can bring their best and win. They want to beat us as bad as we want to beat them.”

On the girls side, Danville placed second with 76 points. The Admirals needed a top-three finish in the final event of the day — the 4×400 relay — to beat Owen County, who placed third with 72 points.

“All year on paper we’ve been the fourth, fifth-best team in the region,” Verhoven said of his girls’ team. “We’ve been moving parts around, figuring out who can help where. The girls have really just put their nose to the grindstone and worked hard every day. They’ve gotten better, figured out events that can really help the team. To see that happen and get the runner up was so awesome. We still have a lot of youth on that team, a lot of newcomers. So hopefully that’s something we can build on for the girls. They sure lived up to all of their expectations.”

The Lady Admirals placed first in both sprint relays and were top-three finishers in the other two relays.