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Boyle County boys win first-ever state track and field title

LEXINGTON — The Next One?

Won.

Boyle County boys track and field destroyed its competition Friday and Saturday at the Class 2A state meet at the University of Kentucky, scoring points in 14 out of 18 events to win by 45 points over second-place Mercer County. It’s the first boys state title in Boyle County track and field history.

“I think there’s no question about it that we compete in every event, everywhere we go,” head coach Brent Wagner said. “We flat out compete. There’s some all-comers meets, Saturday meets where we’ll throw kids in an event that might not be their best, but we expect them to compete. Every event, every practice, we hold them to a high standard and ask them to compete to the best of their ability.”

The team motto this year was “The Next One.” The next hurdle, next throw, next race, next event. And the Rebels showed that their last one was one of their best.

Boyle boys won four events, placed second in four events and had four events with at least two athletes in the top eight. The 4×200 meter relay team of Grayson Rahbany, Reese Smith, Landen Bartleson and Chris Duffy set a state record with a 1:28.76 to place first.

“We knew we would be alright on the boys side because we weren’t built around any one person or group,” Wagner said. “We score points everywhere. We planned to score in 14 of the 18 events before the state meet. I think of it as Oregon football from years ago: They’re going to score points. To beat us, you’re going to have to score a lot of points. If one of our events doesn’t come through, it’s OK because we can make up points somewhere else. We score so many everywhere.”

Senior Mitchell Paycheck threw a personal-best in the shot put, clearing 152 feet, seven inches, to place second. Sophomore teammate Ezarious Roller was sixth with his personal-best of 141 feet, 10 inches.

“I PR’d by 11 feet, before that my all-time PR was 141,” Paycheck said. “Heart of the Bluegrass I didn’t throw nearly as far but today, it just clicked. Me and Ezarious, we constantly push each other. Easy came out and threw a 141 so I had to come out and throw it farther. We constantly push each other, every track meet.”

The two Rebels were also members of the Boyle state championship football team, and Paycheck said that the grind of football prepared him to grind out another state title.

“It’s that grind mentality,” he said. “Every day you’ve got to go out and work on getting better every single day, look at the big picture instead of every little thing.”

Boyle scored wins in three of four relays (4×100, 4×200, 4×800) and placed second in the 4×400. Junior Jackson Cox won the 800 meter run, out-leaning Mercer County’s Ty Divine at the finish line to win by six one-hundreths of a second.

“When I started the race I knew that everyone had to come out and perform in their events,” Cox said. “In the 800, I knew I had just two laps left and I knew I had to go out there and get it. After the race, I was just thinking, ‘I’m dying, my body is dying.’”

Cox anchored the Boyle 4×800 relay team that won its event on Friday before rain washed out the meet and pushed most of the state event to Saturday.

But that didn’t slow the Rebels.

“The momentum here is crazy,” Cox said. “We won the 4×8 and that got everybody fired up, then we won the 4×2 and 4×1 and we almost swept the relays. But just the momentum, everyone working together. The girls especially, they had an amazing day. They got point gains in every area and it’s just amazing to be with this team. It’s awesome.”

Boyle girls won their third-straight championship, and Mercer County swept second place.

Mercer boys finished in thrilling fashion, beating Lexington Catholic in the final event of the day — the 4×400 meter relay — to secure second place.

“I went to find them before the 4×4, all the seniors ran that today. I said, ‘guys if you get this over LexCath, you’d have two state titles and a runners up,” Mercer head coach Terry Yeast said. “It’s beyond what I expected in my first three years coaching here.’ They had a chance to go out on top as seniors, choose for us to finish as runners up. And they did it. I’m just so proud of them.”

Mercer’s four seniors — Divine, Brandon Ballard, Mishi Easterling and Aaron Johnson — placed fifth in the final relay of the day, with Lexington Catholic sixth.

Johnson’s not typically a 400 runner — he won the 110 hurdles (14.07 seconds), 300 hurdles (38.21) and placed second in the high jump — but Yeast said he knew he might need his senior for the relay.

“We made a decision this week to take Aaron Johnson out of the long jump, hoping that we might need those points in the 4×4. It worked out,” he said.

Ballard, who was in a state soccer match earlier in the day, came out and ran his best split of the season.

“Brandon goes and plays in a state cup match, I called him up this morning and said, ‘good luck at soccer but man you’re going to need your legs for this 4×4,’” Divine said. “He’s been out two years on the track team. He started out running 2:16 and ran a 2:03 in the 4×8 yesterday. He killed it.

Mercer finished second with just seven athletes.

“That just shows you the quality of our runners and the heart that we have,” Divine said. “Every single one of us knew what we had to come out here and do. And we overachieved, we weren’t supposed to come out here and get second. But we busted our tails and we got it done … Big, big shoutout to coach Yeast because he really does get the best out of every kid.”

Easterling won the long jump — a rare win over Boyle County’s Marquise Kinley this season. Kinley placed second in long jump and fourth in the triple jump.

“Mishi hadn’t won long jump all year long but won it when it counted,” Yeast said. “I’m just so, so proud of him. And I have to give a shoutout to Toshi Smith: He came out running a 2:25 in the 800 this year and he broke 2:10 today. That was the highlight of my state track meet.”

“Us and Mercer, it’s like Alabama and Georgia,” Wagner said. “Both in the same region, both crushing several events, it’s every event, every step matters.”

Boyle knew every event was essential, and they made it happen. Will Imfeld joined Kinley with a fifth-place finish in the triple jump. Bartleson was eighth in the 100 meter dash; Duffy was fifth in the 200; Ezekiel Harless was third in the 2-mile. Gary Wood and Derek Bernard went third and fourth, respectively, in the pole vault.

“It means a lot. We’ve been thinking about it all year, we knew we had a chance,” Paycheck said. “We just had this mindset from the very beginning that we’d chase it as best we could.”

The chase is over, but Wagner won’t forget where the program has come from since his days of picking up trash at football games to raise money for the team when he was in middle school.

“It’s unreal. Before region, we had a team meeting,” Wagner said. “I didn’t have a track, coach (Krista Rinehart) didn’t have a track, how we came through all this stuff, how far we’ve come as a program. I still carry the days of having no track, a cotton jersey that’s basically a cutoff T-shirt … One season, (coach Jim Spears) got off the bus and he heard one athlete say, ‘who’s at the meet today?’ And they replied, ‘aww, nobody, just Boyle County.’ He told me that story and I carry that with me every day. Every day in practice, every day in the offseason. I think about ways we can get better, how we can get more kids out. Our drive is just unreal.”