Chris Duffy, Marquise Kinley represent Rebels in New York City at Nationals

Published 10:40 pm Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Boyle County was well represented on the national stage this weekend.

Senior Chris Duffy and junior Marquise Kinley participated in the New Balance Indoor Nationals at The Armory Track and Field Center in New York City.

The two upperclassmen didn’t just represent — on the big stage, they delivered big results.

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Duffy is now an All-American. The senior placed fifth in the boys 60 meter championships, finishing in 6.84 seconds.

“Everybody there, you could just tell that they all had experience, everybody there was elite,” Duffy said. “It made me really excited and made me want to live for the opportunity to make it as big as I possibly could. They called it the biggest stage, the fastest track in the world, so I’m here running with the fastest kids in the country. I’m there, I’m coming for it all.”

Kinley placed eighth in the “Emerging Elite” division of the long jump with an indoor personal-best 22 feet, 2 inches. “Everybody that’s at nationals is there for a reason, it’s because they’re good,” Kinley said. “It’s competing against the top athletes all over the nation. It’s crazy to think that we’re here, we’re a part of that.”

Boyle County head coach Brent Wagner was thrilled that he had two athletes on the nation’s largest indoor track and field stage for high school.

“The crazy thing about New York, you’re putting a kid in that atmosphere,” Wagner said. “You want to talk about distractions, up in New York? It could’ve been easy to just sit around and say ‘I don’t belong here.’ Self doubt, all that stuff, Olympic blocks with sensors. There’s not one person at nationals that looks slow. Everyone looks legit … Pressure situation, you’re going against kids from New York, California, Florida, Texas, you’re going to have to perform. It was unreal.”

The pair made it to New York on Thursday. Kinley competed Friday and stayed to watch Duffy over the weekend.

Duffy could’ve been done after one preliminary race, but he ran a 6.95 to qualify for the semifinals — just the top 25 runners.

He said that he switched up his blocks after the prelims: Olympic blocks are different than high-school blocks. He couldn’t get his back foot far enough behind him to be comfortable.

“My first race, I went out there and just tried to get it as close to what I usually do,” he said.
“It wasn’t accurate, I didn’t run my best time but it put me in the semis. Then that was Sunday morning, from there I figured out how to set my blocks better.”

In the most high-pressure indoor event he’s ever participated in, Duffy switched it up. He pushed his front block all the way to the front, which allowed him to move his back block to a more comfortable position.

“The start is the most important part, especially for me,” he said. “It helps you with your whole drive, it sets you up for the race. I didn’t come up and start running until I was further down the track, it allowed me to push farther down the track.”

That resulted in more explosiveness off of the start: Duffy cut off a tenth of a second, running a 6.85 in the semifinals.

To add to the stress, the runner next to Duffy was disqualified for a false start in the semifinals.

In the finals, Duffy performed again to place fifth.

“He rose to the occasion,” Wagner said. “In the 60, it’s just him. There’s no teammates out there, no one helped him along, gave him the baton in a huge lead or passed him the ball. It was all 100-percent him.”

To make Duffy’s performance even more impressive: This is just his third year with the track team.

“His improvement from his first year to last year was unbelievable,” Wagner said. “Last year, he killed it on the relays and he’s going to kill it individual events. He’s got five school records: 200, 400, 4×100, 4×200, 4×400. His goal last year was to hand off in first, plain and simple Duff. Hand off in first. And by golly, he did. He was fantastic.”

Kinley performed at his indoor peak — his 22 foot, 2 inch mark is a foot longer than his previous indoor best.

“Marquise killed it,” Wagner said. “He’s jumping better than he was last year at this point. He’s one of the most athletic kids that we’ve had, bar none. He would excel in whatever event we put him in.”

Both athletes were in awe of the big city, but it was a different kind of awe when they arrived at the Armory.

“New York is crazy, so many people,” Kinley said. “It’s just a different kind of atmosphere to be in. It’s just crazy. But you’re there, so you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do.”

Duffy said the Armory was packed.

“I was surprised, there was a whole lot of people there, it was hard to find a seat if you weren’t there from the start,” he said. “Especially on Sunday, when they started doing the finals and the championships, the whole crowd was more into it. The energy, you could feel it. It was different. Everyone was into it.”

Wagner said both athletes have excelled in track and field — and helped the Rebels to two-straight state championships — because of a great mindset.

“They’ve both just got great attitudes,” the coach said. “They could both come in here and have a terrible attitude, ‘I want to do this, don’t want to do that.’ But you don’t hear them say any of that. That’s what makes them good, their attitude. They’re always willing to do whatever we ask them to. It’s fun to coach them as athletes, not just because of their athletic ability but because of their attitude.”

That attitude won’t change this year: Duffy wants to go out with another state championship and turn his school records into state records. He’s committed himself to track in the offseason, attending training camps with Olympians and other elite coaches.

“I definitely want to win state again and anything that comes with it,” Duffy said. “Any race that I do, I’m going to run my best. However far that takes me, whatever event they put me in, I’m trying to win. My goal will be nothing less than to win it, break records in every event that I do.

“I started off, I was always strong and fast. I didn’t really have much technique at all …  It’s all set me up to get to where I’m at. It’s crazy that I’m an all-american now. I’ve just worked and trained really hard, it happened really fast but it’s what I do now.”

Kinley wants to build on his breakout sophomore campaign, and has started strong with an incredibly successful indoor season.

“I’ve been running since I was in middle school, it’s just always been progress from there. I’ve been getting stronger every year, jumping farther every time I hit the pit. I don’t really know how to put it in words, the grind is just different.”