Track and field: New names, new faces, but area programs remain strong
It’s a new year for track and field and three area track and field programs look poised to continue their successes from years past.
Boyle County, Danville and Mercer County have shot out of the gates this season and all three schools are among the favorites to take home hardware in the region and state.
In Class 2A, Boyle and Mercer have dominated the top spot: Boyle girls have won the past three state championships. Boyle boys won it all last year, and Mercer was the top team in 2016-17.
Danville boys returned to the summit in Class 1A in 2018 and has another balanced group of athletes to contend for a title.
Recent results have backed up the three talented teams: In three area all-comers meets, Mercer County girls have swept first place. Boyle County boys have won twice, while Danville boys won at Mercer County.
The Rebels have talent across the board on the boys side, with sprinters and distance on the track. In field events, Boyle is just as talented and could score twice in almost every event in region.
On the state level, Boyle boys will be the favorite for those same reasons: The Rebels are loaded in sprints with Chris Duffy, Reese Smith, Marquise Kinley and Landen Bartleson. In distance events, Jackson Cox, Will Lafavers, Ezekiel Harless and Seth Stomberger lead the way for the Rebels.
Caleb Jackson has again lowered his times this season in the hurdles, winning the 110 and 300 hurdles at Danville earlier this week.
Kinley and Will Imfeld finished 1-2 in the boys triple and long jumps at the Boyle all comers in March. Senior Cameron Britton has scored in each high jump event he’s participated in this season.
Ezarious Roller took first place in shot put at Danville on Tuesday and second in the discus.
On the girls side, Boyle has a strong mix of talent at the top mixed with ultra-talented underclassmen. Ashley Smith holds the school record in pole vault for the Rebels, and placed third in discus at Danville’s all comers this week. Fellow senior Chelsea Elmore will again be a threat in sprints. Juniors Daneezia Patton and Kaylee Lanigan will contend in sprints and hurdles, respectively, and they’ll be a force together in relays.
The Rebels also have up-and-coming youngsters: Seventh grader Annabelle Tarter, eighth grader Payton Bugg and freshmen Kennedy Kirkland, Naia Hutchins and Emma Jackson have all contributed early for the Rebels.
Boyle’s mantra this year is “Six in Four” — the Rebels have the opportunity to win six state championships across four years. They’ve won four in the past three years, already an incredible feat, and look to continue that success in 2019.
Danville boys’ title in 2018 was the program’s first in 28 years.
The Admirals are hoping the next title won’t be that far away.
Head coach Chris Verhoven has a wealth of new faces this season, but the talent is there for the Admirals to make a run in May: Brennan McGuire will look to build on his strong state performance last year in the 100 meter dash. Gabe McKnight will again be a force on the hurdles and in relays.
Zach Thornton and Damon Jackson return to lead the Admirals as seniors, and those familiar faces will be joined by a handful of new ones: Soccer stars Alec McAlister, Briar Sanders, Ethan Redmond and Sam Brunner join the team to give added depth across the track. Darrian Bell, in his first year throwing, placed second in shot put earlier this week and fourth in discus.
Distance runners Brady Bischoff and Jesse Cummings round out a strong group of Admirals vying for their second state title in as many years.
On the girls side, the Admirals have potential to make a run at a region crown and make noise at state: Seniors Lisa Voyles and Claire Strysick lead the way in distance events, while upperclassmen Anaiah Jenkins, Jade Smith and Abbie Hibbs are team leaders in sprints.
Underclassmen dot the landscape all over for Danville girls: Eighth grader Desiree Tandy will continue to improve in the hurdles. Freshman Kiah Earle placed first in the two mile on Tuesday, and fellow freshman Ellise Meaux will help in distance events.
The Mercer County girls track and field program has been winning this season.
And it hasn’t been close.
The Titans won the Danville all-comers by 45.5 points, won their all-comers by 127 points and won at Boyle by 87 points.
Granted, it’s early in the season. Teams might not be using their optimal lineups, might be missing athletes, resting athletes during the cold, etc.
But that doesn’t take away from just how strong Mercer County’s girls program is, and the scary part of it is that the Titans are young.
Eighth graders Timberlynn Yeast and Jai Maria Piazza could win just about any event on the track — except when they’re going against each other. At Danville on Tuesday, Mercer girls placed first and second in the 4×400 meter relay.
The Titans will be competing with themselves in multiple events across the board. Juniors Calicia Smith and Jasmine Claunch placed in the top six at Danville in the 100 meter dash. Yeast and Piazza were second and third in the 200. Freshman Love Mays won the 100 and 300 hurdles. Eighth grader Clayra Darnell won the mile. Junior Haley Blevins won the 400. Junior Zoe Yeast placed second in shot put and won discus. Claunch was second in long jump with senior Toni McCombs fourth. Sophomore Bella Garrett was second in the triple jump.
Mercer girls have six of the No. 1 spots in Class 2A rankings so far this season.
Mercer boys will look to carry momentum from last season’s second-place finish at state, with talented upperclassmen leading the way. Seniors Marcus Lewis and Toshi Smith joined juniors Chase Conrad and Cody Curtsinger to win the 4×800 relay at Danville this week. Seniors Blake Russell and Sam Warren will compete in the throws, while freshman Matthew Mays takes over in the jumps.
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