Mercer County track sweeps boys, girls team titles

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Mercer County’s track and field teams didn’t come to win the state meet. They came to kick butt and take names.

The Titans did exactly that Friday, sweeping the Class 2A boys and girls team titles at the state track and field championships.

Both titles were decided well before the end of the meet at the University of Kentucky. The Mercer boys led by 36 points near the middle of the meet and won by 251/2, and the Mercer girls gradually added to their lead during the day and won by 24 points.

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It was exactly what Mercer coach Terry Yeast wanted, because he said he knew his athletes had it in them.

“I told them that all week: I wasn’t going to settle for anything more than them coming in here and doing exactly what I knew that they could do, and that was to dominate,” Yeast said. “I’m just overwhelmed.”

Both Mercer teams have won championships before, but never in the same season. The boys won their second consecutive title and their fourth in six seasons, and the girls won their second title in the past three seasons after losing by six points a year ago.

“It’s nice for us to get a boys and girls state championship,” said Timberlynn Yeast, the coach’s daughter who won two individual events and scored 301/2 points for her team. “Last year was a little weird because the girls had lost, so it was mixed emotions. But today it was really nice, and for my dad to get both of these was really nice.”

The Mercer boys won six of 18 events, and the Mercer girls had four wins.

The boys put up 94 points, more than any boys team in any class has scored in the past two seasons.

“We knew if we did what we were supposed to do we’d come out with a win,” said Mercer’s Jalen Lukitsch, who swept the boys hurdles races. “We just had a killer’s mentality and did what we had to do.”

The girls got 811/2 points, and they did so with only seven athletes competing.

“We’re not deep, but we’re going to work hard and we’re going to do everything that we can do to win,” Timberlynn Yeast said.

Mercer’s every success was cheered by a throng of blue-clad fans who filled an entire section of the grandstand near the finish line. It was by far the largest cheering section at the 2A meet and one of the largest the state meet has seen in many years.

“I love it, the kids love it,” Terry Yeast said. “I think the kids get fired up because they get to hear all this screaming and hollering behind them. I can’t say enough about what these folks meant to this team.”

Timberlynn Yeast won the girls 200- and 400-meter dashes for the second straight year after losing the 100 by .04 seconds. The junior broke the 24-year-old Class 2A meet record in the 200, then anchored a Mercer win in the 1,600 relay.

Mercer’s girls also got a win from Jai Maria Piazza in the 100 hurdles, and Lindsay Jessie finished second in the discus by just 3 inches.

The Mercer boys were led by Lukitsch, a senior who won the 110 hurdles for the first time and the 300 hurdles for the second straight year and who also was part of the winning 400 relay team.

“I was really confident. I knew if I did what I was supposed to do I’d come out with the wins,” he said.

Sprinter Beau Brown won his first individual title, taking the 200 dash after losing the 100 by just six ten-thousandths of a second, and Matthew Mays won the triple jump.

Then there was Lleyton Penn, a junior who won the shot put with a throw that went 10 feet farther than his best throw at last year’s state meet, where he finished eighth.

“I stopped gliding and started spinning,” Penn said.

Penn had beaten Boyle County’s Andrew Hardwick by 2 inches in their regional meet. This time, he won by 3 inches, launching his best competitive throw of the season in the final round immediately after Hardwick had done the same.

“That motivated me,” Penn said. “I was not expecting it at all.”