Mercer sets state record, wins state title

LEXINGTON— Heading into the final event for the girls state championship, which was postponed to Saturday morning, Mercy County already knew it had won. That didn’t stop the team of Haley Blevins, Jai Maria Piazza, Abby Steele, and Timberlynn Yeast from going out and posting a record smashing time of 3:56.07 in the 4×400-meter relay.

The record, and the 10 points that it earned, acted as an exclamation point on the state title that they had already claimed.

Friday’s rain shortened meet ended with Mercer picking up 10 points from junior Jasmine Claunch’s win in the triple jump. Those points pushed its lead to 11 points over second place Boyle County, meaning that the final event, the 4×400-meter, was all but a formality. Yet, as Yeast crossed the finish line for gold, she was more than eight seconds in front of everyone else.

Timberlynn Yeast coming down the stretch before anybody else approaches the final turn. (Photo by Derek Brightwell)

“The goal with everything is to always win, no matter what the event is,” Mercer coach Terry Yeast said. “But the mile relay is absolutely, in my mind, the greatest event in track and field. It’s the last one and I tell my kids all the time how you finish the 4×4 dictates how well the meet went.”

By that definition, the Titans KHSAA 2A State Track Meet went historically well.

What makes this record, and victory, more special for coach Yeast is that Piazza had to overcome an injury to get back here.

“(She) was injured, and was out for about a month,” Yeast said of Piazza. “So she fought through the injury to get back to this high level so that we could perform well enough to break the state record.”

In addition to the record setting performance in the 4×400-meter, Mercer also earned gold medals from Zoe Yeast (discus), Claunch (triple jump), and in the 4×800-meter.

The 4×400-meter may have served as a metaphorical victory lap for the Titans, but after receiving the trophy, they took a final, literal victory lap before celebrating with their fans and families.

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