HCHS boys, Leslie girls win Area 9 championships


The Harlan County High School track seniors were honored recently. Seniors and coaches, front row, from left, include Abby Vitatoe, Baili Bailey, Miranda Epperson, Hunter Smith, Emilee Eldridge, Taytum Griffin, Hunter Crain, Austin Crain and Kaleb Michael; back row: Tanner Griffin, Taylor Lunsford, William Jones, Andrew Yeary, Gavon Spurlock, Kyle Farley, Connor Blevins, Josh Sargent and Ryan Vitatoe.

By Abby Sherman, Contributing Writer

The Harlan County and Harlan track teams competed in the Area 9 Championship on Friday. The Bears were the overall winners in the boys division with 166 points. The Dragons were second with 81 points. Leslie County was third (78), Pineville was fourth (46) and Middlesboro was fifth (37).
The Lady Bears placed second overall in the girls division with 155 points, followed by Pineville with 48 points, Middlesboro with 42 and Harlan with 39 points.
“I’m really proud of our kids. This was a tough meet to figure out. We rescheduled after the untimely passing of coach (Bob) Howard, and we had to get creative to get it run,” Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe said. “Fortunately, our friends at Williamsburg allowed us to contest it as part of last week’s SEKC meet.”
“I’m proud of my guys. This is their third district title in four years. They performed very well. We had some great performances overall and we brought home a lot of medals,” Vitatoe said. “I’m really proud of our girls as well. Leslie County is a really, really good team. We performed well overall. They competed hard and they have absolutely nothing to hang their heads about. They battled until the end.”

The overall event winners for the Bears included:
Luke Kelly in the 100- and 200-meter dash.
Hunter Crain in the 400-meter dash.
Andrew Yeary in the 800- and 1,600-meter run.
Dallas Sergent in the 300-meter hurdles.
Connor Blevins in shot put
Sergent, Taelor Haywood, Hunter Crain and Kelly in the 4 x 100 meter relay.
Sergent, Austin Crain, Hunter Crain and Kelly in the 4 x 200 meter relay.
Yeary, Austin Crain, Jacob Schwenke and Kyle Farley in the 4 x 800 meter relay.
“Luke Kelly had a huge night with four first-place medals, Connor repeated as the district champion in the shot and Andrew had another huge night as well,” Vitatoe said.
“This group of seniors should be really proud of the legacy they’ve left behind for the guys that follow them.”

Overall event winners for the Lady Bears included:
Ella Karst in the 100- and 200-meter dash.
Paige Phillips in the 100-meter hurdles and high jump.
“Ella had a big night capturing the 100- and 200-meter dash, and Paige picked up two big wins in the hurdles and high jump. They both were fantastic,” Vitatoe said.
“Again, we had a ton of great performances on the girls side. I’m proud of them. Like I mentioned with the boys, these senior girls have so much to be proud of. They have left big impact on our program and we will miss them.”

The overall event winners for the Dragons included:

Nate Montanaro in the 110-meter hurdles.
Kaleb McLendon in long jump and triple jump.
Ethan Shuler in high jump.
Montanaro, Kyler McLendon, Noah Sharpe and Darius Akal in the 4 x 400 meter relay.
“Looking at the competition in Area 9, especially on the boys side, for us to place second is a very big plus for us. We have had an up and down year dealing with injuries on both sides and now that region is close, things are starting to make way for us,” Harlan coach Trent McKenzie said. “Myself and the other coaches can just hope that both the boys and girls team can end the year on the right note at region. Our goal for the season was to get as many to the state meet as possible. Even though we’ve faced challenges this year, we feel we still have a great shot at sending a lot of kids in different events.”
HC will compete in the Class 2A, Region 5 meet at Boyle County on Tuesday.