HCHS teams sweep Area 9 meet

By John Henson, Managing Editor

Harlan County swept the Area 9 meet on Saturday at the HCHS track, coasting to wins in both the boys and girls divisions.
The HCHS girls won their sixth straight Area 9 title with 233 points, 100 ahead of Middlesboro. Perry Central was third with 60 points, followed by Harlan with 50, Letcher Central with 47, Pike Central with 33, Riverside Christian with 32 and Betsy Layne with 13.
The Black Bears won their fourth area title in five years with 216 points, well ahead of second place Middlesboro with 114 points. Letcher Central was third with 77 points, and Harlan was fourth with 75. Betsy Layne finished with 70 points, followed by Perry Central with 54, Pike Central with 33 and Riverside Christian with six.
“I’m really proud of both of our teams today. We talked a lot this week about the importance of this meet, both as a single goal and as a step in the process of chasing championships. I thought both teams performed very well,” said Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe. “I’m especially proud of our seniors. Our girls graduating have never lost the Area 9 championship, which is quite an accomplishment considering many of them started track in seventh grade. Our guys have won three of their last four Area 9 titles and continue to lay a strong foundation for the guys behind them. I’m thankful to these seniors, and I will miss them next year.”
Kassy Owens led the Lady Bears as she won four events – high jump, triple jump, 400 meters, and the 4×200 relay. Peyton Lunsford was a winner in the 1,600-meter run, the 3.200-meter run and the 4×800 relay. Lindsey Browning broke the school record in winning the discus and placed third in the shot put.
Mekenzie Cornett was first in both the 100-meter hurdles and the 300-meter hurdles and second in the long jump. Abby Vitatoe was first in the pole vault. Taylor Lunsford won the shot put.
Ella Karst was second in the 200 meters and third in the 100 meters. Summer Farley was second in the 3,200 meters. Kelly Beth Hoskins was second in the discus. Paige Phillips was third in the 100-meter hurdles, and Hayley Key was third in the 300-meter hurdles. Haley Middleton was third in the third jump.
“The girls were great today as well. We are rebuilding on the girls side, but you’d never know it based on how they’ve performed this season,” Vitatoe said. “They are all working hard, and we are starting to hit our stride at the right time. We have lots to clean up over the next three weeks, but I’m proud of their progress and I believe they’re going to make some noise at the regional meet.”
Caleb Rigney again led the HCHS boys as he won the 1,600-meter run, the 800-meter run and the 4 x 800 relay, while finishing second in the 4 x 400 relay.
Hunter Blevins was a winner once again in both the shot put and discus, with Connor Blevins placing second in the shot put. Gavon Spurlock won both the long jump and triple jump. Daniel Joseph was first in the 3,200-meter run. Matt Yeary won the 300-meter hurdles and was third in the 110-meter hurdles. Luke Carr placed third in the 100 meters and Hunter Mefford was third in the 200 meters. Andrew Yeary was third in the 800 meters. Landon McCreary was second in the pole vault.
“We’ve been hit with some tough injuries on the boys side that left me shuffling kids into relays they’ve never competed in before. I’m really proud of the effort the guys gave,” Vitatoe said. “They embodied our mantra of ‘next man up’ as they stepped up for the guys who were out. It was a total team effort and I’m really proud of them. It’s a good step toward preparing for what it takes to chase future championships this season.”
Kaleb McLendon, Britt Lawson, Darius Akal and Johann Gist led Harlan with a first-place finish in the 4 x 100 meter relay. McLendon was second in the 100 meters and long jump and third in the high jump. Cade Middleton was third in the shot put and discus. Gist was second in the 200 meters. Akal was third in the long jump.
Marissa Marlowe was second in the shot put and third in the discus to lead the Harlan girls. Ella Morton placed second in the 1,600 meters.