HCHS girls place third, boys fourth in Region 5 meet

Twenty-three athletes from the Harlan County High School track program qualified for the 2A state track meet with their performances in the Region 5 meet last week at HCHS.
Harlan County finished third in the girls division and fourth in the boys division.
“I’m so proud of both my teams. This is an incredibly competitive region, and to finish like we did shows the state of our program. This is one of, if not the most, competitive regions in the entire Class 2A, and both teams placed in the top five,” Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe said. “They did amazing, and I’m so proud of them. This is one of the most exciting, competitive meets I’ve ever been part of outside the state meet, and the fact that it took place at HCHS is wonderful. I’m very excited and happy we were able to bring this to our community, and it gave our kids the opportunity to not be on a bus for five to seven hours, which has been customary for our program for the last three years. These kids have worked so hard this year. We talked about gaining respect within our new region, and this performance has done just that. We still have big goals for the future, but what a great starting point for our program in this region.”
Mercer County won the girls team title with 148 points. Corbin was second with 78.50 points, followed by Harlan County with 65, Rockcastle County with 64, Boyle County with 62, Lincoln County with 52, East Jessamine with 31, Garrard County with 25, McCreary Central with 10, Casey County with eight, Knox Central with 3.50 and Russell County with one.

Mercer County won the boys team title with 167.50 points. Corbin was second with 137 points, followed by Boyle County with 68, Harlan County with 56.50, Bell County with 27, Garrard County with 25, Knox Central with 19, Russell County with 18, East Jessamine with 17, Rockcastle County with 16, and Lincoln County and Casey County with three each.

Those qualifying from HCHS, with comments from Vitatoe, include:
Girls 4×100 – Taytum Griffin, Paige Phillips, Emilee Eldridge Ella Karst
“I’m very happy for our girls (Paige, Ella, Taytum, and Emilee). They were one of the biggest improvements throughout the season, shaving nearly seven seconds off their time. They earned their place, and I’m glad they will get their chance at state.”

Girls Pole Vault – Abby Vitatoe, Taylor Clem
“I’m so proud of Abby. Her last regional meet as a sophomore ended in disaster, and she’s worked so hard since then. She’s been laser-focused on being in the state meet since that debacle at Pulaski County, and she deserves a moment like this. She has a real opportunity to finish in the top five on Friday.”

“Taylor has worked very hard to learn the vault this season. She’s done great, and I’m so happy she gets the opportunity to compete at the state level. What a great way to finish by a young lady who didn’t know what pole vault was six months ago.”

Girls Triple Jump – Kassydee Owens
“Kassy is one of the best triple jumpers in the state. She’s been incredible for us all season long, and she will have an opportunity to place high next week.”

Girls 100 and 300 Hurdles – Mekenzie Cornett
“Mekenzie has had a special season. When you think about a kid like her, she really had to wait her turn early in her career because we have been so deep on the girl’s side. She has made the absolute most of her opportunity and finds herself in elite company with the times she’s been turning in. She’ll do well next week.”

Girls Shot Put – Taylor Lunsford
“Taylor (Lunsford) is another one who had a huge jump this year. It seems like every meet since May. she’s improved by a foot or so. She’s a hard worker, and I think she’s got a big week ahead of her.”

Girls Discus – Kelly Beth Hoskins and Lindsey Browning
“Kelly Beth has done great this season. She had a slow start due to coming out about six weeks late with the overlap of basketball and track, but she really turned it on as the season progressed. I’m really proud of her determination to improve.”
“Lindsey has been great from the first meet. She’s really taken to the discus and I think she’ll have a chance to finish very high next week. What a way to end the season for a first-year thrower.”

Boys Shot Put – Hunter Blevins
“Like Caleb, Hunter has been one of the top shot guys in the state all season long. He’s ranked in the top 3, and he will have a great opportunity in the state meet next week as well. “

Boys Discus – Connor Blevins
“Connor has done a great job for us this season. He’s a solid competitor who has worked hard this year. He had an incredible region meet where his last four throws were all PRS and it speaks to the type of competitor he is. He’s got a very bright future ahead of him.”

Boys Unified Shot Put – Ethan Caldwell and Seth Robinson
“Seth and Ethan have teamed together well this season. They are currently ranked first in the unified shot and I’m excited to see how they perform on Friday.”

Boys 1600 and 800 – Caleb Rigney
“Caleb has run so well all season long. This doesn’t take anything away from his season, and he’s still one of the favorites to win state next week in both the 1,600 and 800.”

Boys 4×800 Relay – Caleb Rigney, Daniel Joseph, Andrew Yeary, Austin Crain
“I’m super proud of our boys 4×800 (Caleb, Austin, Andrew and Daniel). What an incredible performance. They came out and ran great and really set the tone for the boys throughout the meet.”

Boys 4×400 Relay – Austin Crain, Matt Yeary, Caleb Rigney, Cooper McHargue
“I’m really proud of our 4×400 guys (Matt, Caleb, Cooper and Austin). We’ve had a lot of shifting on that relay specifically due to injuries this season, but each guy has stepped in and performed great. They will have a chance to finish high next week.”

Boys Pole Vault – Hunter Mefford
“Hunter (Mefford) popped a hamstring about a week before region, which prevented him from running his normal relays. Thankfully we were able to get him well enough to be able to vault. I’m proud of his performance. He was in a lot of pain but managed to get the job done to earn his spot in state. He has a chance to finish high.”

Boys 110 and 300 Hurdles – Matt Yeary
“Matt is one of the top hurdlers in the state of Kentucky. He was ranked high as a freshman in 3A before breaking his collarbone. He’s worked so hard this season and has earned a great opportunity. I expect him to finish high in the 110 and 300 hurdles.”

Boys Triple Jump – Gavon Spurlock
“Gavon has had a great season this season in all the jumps. He’s so versatile that we could use him in about anything we wanted, but he’s really excelled in the triple jump. This will be great experience for him.”