HCHS track program enjoys record-breaking trip to 2A state meet

By John Henson, Managing Editor

The Harlan County High School track team reached a new high for the program on Friday in the 2A state meet in Lexington as the boys placed 11th out of 42 teams (only 10 points from a top five finish) and the girls finished 23rd, marking the highest finish in school history. The team set a school record for medals with seven members of the team placing in the top eight.
“I’m so proud of my teams. These kids came in here to prove they belonged and they had absolutely no fear about competing,” Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe said. “They weren’t enamored with the facility and the pace of what was going on, and that was a key point in this success. We spent a lot of time talking in the last 10 days about taking a minute to check out their surroundings then getting focused on business and they did just that. There isn’t a single kid who looked intimidated or didn’t compete their heart out, and as a coach, you can’t ask for anything more.”
Caleb Rigney placed second in the 1,600 and fourth in the 800 meters, becoming the first member of the boys team to win two medals. He also had the best finish for an HCHS runner since R.J. Fields won in 2009.
“Caleb had a tremendous day,” Vitatoe said. “Obviously, he is incredibly talented, but he is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around both as a coach and competitor. He’s got an incredible work ethic and that is a huge part of his success. He leaves us with two top five finishes, holds every school record in distance at our school, and is the first male in the county’s history to run sub 2:00 in the 800. His legacy speaks for itself and I’m so proud of him.”
Taylor Lunsford placed third in shotput as she set a school record. It was the highest finish for a girl in HCHS history.
“Taylor has been incredible all season. She’s a very hard worker who really threw herself into learning the shot,” Vitatoe said. “Obviously, this sport is in her blood, but her effort today was tremendous. She sets herself up for big, big things in the next two years, and I’m so proud of her.”
Hunter Blevins, one of the state favorites all season, placed fourth in the shot put.
“Hunter has been incredible all season,” Vitatoe said. “He’s worked so hard and has been one of the best in the state from day one. He’s a competitor and always wants to win, but he has nothing to hang his head about. His best performance at HC was in his final day in the biggest stage of all, and I’m really proud of him.”
Matthew Yeary placed sixth in 300 low hurdles, setting a school record in the process.
“I knew Matt was due for a huge race. He’s looked great in practice, and he picked the perfect day to make it happen.,” Vitatoe said. “He has set himself up for something big to happen as a senior.”
Mekenzie Cornett was seventh in 300 low hurdles
“I can’t say enough about Kenzie. I told her after the meet that as long as I coach, I will use her as an example,” Vitatoe said. “She came into the season having never won a medal in a track meet, and she stood on the podium with a medal at the state meet. She’s a testament to hard work, and staying the course. I’m so proud of her.”
Seth Robinson and Ethan Caldwell teamed to take first place in the unified shot put.
“Ethan and Stevie did awesomely and have worked well together all season long. This is a big deal and I think they will have a chance to repeat next season,” Vitatoe said.
Several other HCHS athletes also competed in the state meet. They are listed with their event and a quote from Vitatoe.

Girls Triple Jump – Kassydee Owens
“Kassy has been such an important part of our program in her six years. She’s advanced to state in both 2A and 3A competition and to end her career as one of the top 10 jumpers (finished ninth on Friday) in Kentucky is incredible.”

Girls Discus – Kelly Beth Hoskins and Lindsey Browning
“Lindsey did a great job this season in the discus. It’s incredible to think that four months ago she had no clue what the discus was, and she finished at the state meet.”

“KB has been one of the best throwers in southeastern Kentucky for three years. It’s only fitting that she end her career in Lexington. I’m so proud of her. (Lindsey finished 15th and KB was 23rd).”

Girls 4×100 – Taytum Griffin, Paige Phillips, Emilee Eldridge Ella Karst
“The girls 4×100 had their best run of the season setting a PR. These girls are only freshmen and sophomores and all four are seeing their first real competition at the varsity level in track and field. They are going to do big things for us in the next two years.”

Boys 4 x 800 – Cooper McHargue, Andrew Yeary, Daniel Joseph and Austin Crain
Our 4×800 guys ran well, and I’m proud of them. We switched up our lineup and they did a great job with one of our top five times this season. All four will be back next season, so I’m excited for their potential.”

Boys 4×400 – Caleb Rigney, Daniel Joseph, Andrew Yeary and Austin Crain
“Our 4×400 guys also ran well finishing with our third fastest time this season, and they finished 21st).”

Boys Pole Vault – Hunter Mefford
“Hunter Mefford (he had a no height) has been bothered by a hamstring that he hurt the week of region that has really hindered him. He’s an 11-foot vaulter when healthy, and I’m proud of him gutting it out.”

Boys Triple Jump – Gavon Spurlock
“Gavon Spurlock has been a mainstay with us in jumps since seventh grade and I’m proud of him for advancing and the way he competed. He has a very bright future ahead (he finished 18th).”

Boys Discus – Connor Blevins
“Connor Blevins has had an incredible season with the discus. He’s thrown 20-30 feet further this season than he had coming into the year. He’s set himself up for big things next year (he finished 15th).”

Girls Pole Vault – Abby Vitatoe, Taylor Clem
“Abby has had an incredible season. She won the conference, district and regional titles in the pole vault, and despite falling a little short of her goal at state, she’s had an incredible season.”

“Taylor Clem did great today despite not clearing a height. Her growth this season has been incredible from the girl who was terrified in her first competition of the season. She did a wonderful job today.”