It was a case of déjà-vu at the University of Kentucky Outdoor Track and Field Complex on Friday night as the Mercer County boys and Boyle County girls repeated as Class 2A state champions.
After narrowly winning the team title last year, Mercer County left no doubt this time around.
Led by junior Aaron Johnson, who won the 110-meter hurdles, the 300 hurdles, the high jump and finished third in the long jump, the Titans scored 113 points. Second-place Paducah Tilghman scored 62.
Despite his impressive medal haul, Johnson appeared most happy for his teammate Mishi Easterling, who won the long jump and ran with the Titans’ 4-by-200 and 4-by-400 relay champions.
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“I was excited for Mishi winning the long jump. He helped us get all those points on the relays today, he ran great,” Johnson said.
Mercer County Coach Terry Yeast said Johnson’s selflessness has been a blessing.
“That’s just the kind of kid he is, he leads on the track and in practice. When we discussed goals earlier in the year he was very specific that he wanted to help his team win another title,” Yeast said. “He’s as special a kid as I’ve ever coached. And I’m so lucky to have him around for another year.”
Asked to describe his feelings after winning three individual championships, Johnson once again steered the conversation toward his team.
“The best part of those wins was all the points I was able to get for our team,” he said.
Boyle County’s girls left little room for drama as well, scoring 82 points to runner-up Franklin County’s 55. The Rebels set a 2A state record with their title in the 4-by-200 relay, finishing in 1:43.57, which was six-tenths of a second ahead of Fort Campbell’s mark in 1991.
Senior Kylie Thompson was ecstatic with the Rebels’ record-setting performance, but she stressed there was more success on the horizon for Boyle County.
“It’s amazing to know that I’m leaving everything in the hands of these great young teammates and it’s just so exciting to go out with a win like this,” Thompson said.
Ninth-grader Daneezia Patton ran with the relay champs. She said Thompson helped the squad find a new gear this year.
“It’s great having a leader like Kylie, she pushes us a lot. She’s definitely a big part of why we did this,” said Patton, who also won the 200 dash.
Record day for LexCath’s Reinhart
Lexington Catholic’s Michaela Reinhart also set a state record, winning the 3,200 run with a time of 10:35.36, the top mark among all Kentucky classes. The Duke University signee also won the 1,600 after finishing second last year.
The Knights dominated the distance runs on the boys’ side as well. Spencer Carman won the 1,600 title, finishing half a second ahead of teammate Joshua Castillo.
Adam Walker won the 3,200 for the Knights, finishing nearly 20 seconds ahead of runner-up Jacob England of Warren East.
Flyers’ Rebecca Cook more than just a hoops star
Franklin County’s Rebecca Cook has made a name for herself on the hardwood, having been an integral part of the Flyers’ back-to-back runner-up finishes in the Sweet Sixteen. She’s also enjoying a burgeoning modeling career.
Now, the senior can add track champion to her résumé.
Cook ran with Franklin’s 4-by-100 relay champs and won an individual title in the 400 dash. She finished second in the 200 dash.
Not bad, considering this was her first year running track in high school.
“I ran a little bit in middle school just for fun ... this is my senior year so I was like ‘why not just give it a try,’” she said. “I’m not even processing all of it yet, the fact that I’m a state champion in a sport that I just picked up this year. It’s awesome.”