With a regional championship in hand, could the Bryan Station boys' track and field team be poised to reclaim the title of state champion?
"It's really hard to tell," Coach Kathy Broadnax said after the Defenders won Saturday's 3A Region 6 meet at Tates Creek. "Coming into this meet I felt pretty confident that we would win, based on everyone's performances."
A few hiccups may prove costly, though.
The top two finishers in each regional event advance to Saturday's State Meet at Louisville. Ten more competitors from around the state will be added in each event, based on regional results.
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Although Bryan Station's George Livingston won the 300-meter hurdles, favored teammate Jacob McLimore landed on the bubble in third.
"Going into State, we're up against Male and some other really big schools," Broadnax said, "so as long as our kids compete and do their best, that's all I can really ask for."
The Defenders scored 1311/2 points Saturday. Henry Clay tallied 112, followed by Tates Creek with 96.
Paul Dunbar took girls' honors with 122 points. Bryan Station, led by Nealy Williams, edged Woodford County for second place, 107-103.
Bryan Station won seven state titles from 1971 through 1983, including the last five years in a row.
Saturday, the Defenders got a 1-2 finish in the triple jump from Tre Duncan and Reshawn Walker, while Chaz Mitchell won the 100 and placed second in the 200.
"The heat (80's) really hurt us," Broadnax said. "A few of the kids didn't perform, but a couple other kids really stepped up."
Henry Clay wins included the 4-by-200 and 4-by-400 relays, Brandon Nichols in both the 200 and 400, and James Hellard in the long jump.
The Blue Devils won both relays at last year's State Meet, while Nichols and Blake Green went 1-2 in the 400. Nichols won Saturday in 47.69, followed by Green in 49.05. Nichols, who ran both relays, looks ready to repeat.
"Yes, sir. Trying to break the state record," he said, aiming at 47.56, set by DeSales' Cris Dishman in 1983.
Creek had firsts in the 4-by-100 relay, by Mark Flores in the 800 and 1,600, and Samson Lam in the discus.
"All this hard work put in these four years pays off again," said Lam, whose throw of 147-2 was a foot off his personal record. At State, "I hope to get a new PR and try to get on the podium."
Other boys' winners included the 4-by-800 relay, David Tooley in the shot and Rob Wahl in the 3,200 for Dunbar; Scott County's Dominique Norris in the high hurdles; Anderson County's Jordan Sloan in the high jump, and Woodford County's Patrick Brown in the pole vault.
Dunbar's girls had only two wins, the 4-by-800 relay and Sierra Guy in the shot.
The Bulldogs had plenty of depth, though. Megan Klein finished runner-up to Woodford County's Anna Bostrom in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200. Guy also placed second in the discus, and Kristen Grew did likewise in the pole vault.
Coach Killian Timoney said Station was "the talk of the town ... but I would hate for people to forget about Dunbar girls' track and field. They're pros right from the beginning. They come to track meets and it's work for them. They punch a time clock and they score points just like they're supposed to."
Williams accounted for 40 Station points, winning both hurdles events, the long jump and triple jump. She won both hurdles at last year's State, taking third in the jumps.
"Nealy has worked hard all season and she is hitting her peak right now," Broadnax said.
The Defenders also got wins from Labi Frazier (400) and Carynn Stewart (discus).
In addition to Bostrom, Woodford had a winner in pole-vaulter Laura Burchett.
"The weather was unexpected," said Bostrom, who will run for Kentucky next season. "We haven't been training in anything near this, so it was kind of 'do your best and score as many points as possible.' "
Tates Creek had a big day from Tamayah Pipkin, who captured the 100 and 200, and anchored the winning 4-by-100 and 4-by-200 relays.
"I didn't break 12 like I had hoped but I'm extremely happy with my time," said Pipkin, who clocked 12.12 in the 100. "I ran better than last weekend so it was still a good race for me. I'm really happy with that 4-by-2(00). We wanted to get under 1:44 and we got 1:43."
Henry Clay won the 4-by-400 relay, with Shelley Besten tops in the high jump.