Photo slideshow: 2019 KHSAA Class A Track and Field State Championships
It was another rain-soaked KHSAA Class A Track Championship, but, thankfully, this year the lightning remained confined to descriptions of runners on the track.
And Paris freshman Taesha Speaks fit that bill, winning both the 100- and 200-meter sprints to go along with two fourth-place relay medals with her team.
Speaks credited her off-season program, competing in summer and indoor events and working on her starts every day.
“I didn’t know I was going to run that,” Speaks said after her 12.31 in the 100, only .11 off the Class A state record. “Last year it was 12.8’s a lot, but this year it was getting to 12.5, and I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m getting up here with these girls.’ I worked a lot harder this year than I ever have. It’s amazing. All the hard work pays off.”
Paris’ fourth-place 4-by-100 and 4-by-200 relay teams consisted of Speaks, seventh-grader Briley Crine, eighth-grader Chloe Kemper and sophomore Zoe Strings.
“It’s crazy that we’re all so young. We still have a lot of years together to get better,” she said.
So much youth gives Coach Brian Washington a great deal of optimism for the future of the girls’ program.
“That’s pretty phenomenal for them to be doing what they’re doing,” Washington said. “I’m so proud of these young ladies. They’ve made this season great.”
Speaks ran the 200 last of her four events, coming across in 25.74, more than a half-second faster than Somerset’s Kendall Burgess.
“I knew she was special, but I didn’t know she was this special,” Washington said. “I’ve never seen anything in my community like that, and we’ve had a lot of good athletes. She may be the best that I’ve seen.”
The Paris girls finished ninth in the team standings.
Beechwood came away with its first team title thanks in part to the efforts of Caroline Schilling, a winner in the 300-meter hurdles and the 4-by-400-meter relay along with teammates Maryah Counts, Madie Hazzard and Audrey Pelster.
The team title came down to the last event, the 4-by-400 relay, where Schilling collapsed at the line as she crossed first on the anchor leg. The 10 points for the win vaulted Beechwood to the top of the standings over a Somerset team that didn’t have a relay group. Newport Central Catholic finished third.
Anna Rupp, a Lexington Christian freshman, dominated the 3,200 meters to get the fall-spring cross country and long-distance track championship sweep.
Williamsburg’s Selena Mattingly stalked Rupp for much of the race and pulled shoulder-to-shoulder with her with two laps to go.
“It’s really mentally taxing when you have people just right behind you,” said Rupp, who is the great-granddaughter of Adolph Rupp, the legendary University of Kentucky basketball coach. “It made me really nervous … when she made her move I didn’t know if I was going to be able to hold her off.”
As she rounded the corner for the bell lap, though, Rupp shed Mattingly and pulled away to win with a time of 11:43.82, more than 21 seconds in front.
“I thought it was going to be a race for the last two laps, and then she kind of dropped back,” Rupp said. “I would never say I knew I had it, because I didn’t know, but I felt a little bit better.”
The Danville boys weren’t able to repeat the performance that netted the team its fourth state title last year, but they did send one of their relays to winner’s podium.
Senior Brennan McGuire anchored the 4-by-200 team to victory over first-seeded Walton-Verona and got the win in the final strides.
“We came in ranked second to Walton-Verona and they were talking a little trash at the beginning,” said McGuire, who also got a second in the 100 meters, a third in the 200 meters and a third in the 4-by-100 relay. “I couldn’t let my team down, so I had to go get him.”
Danville finished fifth in the team standings. Walton-Verona finished third.
Louisville Holy Cross earned the team victory, its second state title. It helps when one of your seniors goes out and scores 30 points all by himself as Keeton Thornsberry won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters. He brought in another four points as part of the fifth-place 4-by-400 relay team.
Owensboro Catholic finished with 58 points for second.