The chase for the boys’ and girls’ state track championships at Saturday’s Class A meet at the University of Kentucky’s Outdoor Center could hardly have played out more differently.
The boys’ title was in doubt until the end, when Lexington Christian finished one second ahead of Bellevue in the 4-by-400-meter relay, giving the Eagles eighth place in the event and a one-point meet victory over Louisville Holy Cross.
Murray’s squad left no doubt on the girls’ side, avenging a one-point loss to St. Henry at last year’s state meet by turning the tables and topping the runner-up Crusaders 125-84.
In the next-to-last boys’ race, the 3,200 run, LCA’s Adam Wier and Connor Hayes finished second and third, respectively, behind Holy Cross’ Keeton Thornsberry. That had the two teams tied heading into the 4-by-400. Eagles star sprinter Drayden Burton and Coach Tom Stickel were beside themselves on the sideline as relay anchor Logan Potter rounded the final turn.
“That was crazy, that was so insane,” Burton said. “I was standing next to Coach Stickel, and me and him were just screaming the whole time. He was jumping on me and I was jumping on him. It was a great feeling.”
Burton finished third in the 100 dash behind winner Max Bearden of Holy Cross and fellow Eagle Dillon Wheatey. In the 200, he flipped the script, edging Bearden by a fraction of a second for the title.
“Max is a great runner. I didn’t think I was gonna beat him,” Burton said. “I don’t know how I won, but it was a sweet victory.”
After the 200, LCA assistant coach Jason Mullins told Burton he nearly pulled him from the race because he looked exhausted after running three other events.
“I looked at him and said, ‘Coach, you should have known better than that,’” Burton said.
Stickel was proud of the way his team rose to the challenge down the stretch.
“I told the kids we needed to go two-three in the (3,200), we needed those points,” Stickel said. “We planned it, we said let’s get second and third and then roll the dice. Then, in the last race, I told them, ‘If you guys can just get one point, it could be the difference,’ and they did it. This was just across the board such a team effort, it was a lot of fun.”
Murray didn’t have to sweat it out to win the girls’ title. A second-place finish in the 4-by-200 relay followed by a victory in the 4-by-100 relay gave the Tigers an early lead, and they never looked back.
Junior Grace Campbell, who won the high jump title as well as the 300 hurdles despite being seeded fifth, said Murray has been on a mission since last year’s disappointing finish.
“We just wanted revenge today,” she said. “After last year, we talked about it all the time.”
Senior Yasmine Homa, who won the long jump and anchored the third-place 4-by-400 relay team, said Murray was determined to forge a different outcome on Saturday.
“We’ve been talking about this day all year, and today we came out pushing,” she said. “We were not losing by a point today. We weren’t gonna let that happen.”
LCA freshman wins 3,200
One year after finishing fifth as an eight-grader, Lexington Christian freshman Kendall Hayes took home the state title in the 3,200 run with a time of 11:58.02, 12 seconds ahead of second-place Abby Jones, a seventh-grader from Newport Central Catholic.
Hayes said her coaches knew she could beat the time that gave her the No. 3 seed coming into the race.
“My coaches knew I could win it if I gave it my all,” she said. “Since everyone was so confident in me winning, I didn’t want to let them down … for only being a freshman it feels really good.”