Mercer County girls track claim first region title since merger in 2006; Boys track places 7th
It has been an emotional few weeks for the Mercer County Titans track and field program, but things are certainly looking up.
The Lady Titans dominated yet another meet, taking the Class AA Region 5 championship at Boyle County High School, defeating Boyle County by 30 points.
The Titans track team placed seventh overall with 29 points.
“I sat them down yesterday and went through every scenario and made it clear to them how important it was for them to come out and to perform because the key was to get everybody to the next weekend,” said Head Coach Terry Yeast. “I told them if they do what they’re supposed to do, they have a chance to win and if we get everybody through, then it gives you another chance in a week. With all the emotions up and down this past month, I am so proud of this group.”
Junior Jasmine Claunch had another impressive meet. She won and broke the school record in the long jump (17 feet, 3 inches) and won the triple jump by 10 inches (36 feet, 10.5 inches) to claim the title as the region’s best jumper. Claunch will try to defend her title at the Class AA state track meet on Friday, May 31 at the University of Kentucky.
“I’m so proud of her getting another school record today in the long jump. She’s been waiting for that 17-foot jump all season and she finally had two of them today,” said Yeast. “I’m just extremely proud of her.”
Yeast’s daughter, eighth grader Timberlynn Yeast, had a strong day as well. She claimed tops in the region in the 400 meter dash (58.34 seconds), second in the 100 meter dash (12.73 seconds) and second in the 200 meter dash (26.18 seconds). Yeast was also part of the girls 4×400 meter relay team that claimed the top spot (4:00). Along with Yeast, the relay team included juniors Haley Blevins and Abby Steele, along with eighth grader Jai Maria Piazza.
“To do what she’s doing at 14 years of age in the middle of AAU basketball makes me really proud of what she’s been able to accomplish in her career so far,” said Terry Yeast. “She has done everything that I’ve asked her to do and I’m just so proud as a dad and as a coach.”
Junior Zoë Yeast claimed another region title in discus (127 feet, 4 inches) and was runner-up in shot put (35 feet, 2 inches). She will be heading back to the state tournament for another run at state titles in both events. Yeast will be going for a three-peat in discus at state and will look to reclaim the shot put title after coming in second place last season. As a freshmen, she swept both events. Last season, she talked about never settling and always striving to be better.
“It’s honestly a matter of staying humble to be able to go out and practice like you’ve never won that title,” she said. “You just have to have the drive to keep pushing to get better each and every day.”
Sophomore Kendall Edelen, who also competed in discus, placed eighth (79 feet, 9 inches).
Eighth grader Clayra Darnell swept both distance runs. It is safe to safe she will be a force to be reckoned during her high school years in the region and around the entire state. She finished the mile race in 5:540.99 and the two-mile race 12:19.30 to head back to state in both events.
Darnell will also be heading back to the state meet in the 4×800 meter relay along with Blevins, Steele and sophomore Erin Darland. They claimed top spot in the region in a time of 10:02.91.
Freshman Love Mays, in her first season on the track, has shown she has a promising future in the sport. She was runner-up in the 100 meter hurdles (16.37 seconds) and third in the 300 meter hurdles (49.47 seconds). Sophomore Harlee Settles placed seventh (53.95 seconds)
Blevins, Steele, Piazza and junior Calicia Smith are heading to state after winning the 4×200 meter relay (1:45.46). Smith, Steele, Claunch and sophomore Jacey Catlett will also be competing next weekend at UK after claiming the runner-up spot in the 4×100 meter relay (50.73 seconds).
Piazza also finished runner-up in the 400 meter dash (1:00.14) and will compete next week in the event.
Blevins finished behind Rockcastle County’s Victoria Dotson in the 800 meter run (2:25.10), but will also be heading back to the state in the event. Blevins has put together quite the career in cross country and track and field. She has competed in both state tournaments every year of her high school career and will likely do so next season.
Smith placed fourth in the 200 meter dash (27.53). In order to qualify for the state meet, the top-10 times in every track event outside of the top-2 will qualify. Results haven’t been announced yet, but Smith will likely get a spot.
Senior Toni McCombs placed fifth in the region in high jump (4 feet, 8 inches) and sophomore Bella Garrett placed eighth (4 feet, 6 inches).
Junior Joselyn Flores placed fourth in the region in pole vault (7 feet) and Catlett finished behind her in fifth (6 feet, 6 inches).
Boyle County, who finished in second with 150 points, will likely be the top challengers for the Lady Titans at state, and Yeast knows that.
“I really feel like it’s going to be a battle between Mercer County, Boyle County and Paducah Tilghman which is typically the strongest team in Class AA.,” he said. “But, we’re excited. The girls understand where they are and I think we’re in the driver’s position if we do what we’re supposed to do.”
After losing a lot of seniors the last three season that were pivotal in the back-to-back state title runs for the boys track team, a lot of newcomers had to step up. One of those newcomers was junior Dillon Warren, who is in the middle of baseball season, finished runner-up in the region long jump (21 feet, 3 inches), qualifying him for the state meet in his first year in track and field. He also placed fifth in the 200 meter dash (24.35 seconds) and seventh in the 100 meter dash (11.63 seconds).
Just the day before, Warren won the 46th District baseball championship on the Titan baseball team.
“He (Warren) hasn’t practice track in a month because baseball is so busy right now, and for him to do what he’s done the past few days in baseball, and then to show up today and have the day he had makes me so proud of him and what he’s been able to accomplish this season.”
Warren, along with junior Malachi Yulee, freshman Brady Peavler and sophomore Jalen Lukitsch placed fourth in the 4×100 meter relay (47.65).
Freshman Matthew Mays, who qualified for Nationals earlier this season in long jump, placed fourth in the event (19 feet, 3.5 inches) and sixth in triple jump (37 feet, 6 inches).
Senior Blake Russell, in his last regional meet, placed sixth in the shot put out of 21 throwers (41 feet, 3 inches). Russell also placed eighth in discus (104 feet, 1 inch). Senior Sam Warren placed 14th in discus (88 feet, 5 inches).
Freshman Jonah Lewis, sophomore Noah Davis, junior Chase Conrad and senior Toshi Smith qualify for state after claiming runners-up in the 4×800 meter relay (8:50.69). Smith also placed seventh in the 400 meter dash (55.95 seconds). Lewis also placed eighth in the two-mile race (11:52.22). Conrad also finished ninth in the 800 meter run (2:11.29).
Senior Gavin Murphy placed 20th in the 1600 meter run (5:56.80).
Davis placed eighth in the 300 meter hurdles (45.95 seconds). Senior Carter Edelen finished in 10th (47.17 seconds).
Conrad, Smith, Lukitsch and Davis placed sixth in the 4×400 meter relay (3:52.44).
ALL PHOTOS BY ARPAN DIXIT: