Over the last decade, one thing has been a constant…Mason County and Ashland Blazer have been crowned girls’ regional track and field champs.
Saturday doesn’t look to be any different as the two vie for the Class 2A, Region 6 title starting at 9 a.m. at Mason County Intermediate School.
The Kittens enter as the favorite while the Lady Royals are right on their heels, looking to dethrone the three-time defending champs. The Lady Royals had won the previous six regional titles prior to that. It’s formed a pretty good rivalry.
“Absolutely it has, no question,” Mason County coach Mark Kachler said. “They target us when we’re in a meet and we target them. I’d be lying to say we didn’t.”
If last Friday’s Area 7 meet at Russell was any indicator, the meet could come down to a finishing place for points here or there, a half-second or an inch, that’s how tight the two are.
“Every day is different. It was a really tight meet. We hope to be able to be up there, but we have to execute and they have to execute. Area 7 was a good tune-up, we hadn’t gone against each other this season. We learned some things about each other. Hopefully we take that and make some adjustments,” Kachler said.
Plenty of tight races, throws and jumps will commence come Saturday, on what is expected to be the hottest day of the calendar year to date. In a season that’s featured snow, rain and wind, why not some heat?
“We’ve definitely had the gamut, feels like we’ve had 12 seasons in two months,” Kachler said.
Starting off the meet in the running events will be the 4×800 meter relay. Ashland holds less than a three-second advantage over the Lady Royals on the performance list. The 4×200, 4×100 and 4×400 relays also feature the Kittens with a slight edge over the Lady Royals, all seeded 1-2 with a decent amount of separation from the next best seeded time.
“Coaching strategy and philosophy will definitely come into play with these races. If they’re at full force and we’re at full force these will be good races. The good thing is as long as we don’t disqualify ourselves, the top two places automatically qualify for the state meet,” Kachler said.
On the individual level, Te’A King is the No. 1 seed in the 100-meter dash. She holds a slight edge over Ashland’s Mykasa Robinson.
“As long as Te’A gets out of the blocks well, it’s her race to lose,” Kachler said.
King also holds a top five seed in the 200 meters.
Rachel Payne has been a pleasant surprise in the 100 and 300-meter hurdle events. The freshman is the No. 2 seed in both events despite picking up the sport just a few months ago.
“She’s been a shock, surprise is not a strong enough word. She never ran track before,” Kachler said. “She didn’t come until after basketball, she was in the play at school, so she didn’t get to practice much. She’s ran the 100 hurdles maybe two times and 300 hurdles three times. Once she figures it out, the sky is the limit for her. She’s a great athlete and we’re tickled to death to have her.”
In the distance races, Alyssa Bisotti, Hayden Faris, Paige Decker, Hadley Faris and Elizabeth Lavinder all hold top five seeds and are expected to put points on the board. Again, a top two finish automatically qualifies an individual for the 2A state meet, scheduled for Friday, May 18, at the University of Kentucky. Then the next 10 best times across the state in 2A would then qualify for the state meet, causing some anxious times over the following 24 hours after the meet.
Abi Dawson and Olivia O’Hearn hold top five seeds in the 400 meters with their main sights set on the pole vault, where they enter as the top two seeds. They have the field cleared by two feet and will be a matter of who finishes first.
“Abi and Olivia have a friendly competition, there’s not an ounce of animosity between either. They help each other, coach other and it’s very refreshing to see,” Kachler said.
Last but not least, Marissa Scilley will aim for the regional titles in the jumping events, the triple jump is her bread and butter and hoping for a high mark in the long jump. The senior is the two-time defending champ in the triple jump and won the long jump last year. She doesn’t enter as the No. 1 seed in either, but Kachler stated there’s a reason for that.
“There was a meet in April in Ashland where there were some crazy jumps that day and may have skewed the results a bit. Most of the jumpers haven’t been close to those results since,” Kachler said.
Dalton Kindt carries the most hopes for the boys team. He’s looking for the double titles in the throwing events for the shot put and discus. A freak knee injury at prom has limited him the past few weeks, but Kachler feels he’s getting better.
“Dalton definitely wants it bad. Someone fell on him at prom and hurt his knee, what are the odds of that?,” Kachler said. “He’s better, but still probably won’t be at 100 percent until the state meet.”
Kindt is seeded first in the discus by a little over a foot and second in the shot put, behind Ashland’s Ryan Bryant by two-feet.
Isaiah Riggs and Carson Adams have chances in the distance events, Riggs is seeded third in the 3,200 and fifth in the 1,600. Adams is third in the 800. The team was dealt a tough blow as Connor Linville has to sit out with an undisclosed injury, who would have also had a good shot in both the 1,600 and 3,200.
Kachler also feels the 4×800 relay team also has a chance, entering as the three-seed, the 4×400 team is seeded fourth.
Robert Applegate brings the best chance for the Panthers owning an individual title, perhaps two of them. He’s hoping to be crowned the regional champ in the 3,200 meters, where he holds the No. 1 seed by nearly 11 seconds over Russell’s Jax Downs. He’ll also compete in the 1,600, where he’s a little over a second off from the No. 1 seed, Isaiah Caperton from Boyd County.
“We’ve worked a lot on pacing with Robert. He is ready as he’s going to get. With him, he has to be in the midset and I realy think he is,” Panthers coach Paul King said.
Hayden Ramey brings hope in the sprints, seeded second in the 400 and third in the 200.
“Hayden is an excellent athlete, a good strong start will go a long way for him,” King said.
Logan Moran carries an outside shot in the 110-meter hurdles, seeded sixth and the 300 hurdles, seeded fifth. Caleb Faris is the fourth seed in the pole vault, hoping to clear 9-foot, 6-inches, which would be a good mark for state qualification.
The Lady Panthers have some hopefuls to help the team score some points and try and earn a spot at the state meet.
Erin Peese has the No. 3 seed in the 100-meter hurdles and is sixth in the 300 hurdles.
“Erin didn’t really start hurdles until about a month ago. It’s just one of those things we tried to get her to do and then she came out and had a spot we needed filled and has done great ever since,” King said.
Carley Dunaway is seeded sixth in the 100-meter dash. Madison Sparks is also sixth in the shot put.
The Lady Panthers 4×800 relay team is seeded sixth, 4×200 fourth, 4×100 fourth and 4×400 sixth, all expected to gather some points and hopeful for a state berth.
“The 4×200 team made state last year and we’ve worked really hard over the past couple weeks on handoffs. We’ve switched the team up a bit, put Erin in there and think she will help our time. We’re hoping for top three there,” King said.
The Lions hopefuls rest primarily with three athletes…Leshia McNamara in the discus, Tay Offut in the long jump and Cameron Ruckel in the 400.
McNamara has finished runner-up in the discus the last two years and is ready to claim a regional title for her senior year.
“She’s hungry and has looked real good in the event this year,” Lions coach Wes Bloomfield said. “She just can’t get down on herself and needs to focus. I tell her to find her zen and she can do it, she’s a heck of an athlete.”
McNamara enters as the top seed with nearly a two-foot advantage over Greenup County’s Lauren Hannah. McNamara’s sister, Kelly, is seeded sixth in the event.
Offut is seeded fourth in the long jump, nearly a foot off from the top two places. It’s his first year in the event.
“He’s increased his distances in every meet so he’s got a chance,” Bloomfield said.
He’s also got outside chances in both the 100 and 200 meters, seeded seventh and fifth, respectively.
“His biggest thing is coming out of the blocks. Again with it being his first year doing it, he just hasn’t done it much, but when he gets going, I’d put him up with anybody,” Bloomfield said.
Ruckel has been in the top five at events in the 400 all season long and enters Saturday’s meet seeded third. He’s also sixth in the 100 and 200.
“We’re hoping things get clicking for him and he paces himself,” Bloomfield said.
Gates open at 8 a.m. for the meet with the first event starting at 9 a.m. Admission is $5.