Bracken County will be taking a handful of athletes down to the University of Kentucky to compete in the KHSAA Class A track and field state championships on Thursday.
The Polar Bears have a couple of medal hopefuls as Jared Jefferson and Brandon Cox look for a return appearance to the podium in the 3,200 meters as do the boys 4×800 relay team of Jefferson, Cox, Collin Jefferson and Daniel Simons. Trey Deaton will also be looking to place with an outside shot in both the 300 hurdles and the long jump.
Jefferson hasn’t been shy for his expectations in the meet…he wants the state title in the two-mile race. The junior has been stellar all season in the 3,200 with his teammate Cox not too far behind. Jefferson enters the meet as the fifth seed in the event while Cox is 11th. Both were able to qualify after Saturday’s regional meet in Danville, Jefferson taking home first in the event while Cox nabbed third and was able to qualify on time.
The two will be chasing Louisville Holy Cross’ Keeton Thornsberry, the state champ in last year’s event. They’re very familiar with the names at the stop, as Thornsberry and St. Henry’s Ethan Snyder finished 1-2 during the fall cross country meet, Jefferson placing third.
“Jared knows all the big names here, so there will be no surprises,” Bracken County coach Forrest Hunt said. “Those two are the only two that have beaten him this season.”
In last year’s 3,200, Jefferson and Cox were able to take sixth and seventh place finishes as the top eight places reach the podium.
The 3,200 is one that carries a lot of strategy as runners circle the track eight times.
“We talk over and over, as Mike Tyson says, ‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.’ We know what we’re wanting to do, but know that plan can be altered. Someone may want to take it out hard and have a chase pack. We’ve talked about as many scenarios as we can,” Hunt said. “There’s a couple of factors to play in Jared’s advantage of trying to become a state champ. Both St. Henry and Holy Cross are in good position to be in top four as a team in state, so that puts both in the 4×800, 1,600 and 800 prior to 3,200. Peanut (Jefferson) is running just the 4×800 prior to the 3,200. He’ll have more recovery time, where they’re running an additional 2,000 meters-plus. With them being so tight in the team races, they won’t be able to take any of those races off and will put everything they got in those races.”
Hunt also feels Cox can surprise some, just like he did last year at the state meet.
“Brandon has had some difficulties throughout the season, but his times have improved and the competition has improved,” Hunt said. “All it takes is one race. I bet Brandon is back in the top eight tomorrow.”
The 4×800 team will participate in the first event of the day. The relay team placed seventh last year at the meet and this year’s team has only ran the event twice, at the Area 7 meet and then again at the regional meet in Danville on Saturday.
“We held off on it all year deciding if we wanted to run it. At the Area 7 we won it, at region won it. We’re seven seconds of the school record time and feel 8-9 seconds can be improved on if we run flawless,” Hunt said. “That race is all about getting out in position and having a clean hand-off in the first exchange. The race opens up a lot after that.”
Deaton battled a sore hamstring in the regional meet and to make matters worse, tweaked a quad muscle in the same meet. He was able to battle through and post a good enough time in the 300 and distance in the long jump to qualify.
”He gritted it out in the two events he did. He’s probably 70-80 percent right now. We’re hoping tomorrow he feels like 100 bucks. Jumping takes just one jump. He’ll have the prelims and then hopefully qualify for the finals. If we think the 300 hurdles will be detriment to the long jump finals, we may scratch it,” Hunt said.
Weather isn’t expected to be the greatest on Thursday with a high percentage chance of rain and thunderstorms in the forecast. Hunt feels it will play to their advantage.
“I’m looking for the nastier the better. From a fans perspective I know they want something different, but a coaching perspective and what I put my guys through, I feel it’s better for them to excel,” Hunt said.
The meet is slated to begin at 4 p.m. at the University of Kentucky Outdoor Track and Field Facility.