Harlan, HC athletes to compete at state track meets

Published 9:20 am Thursday, May 30, 2019

The graduation of a solid class last year that included two Class A state track and field champions left the Harlan Green Dragons in rebuilding mode in 2019. But the Dragons will still be represented Thursday when the Class A qualifiers take over the University of Kentucky Track and Field Complex.

Story Miller, a sophomore, is back for the second straight year after finishing second in the pole vault at the Class A Region 6 championships with a jump of 10 feet, 6 inches.

Harlan pole vault coach Will Miller mentioned the friendly rivalry his son has developed with Harlan County junior Phillip Helton, who earned an at-large berth in the Class 3A meet following a fifth-place showing at the Class 3A Region 7 meet.

Email newsletter signup

“Story and Phillip have done very well over the past two years, with each winning Area 9,” Harlan pole vault coach Will Miller said. “I wish them both well in their respective state meets.”

Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe returned the gesture, saying that he and his program “wish Story the best at state. It’s been fun watching his growth this season.”

The Class A meet is slated to begin Thursday at 10 a.m.

In addition to Helton, the Black Bears will be represented by four other athletes, only one of whom has ever competed at the state level before.

Sophomore Kassy Owens qualified with a third-place finish in the triple jump at the regional championship, setting a new school record with a jump of 33 feet, 5.5 inches. It was the second time in three meets that Owens had set a new standard.

Owens previously competed in the Class 2A state meet in 2016 in the high jump.

“I’m proud of her for qualifying,” Harlan County assistant coach Ben Graham said. “She’s a strong athlete who has a great work ethic, leading to her improving steadily throughout the season and improving her record multiple times this year.”

Baili Boggs, a junior, advanced in two events, nabbing second in the 300-meter hurdles (50.81 seconds) and earning an at-large bid in the 100-meter hurdles (17.41) with a third-place finish as well. The 100-meter time set a new school record.

“I’m proud of Baili. She’s worked so hard this season and has worked for this goal,” Vitatoe said. “I’m glad she has the opportunity to be in Lexington to finish her season. She’s the example of doing what it takes to succeed, and it shows.”

Junior Whitney Wilson capped her first season of track and field by becoming the first individual girls 3A champion in school history, winning the shot put with a school-record throw of 30 feet, 6 inches.

“I’m very proud of Whitney. She has worked really hard for this,” Harlan County assistant coach Jennifer Hilton said. “Whitney has steadily improved throughout this season, and for it to end this way is awesome and very rewarding.”

Hunter Blevins, a sophomore and another first-year participant, qualified with a third-place finish in the boys shot put, throwing 43 feet, 8 inches.

““I’m extremely happy for Hunter to be going to the state track meet,” Hilton said. “He is a competitor. He has continuously showed up to practice, put In the work, and continued to improve.”

Helton, a junior, had a best jump of 10 feet to advance in the pole vault.

“I’m so proud of Phillip,” Vitatoe said. “He had a rough season early on, and a lot of kids might have hung their heads, but he kept at it. His positivity and willingness to keep working on the things he needed to work on led him here.”

As one of the smallest Class 3A schools in the state in terms of enrollment, Vitatoe expects his Bears to act as if they have something to prove Saturday.

“This is a huge accomplishment for all these kids, and it’s a culmination of a lot of hard work. We will spend a lot of time this week talking about what it means to represent our school and county at the state meet,” he said. “We can’t be content with just being there. We have the responsibility to all our teammates, and ourselves, to compete as hard as possible.

“Watching all these kids grow this season has been special. We’ve all worked hard together, but now it’s time to shift our focus to prove we belong with the best.”

The meet will begin at 10 a.m.