Harlan High sends 9 to state meet

Published 12:18 pm Tuesday, June 8, 2021

A year after COVID-19 doused the hopes of head coach Trevor Fitzpatrick and the Harlan Track & Field team, together they made sure to leave their mark by rewriting the record books at Harlan High School.

Multiple students achieved school records during the 2021 campaign on their way to sending nine athletes to the Class A Kentucky State Track and Field competition to be held at the University of Kentucky on Thursday, June 10th.

The events in which Harlan qualified for the state competition were the Girls 4 x 400 Meter Relay, Boys 4 x 400 Meter Relay, Boys 4 x 100 Meter Relay, Boys 200m Dash, Boys Long Jump, Boys Shot Put and Boys Discus.

The Girls 4x 400 Meter Relay team, consisting of eighth-grader Abbie Jones, sophomores Emma Owens and Peighton Jones, and senior Ella Morton, surprised the Region meet on Thursday.

The talented group of girls had never before run the 4 x 400 Meter Relay together before the Class A Region 6 meet. Hence, they entered the meet with no previous seed time. However, their outstanding performance ended within two seconds of the current school record set over 20 years ago, and it advanced them to state.

The girls are determined to break the current school record in the 4 x 400 Meter Relay this Thursday in Lexington. Emma Owens and Peighton Jones shared their thoughts about their upcoming performance in Lexington.

Owens said, “We’re so excited to run at state! Wait until Thursday and the record is ours!”

Jones was quoted saying in an unwavering manner, “We’re coming home with a new record.”

Previously in the season, Morton broke the school record in the 1600 Meter Run with a time of 6:07.20. Owens and the Jones sisters additionally balanced both basketball and track throughout their successful season.

The Boys 4 x 100 Meter Relay and the Boys 4 x 400 Meter Relay, both of which advanced to state at the Class A Region 6 meet, consist of the same set of athletes: junior Kaleb McLendon, freshman Darius Akal, senior Britt Lawson and junior Johann Gist.

For the 4 x 100 Meter Relay, the boys worked diligently and sharply all season on their handoffs. The time they achieved to advance to state was a mere 0.33 seconds off from the current school record, and their determination remains steadfast to break that record at state.

Regarding the Boys 4 x 400 Meter Relay, similarly to the girls, they ran this relay for the first time all season at the Region meet. The boys came to the meet seeded near last place, but shocked the competitors by finishing first place by two one-hundredths of a second.

Regarding the relay’s performance at the upcoming state meet, Lawson was quoted saying, “I’m excited to go up there and compete. We have a good group of guys, and I feel like we always have a shot when it’s us four together.”

Fitzpatrick commented, “It takes time to determine where the puzzle pieces fit with Track and Field events. When you share student athletes with other programs, they sometimes don’t fall into place until the last minute. Our relay teams have made great strides this season as we worked to solidify our teams.”

McLendon and Gist both additionally qualified individually for the state competition; McLendon in the long jump and Gist in the 200 Meter Dash.

Both McLendon and Gist have been dominant figures in their respective individual events since the start of the season, and have now proven their commitment and talent by advancing to compete in the state meet.

McLendon was quoted when asked about his individual qualification saying, “Those who don’t jump, never fly.” Gist, when asked about his success this year, said, “I’m thankful for my mom and my grandma. I’ve come a long way, and I hope my brother is watching over me in heaven.”

Junior Cade Middleton has been among the state’s best in both the Discus and Shot Put throughout the entire season. At Somerset High School, he secured 1st place in the Class A Region 6 competition in Shot Put, and 2nd place in Discus beating the previous school record with a throw of 122’-0”. He will enter the state competition ranked 3rd in Shot Put with a throw of 44’-8.5”.

The loss of the 2020 track season created some uncertainty heading into the 2021 season.

According to Fitzpatrick, “We were really unsure what to expect this season. We knew we had a  team full of athletes walking the hallways, but were not sure they would commit to competing after a year away from competition. I am extremely proud of the way our students responded. We had many of them set personal records this year and we are sending 9 of them to compete in the state meet. We have grown as a team and look forward to representing Harlan High in Lexington.”