HEBRON ESTATES - For only the second time this spring, Bullitt County track athletes will get to compete on home turf as the 2011 All-Bullitt County Track and Field Championships will be contested at North Bullitt on Wednesday.
Bullitt East hosted a small meet early in the season that included North Bullitt as well as Whitefield Academy, but otherwise the area teams compete mostly out of the county because of the poor conditions of the tracks at all three schools.
That is a shame because the Bullitt County teams, at least at North Bullitt and Bullitt East, seem to be in the midst of a golden age for the sport in the county. Over the last three years, Bullitt County athletes have won six state championships. That is quite a number considering that over the 38 years before this golden era, local athletes had won eight state track titles (since consolidation in 1970).
On Wednesday, for only the second time in history, two local state champions will be competing in the same All-County meet. The only other time it happened was last year.
It is possible, but not guaranteed, that North Bullitt’s Helen Heines, the 2008 1,600-meter state champion and Lady Eagle Chelsey Slayton, the 2010 800-meter state champion, will compete against each other. The two have raced a few times this spring, but recently head coach Mike Whitfill has let them focus more on their specialties and not having them compete against each other.
A year ago, when the team title was up for grabs, the two competed in some of the same events to maximize North Bullitt’s points. With North Bullitt heavily favored on the girls’ side this spring, Whitfill doesn’t really have to dig for every little point.
Another point that will come into play on Wednesday that may keep Whitfill and Bullitt East head coach Lenny Raley from pushing their top athletes into the maximum number of events (four) is that the Class AA Regional meet will be held the following Tuesday at Christian Academy. Both coaches will want to limit stress and injury chances.
(Bullitt Central’s Class AAA Regional meet is not being held until the following Saturday at St. Xavier.)
“We have the most kids since I’ve been here and that is seven years,” North Bullitt girls’ coach Lindsay Wegley said. “Every year our numbers have gone up. We have great leadership. That is what has been the most beneficial to us.”
(At North Bullitt, Whitfill is officially the boys’ coach while Wegley coaches the girls. In reality, the division is more Whitfill coaching the runners with Wegley working with the jumpers and assistant coach B.J. Ritter coaching the discus and shot put.)
Whitfill has crushed the numbers and knows he has a chance to repeat last year’s sweep of the team titles.
“I would be shocked if it wasn’t similar to last year,” the former Bullitt East track standout said.
“For the kids it will be an exciting day,” Whitfill added. “This meet is more important for the kids than for the coaches. The kids get excited about it. They get excited about beating Bullitt East which we haven’t done a lot in the past and in other sports.”
As with most All-Bullitt County Track and Field Championship meets, there are a number of ‘elite’ athletes that will garner their fair share of points and individual titles. That is a given. What often plays out in the overall team titles are the second and third place finishes that add to the totals.
On the girls’ side, Slayton and Heines will be heavy favorites in their events and Bullitt East senior Lynsey Milburn will pick up a lot of points from the long jump, triple jump and high jump.
After Bullitt East’s Jackie Stevens dominated the shot put and discus the past two seasons in this meet (while winning four state track titles), those points may well shift to North Bullitt this year. Sophomore Erin Downs has burst on the scene in the shot put and is one of the top throwers in the region and, along with senior Elizabeth Grant, could also get most of the discus points.
One event that could be highly competitive is the 400-meter run where North Bullitt’s Alexa Hughes and Bullitt East’s Hannah Link have been close this spring.
Bullitt East freshman Jessica Prell can press Heines at 1,600-meters and will be the favorite at 3,200-meters.
North Bullitt has the numbers to cover all the relays while Bullitt East will struggle to put teams in some of those races.
On the boys’ side on Wednesday, many of the top athletes from North Bullitt and Bullitt East do not go head-to-head. The boys’ team battle appears to be closer than the girls’ race this season.
“We should have a good battle with the boys,” Raley said. “We just don’t have near enough numbers to be able to compete with their girls.”
North Bullitt has the strength in the sprints with senior Isaac McLean and junior Cody Hodge. Bullitt East will control the two strength events with junior Trevor Troutman and sophomore Andrew Okruch getting most of the points in the discus and shot put.
Probably the two most competitive intra-county races of the day will be in the hurdles where Bullitt East junior Jacob Duvall and North Bullitt junior Chris Pate will battle once again. Duvall has had the better times this spring at 110-meters, but last week at a meet at Oldham County, the two were separated by only four-hundredths of a second in the 300-meter race, albeit, in two different heats.
In recent weeks, North Bullitt has pulled ahead of Bullitt East in the distance events as junior Mike Dowell and senior Gary Hardin have been tough to beat for Charger runners. Still, Brandon Wiseheart and Jordan Barbagallo can put pressure on the Eagle runners and perhaps even take the 3,200-meter run. North Bullitt has the top 400-meter runner in Keith Miller.
North Bullitt also has the edge in the relays, but a lot of points will be up for grabs to someone in the three jumping events.
Bullitt Central will bring only a small contingent of athletes to the meet on Wednesday. The top athlete in that group is junior Joseph Whitney who could ‘steal’ some points in the sprints as well as the long jump and triple jump.
Most of the rest of the Bullitt Central boys’ team are cross-country runners who will compete in the races over 800-meters.
For the Lady Cougars, the numbers are no more promising. The few girls will mostly compete in the middle and long distance races.
The meet on Wednesday will start at 5:30 p.m. There will be a small admission charge collected.