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HEBRON ESTATES - For the first time in its 30-year history, the All-Bullitt County Track and Field Championships on Tuesday at North Bullitt will include a pair of former state champions.
Of course, the nature of the beast in the sport means that Bullitt East’s Jackie Stevens and North Bullitt’s Helen Heines won’t be competing against each other. In fact, they won’t even get near each other on Tuesday as Stevens works in the field and Heines on the track.
Still, the success of the two girls in recent years highlights the rarified air that the sport is going through in Bullitt County at this time. Stevens is the defending Class AA state champion in both the discus and shot put while Heines won the 1,600-meter run as a freshman in 2008.
Before Heines’ win two years ago it had been 20 years since a Bullitt County athlete had won a state track title.
Weather permitting, Tuesday’s meet has a number of storylines. Of course, that is not unusual for track which is much like a 34-ring circus as it crowns that many champions in roughly three hours.
While much of the interest in this meet will focus on a handful of elite athletes, the biggest battle may well come down to the two team scores. Bullitt East and North Bullitt competed against each other three weeks ago in Mount Washington and both the boys’ and girls’ teams were separated by less than three points. That meet also included Whitefield Academy.
This time around it will be Bullitt Central taking points here and there, but the two Cougar squads will not challenge for the team titles.
In the earlier meet, Bullitt East fielded few relay teams and North Bullitt didn’t push their athletes to fill spots.
The good news on Tuesday is that this meet this year comes over two weeks before the regional meets the last week of May. That means that coaches will not be resting athletes in preparation for the first meet of the post-season. Instead, both squads will push most of their best athletes into the limit of four events.
“I don’t like to lose,” Bullitt East head coach Lenny Raley said last week. “This meet is a nice gauge of where we stand heading into the region meet.
“We strive to say we are the best in the county,” the coach added. “We want it to be fun, but we will go for as many points as we can. I’ll put kids in as many events as possible.”
There will be a number of top-flight athletes competing on Tuesday.
Stevens has lost just once this spring and that was in the discus to an athlete not in Class AA. The senior is ranked first in the state in the class in both of her events by a relatively wide margin. There really is no one to challenge her locally.
The same can pretty much be said for Bullitt East sophomore thrower Trevor Troutman in the boys’ discus. He is ranked second in Class AA in his event and his toughest competition will come from teammate Andrew Okruch who is just returning from an injury. The two are closer in the shot put.
Another given will be North Bullitt eighth-grader Chelsea Slayton in the 800-meter run. The Zoneton Middle School student has burst on the running scene this spring and is top-rated in her speciality in Class AA. Slayton won the All-Bullitt County Middle School title a few weeks ago and is now focusing on the high school season. At this point, her talents have been used to bolster North Bullitt’s strong relay teams instead of adding individual events which may well be the case when she is older.
Heines is the strongest distance runner in the meet, but she could well be pushed by Bullitt East’s Emily Marksbury.
Not all the events on Tuesday will be slam dunks. Two of the best athletes in the meet will challenge each other in the girls’ jumping events. Both North Bullitt senior Meri Brian and Bullitt East junior Lynsey Milburn have been getting the most out of each other this spring. In fact, both advanced to the state meet in the long jump and triple jump a year ago.
Milburn should be the favorite in the high jump.
Brian, who could shine in six or seven events if the rules allowed, will do the two jumps, but there is some question about what else she will attempt. She could run in the 800- and 1,600-meter relays, but running coach Mike Whitfill would like to see her try the 400-meter dash, something she has done just once this spring, but was very impressive.
North Bullitt has strong relay teams with Heines and Brian and a mixture of Slayton, Gentry Collins, Alexa Hughes and Hailey Heltsley.
Another tight battle could be in the boys’ hurdles. Bullitt East’s Jacob Duvall has been lowering the school record in the 110-meter race while North Bullitt’s Chris Pate seems to be peaking at the end of the season and he is strong in the 300-meter race.
There is always interest in the boys’ 100-meter dash to see who is the fastest in Bullitt County. North Bullitt has depth in the sprints including senior Derek Jones (who is stronger at 200-meters), but they should be challenged by Bullitt East freshman Chris Embry.
Whitfill also pointed to Mike Dowell giving Bullitt East’s Stefan Reynolds a good run at 800-meters.
Because this meet will be scored on a 5-3-1 system (relays at 5-3) depth plays a key role. In the biggest meets, the top-end athletes sway the team score. In a little meet like this one it can come down to depth.
The ink and attention may go in one direction in the post-season, but this meet could be decided by the ‘regular’ competitor who turns in a big day.
“This year we have more depth,” especially on the girls’ side,” Whitfill said. “In the little meets you get almost as many points for second and third as for first. The superior teams don’t always win.”
Action for both the field and track events will start at 5 p.m. on Tuesday. There will be a small admission fee for this meet which is the first meet that North Bullitt has hosted this spring.