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KHSAA realigns track/CC starting this fall

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By Mike Farner

 SHEPHERDSVILLE – What had been proposed back in late April became official last week as the track and field as well as the cross-country programs at both North Bullitt and Bullitt East have been moved from Class AA to Class AAA starting this fall, joining Bullitt Central with the state’s largest schools.

It will mark the first time in history that all three programs will compete at the same level and against each other in the post-season of those two sports.

Even before the proposal was made back in the spring, local coaches and administrators knew that the move was going to happen. Since 2007, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association has been working under the same alignment for those two sports. During that time, Bullitt County had gone through a program to ‘equalize’ the size of its three high schools.

Under the old alignment, the cut-off line between Class AA and Class AAA was 1,025 students. Now, with the number shifted to 1,050, Bullitt East and North Bullitt blew by those numbers. As has been reported here numerous times, Bullitt East is now actually the largest of the three Bullitt County high schools with North Bullitt having just a few more students than Bullitt Central.

Using the KHSAA’s numbers for average student enrollment for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years, Bullitt East has 1,368 students while North Bullitt is at 1,298 while Bullitt Central is at 1,271.

Still, in the new 11-school Class AAA, Region 3, the three Bullitt County schools will be in the lower half in the grouping and will be dwarfed by St. Xavier, Male and Manual when it comes to enrollment.

All three Bullitt County schools now rank among the 40 largest high schools in Kentucky.

Bullitt County programs have been going through a sort of ‘golden era’ in the two sports in recent years.

Even in Class AAA, Bullitt Central had qualified for the state cross-country championships on the girls side three of the past four years. Last year, Bullitt East finished second in Class AA in boys’ cross-country and fourth in girls’ cross-country.

In the spring, Bullitt County athletes went through a stretch of winning at least one state championship in track and field for five years before having a number of runner-up finishes this past season.

Obviously, just from a numbers standpoint, the move to Class AAA will make things somewhat more difficult to find success in those two sports.

Still, it should be pointed out that in the spring of 2012, when Bullitt East’s Trevor Troutman and Andrew Okruch finished one-two in the discus event in the Class AA state track meet, that their distances would have been first and second in Class AAA that year. The same was true of Jacob Duvall winning the 110-meter high hurdles that year. His winning time in Class AA was the best time in any class.

Bullitt East junior Meghan Roby finished second in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes this past spring. She will be one of the favorites in Class AAA next spring.

After the 2012 state track meet, Bullitt East head coach Lenny Raley recalibrated the scoring on the basis of there being one class. The Bullitt East boys had finished fifth in Class AA that year. Working with the new numbers, Bullitt East would have finished fifth in the entire state.

So, basically, for the elite athletes, the move shouldn’t be that big a hindrance to having big finishes. Local coaches feel that where the differences will be seen will be more in the middle of the pack.

While there will be some grinding of teeth in local circles, there is probably just as much consternation with the schools that were already in Class AAA – namely St. Xavier and Male – two of the state’s top track programs. Now they not only get a strong Bullitt East program, but more importantly to them, they also pick-up Central High School, a Class AA state power most years.

In addition, the move should affect Bullitt County boys a little more than the girls because of the St. Xavier situation with them being a boy’s only program. The new Class AAA, Region 3 alignment does not have a girls’ only program, so there will be only ten girls’ teams competing in the regional meets.

Plus, unlike sports like basketball and baseball/softball, where only one team advances out of regional action, cross-country and track advance a lot more athletes to the state meets. Winning regional track titles at the team level might be a long shot in the foreseeable future individuals advancing should still be very common.

       Bullitt Central’s boys’ 800-meter relay team this past spring finished sixth in the AAA regional meet, but even when only the top two finishing squads advanced to state meet automatically, the Cougar foursome advanced to the state meet off their strong time. Bullitt East has had girls’ distance runners finish eighth or ninth in regional meets and still qualify for the state meet from what was the toughest Class AA region in the state when it included Central, Mercy and the Oldham County schools.

On the positive side, the three Bullitt County programs will now compete against each other in the same regional meet. That should be added motivation.

Of course, I don’t have to tell anyone with even a passing interest in track, that because of the condition of the local tracks, that the local schools have no chance anytime soon of even being able to put on a regional meet, even if Jefferson County would allow it. Still, there will only be short trips into Louisville for regional meets in both sports.

A quick quess would be that cross-country regional meets will be held at either the old Louisville Golf Course site or at McNeeley Lake Park. Regional track meets will probably rotate between Male and St. Xavier (probably the nicest high school track facility in the state).

So yes, this isn’t the best news local track coaches could have gotten, but it’s probably not as bad as a first look might have made it appear.