Slayton again reverses regional finish at state

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By Mike Farner

 LOUISVILLE - The Slayer did it again.

Coming off two frustrating weeks heading into the Kentucky Class AA State Track and Field Championships, North Bullitt freshman middle-distance standout Chelsey Slayton bounced back to repeat her state championship in the 800-meter run on Thursday at the University of Louisville.

It had been three weeks earlier that Slayton had recorded a resounding 2:22 in the Sundown Invitational at Oldham County. Then, she came down with a stomach virus that kept her out of the All-Bullitt County Track and Field Championships and cost her nearly a week of training. She was then second to Martha Layne Collins’ junior Caterina Karas in the rain at the Region 3 Championships in the cold and rain in a slow time of 2:28.

A year earlier, Slayton had finished second in the regional meet and then won the state title.

The plan that North Bullitt coach Mike Whitfill and Slayton came up with for the state meet was to run just off the pace of Karas instead of in front of the long distance specialist. It didn’t quite work out that way as the name’s changed when Russell’s Emily Hanson jumped to the lead. Hanson led by as much as five meters over Slayton and Karas.

On the backstretch of the final lap, Slayton began to reel in Hanson, pulling just behind her at the start of the turn. By the middle of the turn Slayton moved to the outside and passed Hanson and quickly pulled away.

Karas, who would win both the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs that day, had more trouble getting around Hanson. Slayton had a five meter edge coming down the final 100-meters and she even took a peek back over her shoulder before winning in 2:23.44 in front of Karas’ time of 2:24.51 while Hanson was third in 2:25.19.

“He (Whitfill) wanted me not to go out too fast,” Slayton said after the win. “We wanted to let the Collins’ girl go out and then pick it up with 250 meters to go. It was the other girl (Hanson) that sort of messed things up.

“After being sick and then the bad race at regionals, I was feeling psyched out,” the freshman admitted. “If it wasn’t for coach I wouldn’t be this good. He puts a lot into it.”

Whitfill was saying during the race at the regional that Slayton was out too fast and he was determined to get her to slow down and save more for the finish.

“She ran just like we had talked about it,” Whitfill said later. “We wanted to run the first lap in a specific time (1:09 to 1:10) and get in position the next 150-meters and then run as fast as she needed to in order to win. I thought she did a great job following the game plan.

“Chelsey is a racer and likes being out front which can be a problem if someone pushes her in the early part of the race,” the coach added. “That is what happened last week at the regional. She was relaxed on her first lap and then ran down the leader on the second lap to win going away. I was happy with her time considering the conditions.”

Slayton is the first Bullitt Countian to repeat as a state champion in a running event since Michelle Wilson (Beaton) won the 300-meter hurdles in 1987 and 1988.