Tanner Barton had all kinds of incentive, then came a burst of inspiration.
After back-to-back state runner-up finishes in the 400 meters, the Lewis County senior ran the race of his life Friday night at the Class 2A State Meet.
Barton’s time of 48.36 seconds at the University of Kentucky’s new outdoor complex was announced as the fastest for all Kentucky classes this season. It also came within .13 of the 29-year-old state record in Class 2A.
“After finishing second the last two times, I thought I might as well win it this year,” he said.
The previous weekend, Barton and some of his teammates attended the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships at the same venue.
“I came to get pumped,” Barton said.
He especially enjoyed watching Texas A&M’s Deon Lendore blaze around the oval to repeat as 400-meter champion in a near-SEC record performance of 44.36 seconds.
“Seeing that, it drove me so hard,” Barton said. “He ran it exactly four seconds faster than me.”
The 6-foot-3 and long-striding Barton smashed his previous personal best in finishing ahead of Mason County’s Shawn Johnson (49.67).
“I’ve never been able to beat my sophomore time (49.40) until today,” said Barton, who battled sickness the past couple of years. “For two years I’ve been looking at that time. I finally beat it, by more than a second.”
The race took so much out of Barton that he scratched from the 800 meters.
“I think I tore my upper right ab,” he said a little later.
Mostly, however, Barton was still feeling a sense of elation.
“I’ve been really wanting to win this,” he said. “I’ve trained hard. I was hoping for high 48s and ended up coming out with a low 48. This track is good for tall kids because of the wide turns.”
Barton said he would like to run at the collegiate level, “possibly at Louisville as a walk-on.”
His victory accounted for all 10 of Lewis County’s points. East Carter and Russell also scored 10 to produce a three-way for 22nd in the team standings.
Rowan County led area boys teams with 23 points, good for 13th place. Highlands scored 56 to prevail in a tight battle for the top spot. North Oldham and Paducah Tilghman each finished with 51 points, followed by Covington Catholic at 45.
Seniors Isaac Lee and Laney Stone each finished runner-up in an individual event for Rowan County and both ran on the Vikings’ 4x100 relay team that placed seventh, one spot behind Ashland.
Lee, who recently signed with Eastern Kentucky, locked up in a duel with Cameron Murphy of Western Hills over the 300-meter hurdles. Murphy crossed the finish line in 38.49 seconds, just ahead of Lee’s 38.87. East Carter’s Dustin Sexton was seventh (40.94).
“I’m very pleased,” Lee said. “I wanted to try and run in the 38s and be up with Cameron at the end. He was too quick over the last two hurdles.”
Lee came in with extra motivation after missing last year’s State Meet due to a hamstring injury.
“I’ve been preparing all week for this race,” he said. “I told myself when I got in the block, ‘Go have fun kid.’”
Earlier, Lee took fifth in the 110 hurdles at 15.52 seconds. Elizabethtown’s James Washington won in 14.76, with Murphy second.
Stone cleared 6 feet, 6 inches in the high jump. Juirien Royal of E-Town edged him by going over the bar at 6-8.
“I’m kind of disappointed because I got second last year, too,” Stone said. “I thought I had a pretty good shot. (Royal) is a good jumper.”
Rowan County’s other point came from Nathan Hanshaw, who threw the discus 133 feet for eighth place.
East Carter received an early boost from its 4x800 relay team. The Raiders won a slower heat in 8:26.12, with anchor-man Ben Napier turning in a PR split of 2:01. East Carter’s time of 8:26.12 from Sexton, Kerrick Burchett, Joey Williams and Napier stood up for fourth place behind Highlands, Mercer County and North Oldham.
“I’m very proud of my team, how they ran,” Napier said. “I just felt like God was there with us. He blessed us today.”
The Raiders’ relay felt happy just to be there after finishing third at regionals due to a dropped baton.
“At that time, I thought we might be disqualified,” Napier said. “At the end, they said there was a rule change. We didn’t impede anybody. Our time was good enough to qualify.”
The Raiders prepared for the challenge of competing in a heat without the top qualifiers.
“Coach (Zach Musick) told us to push it,” Sexton said. “We practiced for it. We had to run against time, not people.”
Napier later ran 2:01.75 in the 800 meters to finish sixth.
Russell’s Caleb Martin and Boyd County’s Jonah Black finished third and sixth, respectively, in the triple jump. Martin covered 42 feet, 5 inches, while Black went 41-6.75.
Another Russell senior, distance runner Josh Riley, also enjoyed a big finish. He placed fifth in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 9:52.85.
“To break 10 minutes at the State Meet finally and finish in the top five, I probably couldn’t ask for any better,” Riley said. “I knew if I stayed with the top half of the field, I would PR. The last lap was really hard. I couldn’t have given any more or any better.”
Ashland sophomore Quinton Baker experienced some ups and downs Friday.
In the 100 meters, Baker was right in the thick of a highly competitive race and finished fourth in 11.10. Covington Catholic’s Jake Erpenbeck won in 10.93, followed by Highlands’ Alex Veneman (11.07) and Warren Central’s Rondell Green (11.09).
“I felt good in it,” Baker said. “It was just great competition.”
Baker, Jake Long, Connor Fannin and Miles McGranahan made a strong showing in the 4x100, winning the second heat and getting sixth overall with a time of 44.55.
“The relay was predicted 16th (based on regional times) and got sixth, so I’m proud of all my guys,” Baker said.
One of the state’s best in the 200 meters, Baker won the second heat from lane eight with one of his top times. But he was later disqualified for “three steps on the lane line,” according to the result sheet. Baker’s time — in the low 22s — would have gotten him third place overall.
“I was just trying to push myself against time because I knew I wasn’t in the top heat,” Baker said prior to the DQ being handed down. “I think I tied my PR.”
In the girls division, North Oldham scored 90.5 points to run away with the championship.
Area teams had bright spots but found it difficult getting to the awards stand. Regional runner-up Boyd County’s two points came from Brittany Jarrell in the 400 meters. She won the second heat with a time of 1:01.27 and finished seventh overall.
“It’s just my second time to run it,” Jarrell said. “It was really exciting. It’s my senior year and it’s been a pretty good day for me.”
Greenup County’s Cara Jorio tied for seventh in the high jump at 4-8 to account for the other local scoring.
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2671.
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