Past Fairview state track champions such as LaShea Preston and Mandy Musick are recognized with a display in the lobby leading into George Cooke Memorial Gymnasium.
Senior Paige McKnight hopes to see her name on the wall as well.
She’s knocking on the door.
Heading into regional competition today at Rowan County, McKnight owns the distinction of being the top-rated 100-meter hurdler in Class A and one of the state’s best overall.
She’s also ranked No. 2 on the 300-meter hurdle performance list in her class, as well as being one of the fastest 100-meter sprinters.
“I wanna be up there so bad,” McKnight said of leaving her mark among Fairview’s best.
A combination of speed, increased strength and improved technique have greatly bolstered her quest.
McKnight began her high school career across the river at Coal Grove after getting her start in the hurdles as a seventh-grader.
“Our district had 32 teams and I made it to regionals my freshman and sophomore years, but didn’t get to finals of the region,” she said.
Along with being well-received at Fairview, McKnight has embraced the coaching regimens of Bob Stacey — a Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Famer — and Becca Chaney.
McKnight boosted her training base by running cross country the past two seasons for the Lady Eagles, one of the top Class A programs in Kentucky.
“It helps build your endurance,” McKnight said.
Midway through her junior track season, McKnight made a major adjustment in the 100-meter hurdles.
“When Paige came to us, she was a four-stepper (between hurdles),” Stacey said. “She’s made a good transition to three-stepping. This year, we added a lot of speed to those three steps.”
That process included both weight training and speed work.
“She feels more comfortable with it now,” Stacey said. “We also added harder training this year. Paige stepped up with our demands of harder workouts.”
Said McKnight: “I love the way he coaches.”
She never felt so physically drained as a particular day this season. Stacey told team members practice would end if they completed two 400-meter runs (each) under 1:10, three 400s under 1:15, or four 400s under 1:20.
McKnight was one of only two athletes who managed to meet the first challenge.
“I didn’t realize where I was,” she recalled. “After the first one I was OK. After the second one, I was totally exhausted. It’s definitely the hardest practice I’ve ever had.”
Because of her ability and appetite for training, McKnight reminds Stacey of some of the standouts on his powerhouse Boyd County teams from the past. The Lady Lions won the Class 3A state championship in 1980.
“Since Paige came over from Coal Grove, she’s done everything I asked her to do,” Stacey said. “I think that’s her upbringing, partly. She’s a tough girl. I do like the fact that she gets upset when she doesn’t do her best.”
McKnight is upholding a family tradition in track.
Her father, Fairview football defensive coordinator Kyle McKnight, competed in Ohio’s State Meet and helped establish a Coal Grove 4x100 relay record that lasted 27 years. He also played baseball at Morehead State University for coach Steve Hamilton and has been a big influence in Paige’s athletic career.
Kyle’s sister, Tomi Blankenship, still holds a Coal Grove record in the 4x400 relay.
Paige shares their love for relays. She ran leadoff on the 4x200 most of this season, even though it follows the 100 hurdles and 100 dash on the meet schedule. The plan, however, is for McKnight to run on the 4x400 relay the rest of the way.
She helped establish a new Fairview record of 4:15.06 in that event earlier this season at a large-scale meet in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Despite breaking their school mark, the Eagles finished behind several other teams.
“I love being pushed,” McKnight said. “Racing against someone that’s better than you only makes you better. It never hurts you.”
McKnight continues to be a force for a Fairview team ranked fourth in Class A behind the northern Kentucky trio of St. Henry, Newport Central Catholic and Bishop Brossart. She won girls high-point honors at the Meet of Champions, KOVCCT and last week’s Area 7 Championships.
A high priority for McKnight remains breaking 15 seconds in the 100 hurdles. Her personal best is 15.04, set last month at the Meet of Champions.
“On a given day, Paige is capable of doing that,” Stacey said.
If McKnight achieves her goal, she could threaten Preston’s school record. In 2004, Preston swept the two hurdle events in the Class A State Meet for the second consecutive year, including a time of 14.95 in the 100s. Later in the day, Preston lowered her (Class A) state record in the 300 hurdles to 44.56.
McKnight’s best in the 300s is 47.54 seconds and she’s gone as fast as 12.93 seconds in the 100 dash.
On Tuesday, McKnight took a look around Georgetown College. She carries a 3.87 grade point average and has also made visits to Xavier University and Eastern Kentucky.
“It’s between those three,” she said.
While McKnight is excited about her upcoming graduation, there are mixed emotions.
“It will be pretty sad to leave Fairview,” she said. “The team and coach Stacey and Becca are like a family. I’m with these girls almost every single day. I’ve made some great friends.”
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2671.