For The Independent
Rowan County boys track coach Roy Wright has been on the losing side of regional meets.
He likes the winning side much better. The latest was Saturday's Class 2A, Region 6 team title on the Vikings' home oval, a 156-154.5 squeaker over Mason County.
Rowan County won its third straight regional crown. Wright talked about two things: how he appreciates Saturday partly because of a three-point loss to Mason County in 2010; and getting 18 long jump points from senior Jalen Stone and his brother, junior Laney Stone.
Yet Wright's heart was a little heavy because of a third Viking, junior hurdler Isaac Lee, who collapsed after pulling the hamstring in his left leg midway through the 300-meter hurdles. Lee had just cleared the third when he clutched his left leg and fell.
“I didn't see it happen,” Wright said. “I turned to look for him, and he was down. I hate it for him; he works so hard.”
Lee, who earlier won the 110 hurdles, was on crutches about an hour after the 300.
“I was leading,” Lee said. “I cleared (the hurdle), I pulled my (left) trail leg. It started popping. I tried taking a few steps. I just couldn't do it.”
The Royals and Vikings staged what was effectively a two-team duel.
It started with the 800-meter relay, when Rowan County senior Chris Baker ran down Mason County's Jalen Jones over the final 50 meters.
“I was five meters behind,” Baker said. “It was a good handoff (from Zack Kelsey).”
Mason County exacted revenge in the 400 relay, when Jacob Tompkins passed Baker for the win.
“We were ahead at the (third) handoff,” Tompkins said. “I just knew we couldn't lose it.”
Mason County beat East Carter in the the distance relays — the Royals won by just over two seconds in the 3,200 and by nearly eight in the 1,600.
In the individual races, Mason County's Nick Robinson beat Rowan County's Shelley Deharte by just under two seconds in the 1,600. Deharte rebounded in the 3,200 with a nine-second win over Russell's Josh Riley.
Rowan County “Stoned” Mason County in two other jumps. Jalen took the triple jump by five feet over Mason County's Alex Stahl, and Laney was four inches higher than the Royals' Steven Chambers in the high jump.
The Vikings held an 86-84 lead through nine events, but Mason County went ahead, 96-86, after the Royals' Shawn Johnson and Cory Childers picked up 12 points by taking second and fourth in the 400 dash.
There have been unsubstantiated rumors of Mason County moving next year to a region with Northern Kentucky powers Saint Henry, Walton-Verona, Scott and Highlands. If that happens, the Lady Royals are leaving a string of successes here — Saturday's 169-114 win over Fleming County was their fifth straight team crown.
“It's a testament to the hard work that the kids are willing to put in,” Mason County coach Mark Kachler said. “It's a great accomplishment. (Region 6) is a very challenging region; to be able to (win) that many years consecutively is an honor, and all the credit goes to the kids, really.”
Here's how dominant Mason County was in the running events: Lady Royals finished first, second and/or third in all but one race, the 300 hurdles, where eighth-grader Whitney O'Mara was fourth. Another eighth-grader, Rheagan Sizemore, won the 1,600 and 3,200.
In the field events, Mason County senior Julia Woods won the pole vault by a foot over senior teammate Raylee Kirkland.
As for the Northern Kentucky realignment talk?
“We have to compete wherever (the Kentucky High School Athletic Association tells) us we have to compete, and that's a very tough place to go and compete,” Kachler said. “We'll embrace the challenge if that's what it is and do the best we can.”
Boyd County senior Jessica Adams is one meet away from finishing her high school career, while Ashland freshman Quinton Baker is just starting. Saturday, they combined to take all four sprints.
Adams won the 100 in 13.47 seconds and the 200 in 27.33. Baker took the 100 title in 11.40 and the 200 in 22.82.
Baker has watched Adams, and he's properly impressed. “She's a great athlete,” he said. “I can tell she works hard. We just went out and tried our best.”
Adams has been a one-girl regional sprint dynasty: counting Saturday's wins, she has 10 (four 100s, four 200s and two 400s). As the last races at next week's state meet loom, she thought yesterday was “bittersweet.”
“I'm excited that I had so many good years, but I'm sad it's coming to an end,” Adams said. “(Baker) is definitely a great athlete, and he's a freshman. I can't wait to see what he does senior year.”
East Carter junior Dustin Sexton is adding gold medals to his nascent trophy case.
Earlier this year, he took the regional title in the inaugural archery event. Saturday, he claimed the 300 hurdles in 43.63 — his first individual track win.
Sexton couldn't decide whether shooting arrows or jumping over hurdles was his favorite sport.
“I love them both equally,” Sexton said. “I'm really, really happy about (winning the hurdles). I haven't run hurdles in a while. This is regionals; I wanted to do it again.”