The Heart of track season
Since the 1970s, the one constant on the local track and field scene has been the Heart of the Bluegrass, the invitational meet established and hosted by Harrodsburg that was for many years the one and only premier meet in the area.
And even though Harrodsburg High School is no more, the meet will continue under the Mercer County banner. The merged Mercer team has taken up residence at Alvis Johnson Field and will host the HOB there on Saturday. And just as it always is, it figures to be a great meet.
Twenty-two teams had entered as of midweek, including local schools Boyle County, Casey County, Danville and Lincoln County.
One of the headliners among visiting teams is Paducah Tilghman, which has won six straight boys state championships in Class AA. Tilghman is bringing part of its boys team to the meet, and Mercer is returning the favor by taking part of its team to Tilghman’s invitational next weekend. Of course, all of this has a great deal to do with the fact that Mercer hopes to end Tilghman’s title string this season.
Other schools in the HOB include Bryan Station, Central, East Jessamine, Henry Clay, Lexington Catholic, Rockcastle County and Southwestern.
Though no one knew it would be the last HOB appearance for Harrodsburg at the time, it was fitting that the Pioneers won the boys competition last season, and it was impressive that they did so with only 13 athletes entered in 13 events. Many of those athletes will be competing for Mercer on Saturday. Meanwhile, last year’s girls champion, St. Henry, is not entered.
Field events begin at 10 a.m., and running events begin at 10:30. Those planning to attend should note that parking will not be allowed in the Lions Park lot adjacent to the stadium. Fans are advised to park in the school lot or in the field across Factory Street from Lions Park.
It’s also worth noting that longtime meet director Alvis Johnson, who grew the HOB into the elite meet it has become, will once again serve as track announcer. Be sure to watch for him leaning out of the press box window during the mile relay.
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The HOB is a big meet, but it isn’t the only big meet on local tracks any more. Danville’s E.G. Plummer Invitational, to be held May 5, has grown to attract impressive fields of its own.
The Double-A Derby, created by Casey County for Class AA teams only, moves to Boyle County this year because Casey’s track has fallen into disrepair. Boyle and Casey will co-host that meet on April 27.
Boyle will also host the Boyle County Invitational on May 11 and the Central Kentucky Conference Championships on May 18, giving its nearly new track surface a pretty good workout. And Danville will host the All “A” Classic on April 28.
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As the season reaches the halfway point, it’s a good time to look at where some of the area’s best athletes rank statewide. Here are performances by area athletes ranked among the top 10 (regardless of class) by the Kentucky Track and Cross Country Coaches Association:
200 — 8. Brandon Ford (Mercer County) 22.76; 10. Derrick Henderson (Danville) 22.82.
400 — 7. Henderson (Danville) 52.04.
800 — 2. Ross Hempel (Danville) 1:58.42.
110 hurdles — 2. B.J. Strode (Danville) 15.34; 7. John McMaine (Mercer County) 15.64.
300 hurdles — 4. Strode (Danville) 41.64; 8. McMaine (Mercer County) 42.04.
400 relay — 3. Mercer County 44.10.
800 relay — 7. Mercer County 1:33.26; 8. Danville 1:33.37.
High jump — 2. Chrys Jones (Mercer County) 6-4.
Long jump — 4. Jones (Mercer County) 21-5 1/2; 6. Daylen Morris (Danville) 21- 1/2.
Triple jump — 1. Jones (Mercer County) 47-8 1/4.
Shot put — 8. Chaz Grider (Casey County) 46-10 1/2.
Discus — 3. Grider (Casey County) 142-6.
3200 — 5. Kaitlin Snapp (Danville) 12:09.00.
300 hurdles — 9. Caroline Stroup (Danville) 50.94.
400 relay — 2. Danville 51.33.
800 relay — 4. Danville 1:49.70.
Triple jump — 4. Diamond Pace 33-10.
Discus — 3. Loran Crowell (Mercer County) 100-3; 4. Nataushia Burke (Casey County) 98-8; 9. Samantha Bartleson (Mercer County) 94-9.