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Maynard, Houston earn indoor state titles

Mar. 7—Despite the unseasonably warm weather the last two weeks, local track and field athletes competed indoors over the weekend.

The KHSAA indoor track and field state championships were held in Louisville to begin the month of March. It was the first year the KHSAA recognized the sport, a counterpart to the customary spring version. The event had been sponsored by the Kentucky Track and Cross Country Coaches Association.

Raceland's Sophie Maynard took home gold after winning the Class A 60-meter hurdles for the second straight year. She crossed the finish line with a time of 9:54 ahead of Bishop Brossart's Kaitlyn Kramer (10:13).

Raceland coach Randy Helton said Maynard leaned on her work ethic and talent with limited practice time due to her commitment to the basketball team this winter.

The sophomore ran her events on Sunday in Louisville before hitting the court in the 16th Region Tournament in Morehead on Tuesday night.

"Sophie is a very dedicated and unique athlete," Helton said. "The biggest difference for her this year was playing basketball. She's had literally no track practice or time to work on anything to prepare for the state meet. Her practice was the qualifying meet at Marshall on Feb. 24, and a few good weather days to work on hurdle steps."

"The fact that she won and won convincingly was impressive" he added. "The more conditioning she gets, and the more practice time she will get with coach Travis Burton (hurdles coach), the better she will become. I feel like her conditioning this year will be the key to her being able to win both hurdle events at the Class A state meet in May."

Brandon Houston displays his speed and hands on the football field as an Ashland receiver. The senior showed off his athletic ability at the Class 2A state indoor meet on Saturday, winning the triple jump title with a mark of 42 feet, 6 inches. Houston posted his personal best in the event and broke his own school record.

"Brandon Houston is the best athlete in our area," Ashland coach Harlee Estepp said. "It was nice to see him get recognized as that tier of athlete by winning a state championship in triple jump. He broke his own school record that he set at the outdoor state championship last year. The triple jump is something he's still new to. He did it in late April last year and I expect him to jump even further come outdoor."

Estepp said after the sport received the backing of the KHSAA, the event felt more "legitimate." It can offer a bigger spotlight and possibly more interest from athletes.

"Not to take away from the previous iterations of indoor state champions, but for it to be recognized makes it more official," Estepp said. "It definitely felt like there was more buzz around it and the competition was great. If you were at the state meet this year, it was truly the elite of the class. I enjoy the atmosphere at indoor track. When you get a competitive heat going indoors, it gets loud and exciting."

Indoor track and field has an abbreviated schedule so meeting the qualifying standards means you are competing against the best at the state meet.

"Even though we didn't start until Feb. 7," Helton said, "the indoor track season gives our coaches and our kids an idea of where we are in terms of conditioning and also a starting point to build off as the season progresses.

"The atmosphere seems more enhanced in terms of having a championship feeling," he continued. "With the KHSAA taking over the championship meet; it legitimizes the indoor season. It gives it credibility, especially since athletes have to qualify in order to be in the meet."

The indoor track and field season gives athletes early insight into the upcoming spring schedule. Both coaches wish their team had more time and a place to practice inside.

"The biggest difference I'd say is just the lack of ability for us to practice some of these things during the winter," Estepp said. "To make Brandon Houston's state championship more impressive, he's legitimately practiced the triple jump zero times. We've burned up the cafeteria floor sprinting inside. Our distance runners have put in good work at the YMCA. Mallorie Caudill medaling in the 60 hurdles was great for the amount of time she's been able to practice. We've had a few warm weather days and she worked at it then but not every day."

"The biggest difference is the lack of a full event schedule like you have in the outdoor meets (12 as opposed to 18 events)," Helton added. "The other obstacle is the lack of quality practice time, and not having access to practice equipment or consistent outdoor weather. I feel like our kids hold their own in terms of competing despite those obstacles. Our coaches do a great job of getting our kids ready to compete."

In Saturday's Class 2A meet, Caudill finished eighth in the 60-meter hurdles. Boyd County's Sami Govey placed eighth in the 1500-meter run. Mason Newsome finished fifth in the same event for the Lions. He completed the 800 meters in sixth.

Lewis County's Alex Russell earned an eighth-place finish in the boys 400-meter dash.

Rowan County's Autumn Eagleston continued her strong senior year with a fourth-place finish in the 3000-meter run. Boyd County's 4x400 girls relay team (Ray Harmony, Lilah Thornbury, Laura Grace Chaffin and Lexi Ramey) earned a medal for eighth.

Rowan County's 4x800 girls relay team (Ariah Egleston, Autumn Egleston, Shelby Lykins and Isabelle Willis) placed fourth. The Boyd County 4x800 girls relay team (Georgia Wilson, Govey, Thornbury and Ramey) finished fifth.

Reigning Class 2A state outdoor discus champion David Harless posted second place in the indoor shot put with a toss of 55 feet, 11 inches for Russell.

Morgan County's Janesey Lewis was eighth in the girls long jump. Ashland's Sadie Chaffins tallied a fifth-place finish in the high jump. Rowan County's Cameron Cross was second and fourth in the boys high jump and pole vault, respectively. Vikings teammate Chris Cross placed fourth in the high jump.

Rowan County placed 10th in the boys team standings and 12th on the girls list.

Raceland was the only area team to qualify for Class A competition.

Helton said Ty Tyson will be a big part of the Rams track team this spring. He got his season off on the right foot with a third-place finish (7:20) in the 60-meter dash.

Full event results can be found at khsaa.org.

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msparks@dailyindependent.com