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By JOSH CLAYWELL
CECILIA — Anthoni Battle may not have the most sparkling resume, but that’s not what matters most to the Central Hardin High School junior.
What does matter is helping the Bruins reach greater heights as a team.
“It’s been good for the kids. He’s been a real good leader and a real good example for them just because he is a good kid,” Central Hardin coach Patrick Alexander said. “He doesn’t make a whole lot out of being the star athlete on the team. He just tries to fit in and be one of the guys.”
In his first season with the team, Battle has won the high jump twice, the 200-meter dash once and picked up three relay wins (400 relay at the Central Hardin Invitational and the 800 and 1,600 relays at a dual meet at Elizabethtown).
Battle’s personal record jump of 6 feet, 4 inches – which was set April 27 at an all-comers meet at Elizabethtown – ranks him first in Class 3-A, Region 2 and seventh in Class 3-A according to KYTrackXC.com heading into next weekend’s regional meets.
“It’s pretty exciting. At the beginning of the year I didn’t think I was going to jump 6-4,” Battle said. “I started working on my legs and got my form down, and I got 6-4.”
The feat also came with a price.
Battle injured his lower back when he hit the bar after trying to clear 6-6 and has only competed in the high jump twice since.
“It was the hardest jump of my career,” Battle said. “But I’m hoping that doesn’t slow me down at region.”
Battle, who Alexander said cleared 6-foot in his third day on the team, was trained by Central Hardin assistant coach Chris Ernst and Elizabethtown jumping coach Bill Larrington.
“We’ve been really lucky. Coach Ernst did a good job learning as much about the high jump as he could at the start of the season and Coach Larrington has helped Anthoni out a lot,” Alexander said.
Battle said he wanted to improve after that day in practice.
“I’ve learned the sport quickly. I was motivated after my first jump when I got 6-foot,” he said.
Battle hasn’t cleared 6-4 since the meet at Elizabethtown, but hopes to clear 6-6 at region, which will be held Saturday at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.
“I am looking forward to region,” Battle said. “I’m hoping I can jump 6-6. If not, I hope 6-4 can win it. It’s going to take a lot of motivation and determination.”
Battle said his back has improved over the last week, but said pain can still flare up.
“It’s pretty comfortable, but I’m hoping no one shows me up at regions. I’m not stopping until I’m jumping 6-4, so they’ve got to do that to beat me,” Battle said. “Hopefully it’s going to feel pretty great. I’ve got to get my steps back and get it in my head that I can jump 6-4, 6-6.”
Alexander, who recruited Battle during basketball season with the help of other track athletes, feels Battle has an excellent chance of winning a region championship and placing at State.
“Watching him play basketball, we knew he was going to be a good high jumper,” Alexander said. “Once he got out, he’s wanted to do more and more every meet. He’s willing to run four events every meet, and it doesn’t matter what I ask him to do. It’s been a blessing and an honor to work with him. He’s always willing to do what I ask him to do.
“This is his first year and he thinks he’s doing great,” Alexander added. “He’s all about the team and he’s not selfish at all.”
It’s that team-first attitude Alexander will miss when Battle, who could be moving after the season ends, is no longer with the team.
“That’s another thing I love about him – he’s just so unassuming,” Alexander said. “There’s nothing brash about him, and I wish I had a dozen kids like him just to represent the team.”
Josh Claywell can be reached