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It’s not a foregone conclusion North Hardin will sweep the Lincoln Trail Heartland Conference meet, but it’s about as close as it can get before the meet has actually taken place.
The 16-time defending conference champions on the girls’ side are the top-ranked team in the state and so are their male counterparts, who have won the last four conference meets.
The chances of dethroning either in tonight’s meet at Nelson County are low because as Elizabethtown Jeff McNeil put it, there’s a reason they’re the No. 1 team in the state.
“Our goal will be to be runner-up,” McNeil said. “I don’t like to say it because you normally want to win, but those North squads are pretty darn good teams. We’re going to try to be like a gnat and pick at them a little bit. It’ll be an interesting battle for second place.”
It truly was a battle for second place last season as the Lady Trojans accumulated 187 points at the meet, with Fort Knox (110 points) and Bardstown (91 points) well behind.
North Hardin sophomore Kianna Gray is the favorite in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes, as well as the 100-meter hurdles.
The Lady Trojans will also count on big performances from seniors Tamara Jenkins, Chanel Roberts and Jazmine Byrd, sophomores Jillian Shufelt and Regene Hill and freshmen Katie Gilbert, Alexis Shelby, Harley Domschke and Paige Pettel.
The Trojans won last year’s meet with 176 points, easily outdistancing second-place Central Hardin, which finished with 105 points. Bardstown rounded out the top three with 87 points.
Seniors Treyvon Johnson and Kirk Oxendine, juniors Marcus Terrell, Dante Johnson and Matt Hughes and sophomores Robert Rupp and C.J. Morales are all expected to excel in their respective events for North Hardin.
Both the North Hardin boys and girls relay teams are favored in all four relays, so in short, a lot would have to go wrong for any team to take them down. But that doesn’t mean teams won’t be gunning for the Trojans.
“If someone trips over a shoelace and falls, the next man gets 10 points, so that’s what we have to be prepared for,” said Central Hardin boys’ coach Brandon Adams. “Anything can happen in these meets, just like in football, baseball and basketball.”
According to KYTrackXC.com, which takes the top performances for athletes and creates a simulated meet, neither the Trojans nor the Lady Trojans will have much opposition.
That, however, certainly doesn’t mean the meet is meaningless, as teams will be preparing for even more important meets down the road, mainly the region meets which start next week.
“The regional meet is the best meet, so we want to be at our peak when we hit that meet, and I think that goes for everyone in the conference, as well,” Adams said.
“This is going to set the stage to show us what we have to work for the next few weeks,” added LaRue County girls’ coach Laura Kudrna. “We have our eye on the regionals and we’ll know exactly how far we have to go to get our times down. It’s a springboard to set the tone for our practices for the rest of the season.”
Elizabethtown’s James Washington and Dalton Swank and John Hardin’s Eric Avant, Houston Holloway and Dimitri Cooper are ones to watch for on the boys’ side while Central Hardin’s Mackenzie Pennington, Elizabethtown’s Emily Richardson and Savannah Kingery and Meade County’s Shonte Williams could make noise on the girls’ side.
In addition to area schools, Bardstown, Bethlehem, Nelson County and Thomas Nelson will compete. But it all comes back to North Hardin.
While no one may be able to beat them, the Trojans are helping the rest of the conference by forcing them to try to keep up.
“I just don’t think anyone has the ability to take down North, but I think all of us are better because of North,” McNeil said. “We’re a better squad because we’re able to face them.”
Ryan O’Gara can be reached at (270) 505-1754 or firstname.lastname@example.org.