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Dante Johnson and Bryce Meers want to help North Hardin make history by becoming the first school to win both the boys’ and girls’ team titles at the KHSAA State Track & Field Championships.
And if all goes according to plan for the dynamic duo, they’ll get the day started off with a bang in Saturday’s Class 3-A state meet at the University of Louisville’s Owsley Frazier Cardinal Park.
Johnson, a junior, and Meers, a senior, are ranked first and second in the 110-meter hurdles, the second event of the afternoon. If seeds hold true to form, North Hardin will score 18 points. Johnson and Meers are also ranked first and third – with John Hardin senior Eric Avant between them – in the 300 hurdles.
“One and two in any event is 18 points. If we do that in both events, that’s 36 points we’ll score. And that’s huge, especially at the state meet,” Meers said. “If we go out there and take first and second or first and third or whatever, I think it’ll really set the mood for our team. It’ll set the team in the mindset to do well the rest of the day.”
Just how big will that be for North Hardin?
Veteran coach James Webb doesn’t want to put too much pressure on Johnson and Meers, but said it would be a big boost if they can sweep both events.
“In a utopian world, they would go first and second,” he said. “That is a goal of ours. If we can start off well, we’ll just keep rolling.”
Johnson and Meers have definitely been on a roll lately.
They finished one-two in the 110s at the Lincoln Trail Heartland Conference meet and followed that up by sweeping the event at the 3-A, Region 2 Championship last week.
Johnson and Meers are their own best competition – at least in the 110s.
“I feel like this year we’ve really been pushing each other at practice,” Meers said. “At the meets, he wants to beat me and I want to beat him. That alone is what’s pushing us to do better.”
Heading into State, the two are separated by .05 seconds in the 110s and 1.03 seconds in the 300s.
The competition between the two has been like that all season, Webb said, but has always remained friendly.
“This year, we’re more focused on what we’re doing,” Johnson said. “Now that we’ve got more friendly competition between both of us, it just pushes us more because we don’t want to lose to each other.”
There is no animosity between them. It doesn’t matter who does better, as long as it’s one of them at the top.
Webb believes the relationship between Johnson and Meers is a big reason why they’ve done so well this season.
“It’s been a fun ride with these guys,” Webb said. “They both have their ups and downs, and as a coach, I’ve got to know when to push and when to hold back. But they really like to compete against each other. We don’t want to make them enemies toward each other but to push each other. I believe that’s why they’re ranked as high as they are.”
Both Johnson and Meers said getting to compete against each other in practice every day has helped them improve, but getting coached by Webb has been the biggest benefit.
Webb loves the hurdles. It’s probably the one event he takes the most pride in.
Meers said he and Johnson – along with North Hardin’s other hurdlers – have improved so much because Webb is able to pick out the little things they need to shore up.
“He’s the best hurdles coach and one of the best coaches in the state,” Meers said. “He’ll find the little things wrong with our technique and we’ll work on it until we get it better. If you have bad form over one hurdle, it slows you down just a little bit. But when you do that 10 times in a race, you can miss a lot of time.”
Added Johnson: “That’s good for us to have. Coach has helped both of us get better. Every day I get better because of the little things he’s helped us with. I don’t think we’d be as good as we are without him.”
Josh Claywell can be reached at (270) 505-1752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.