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Tilghman's Grant easily wins three events at 2A region

By James D. Horne jhorne@paducahsun.com

Aleja Grant keeps it simple and it's one reason she continues to dominate in the long distance runs.

The Paducah Tilghman junior continued her reign as the top 800, 1,600 and 3,200-meter runner in western Kentucky by winning those events for a fourth straight time at the First Region, Class 2A Track meet Saturday at McRight Field.

"My mom said that I just need to come out here and try to win for my team," said Grant, who also won the 1,600 and 3,200 as a seventh-grader in 2010. "I just needed to be ready. Now, I'm focused on the state meet, because I know (Collins High's) Gabriella Karas is coming. She's the best in the state and I know she'll be my top competition at state."

Grant blistered her competition by winning the 800 in 2:23.73, more than 22 seconds faster than her closest competitor, winning the 1,600 in 5:15.87, or 44 seconds faster than the second-place runner, and the 3,200 in 11:58.94, which was 41 seconds faster than the runner-up.

But believe it or not, Grant says she doesn't notice how much she's beating her opponents. Saturday saw her lap runners in both the 1,600 and 3,200.

"All I'm thinking about is finishing the race," Grant said. "I just do what I have to do, keep my pace and know if you finish the race, you've got it."

Grant's mindset is one Lady Tornado track coach Heather Hamilton has come to know and respect.

"She does what she does," Hamilton said. "We rely on Aleja a lot to score points for the team every year. This is her fourth year in a row where she's scored 30 points and really that's all you can ask for from a distance runner. I wish she could score 40."

While Grant enjoyed much success, the boys and girls teams from Paducah Tilghman also had something to cheer as both finished as the region runner-up and clinched a spot at the state meet that will be held in Lexington on Friday.

The Blue Tornado were topped by Fort Campbell 157-150 to take second place.

"Going into this meet I kind of figured that it was a good chance we'd come in second after looking at the performance list," Tilghman boys coach Randy Wyatt said. "Mind you, I did some things that I probably wouldn't do under a regular meet, because my focus is getting ready for state. It really doesn't matter if you win region, because when you get to state, it's the best vs. the best and things break down different. So I'm just game planning for the state meet."

The Lady Blue Tornado also lost to Fort Campbell with the Lady Falcons winning 171-132.

"I actually think we'll do better at the state meet," Hamilton said. "Some of the events Fort Campbell scored really well in, they are not going to do as well in at state. I'm pretty solid in top performances in some key races, because Arius Brown should win both of her events (the 100-meter hurdles and the 300-meter hurdles) and Aleja can score anywhere from 20 to 30 points. I just need to get my relays to squeeze in and maybe a jumper and we're in there."

Other multiple individual event winners were Calloway County's Lily Lowe (long jump, 200 and high jump), Brown (100 hurdles and 300 hurdles), Tilghman's Lenny Grace (110 hurdles and 300 hurdles) and Trigg County's Jayven Jones (long jump and triple jump).

"It was exciting to win the high jump because it's harder to get the height," Lowe said. "It's the one I do the most practice in because it is the hardest. Long jump is a little easier, but it's still very exciting. The 200 is my favorite because I've been working really hard to get my time down."

Call James D. Horne, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8661 or follow on Twitter @psunsports.

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