The 2021 KHSAA State Track and Field Class 3A Championships are set for Saturday at the University of Kentucky’s Outdoor Track and Field Complex, and McCracken County High School will be well represented in Lexington.
“We’re taking 12 boys and one girl, and we’re really excited,” MCHS boys track and field head coach Steven Spadafino told The Sun on Tuesday.
Senior Donsten Brown, a University of Kentucky signee, highlights the McCracken contingent as the No. 1 seed in the high jump with a mark of 6-8 — 2 inches higher than the No. 2 seed — at regionals.
“Donsten Brown has really been performing well this year. He is on track to achieve one of his high school goals, which is to win a state title. He has the No. 1 seed in the high jump, so it’s looking like he’ll have a good run at it,” Spadafino said. “Some of the competition across the state has had some good marks at regionals, so some of them are jumping a little closer to his ability now. He’s hoping that’ll push him to hit some of his higher heights.”
The state record in the event is 6-11.25, which was set in 1997 by Louisville Trinity’s Matt Reecer. Brown has his sights set on beating that mark and coming away with a state title in the process.
“He has that goal in his head of hitting 7 feet, and that would be awesome to do that at state. And it would be a state record too, so that would be the icing on the cake,” Spadafino said. “That would be the pinnacle for going out on top.”
Brown is also competing in the 300 meter hurdles and is the No. 6 seed in that event with a qualifying time of 39.71 seconds. Top-seeded Mario Paul, of Paul Dunbar, posted a time of 37.44, which is a mark Spadafino believes Brown can approach.
“Donsten has a good mark in the 300 hurdles, and he’s looking forward to getting pushed in that event,” he said. “He and I think he can run a whole second faster with some competition next to him that he hasn’t seen during the season.”
Brown is also a member of the Mustangs’ 4x400 meter relay team as its anchor. That group also includes eighth-grader James Barragan, sophomore Jeremiah Grogan and freshman Caleb Joyce.
“We’ve got Donsten anchoring that for us, so if we’re in a good position in our heat on that last leg, we have confidence in him finishing strong,” Spadafino said. “And James Barragan has a ton of potential — adding him to our 4x400 chopped off a good four seconds from our previous best for regionals.”
Grogan and Joyce are also members of the 4x800 meter relay team that qualified for state, showing they have both speed and endurance. That group also includes freshmen Corbin Knight and Thomas Newton.
“We’re pleased that our 4x800 made it because that’s a young team,” Spadafino said. “It’s our fifth year in a row qualifying in that event.”
Joyce is in for a busy day, as he also qualified for state in the pole vault.
“He has the first event of the meet, and then he has to do his pole vault, and then he’s going to finish off with the very last event of the meet. So he’s got a full day,” Spadafino said.
Joyce is the No. 13 seed in the pole vault while junior teammate Seth Hill is the No. 10 seed with a qualifying height of 12-00.
“We’re expecting them to go out there and be confident in their technique and execute the best they can,” Spadafino said. “If they do that, the little extra boost from adrenaline will get them a little bit higher over the bar.”
Spadafino is also looking for big things from junior LeAndre Bolen Jr., who qualified for state in both the shot put and discus throw. Bolen is the No. 4 seed in the discus with a qualifying distance of 154-1, which is well behind the top-seeded mark of 170-8. But it’s not out of the question for him to have a throw approaching that distance, Spadafino said.
“LeAndre had a big throw at the Area 1 Championship — he threw 170 feet in the discus,” he said. “He averages in the 150 range regularly, but if he can bust out another big throw, that’d be great.”
Bolen is the No. 5 seed in the shot put after throwing a personal-best 50- 2 at regionals.
Junior Colton Hayden will be joining Bolen in the discus event after getting what was a surprise at-large state tournament berth as the No. 22 seed in the 24-person field following a sixth-place finish at the regional meet.
“Once the final regional results came in, I told his mom, ‘Colton made it to state.’ And she was like, What? How did that happen?’ Then she got on the phone and called him after football practice, and he was like, ‘Really?’ It was one of those pleasant surprises,” Spadafino said. “He had a good throw (125-07) at regionals. It wasn’t a monstrous throw compared to some of the others in the state, but it was his personal best.”
The Mustangs’ final state qualifier is sophomore Nathan Tracy, who posted a distance of 40-11 in the triple jump to enter as the No. 12 seed.
“He did well in the indoor season, and then he injured his ankle during football, and it’s been a slow recovery since then, but it’s great to see him jumping distances that we were expecting from him last year,” Spadafino said. “I’m hoping this experience will keep on motivating him to keep him coming back.”
The lone Lady Mustang state qualifier is senior Abbie Farmer in the high jump. Spadafino said Farmer, a distance runner, has shown continued improvement in the high jump after picking it up relatively recently.
“She’s shown progress throughout and has jumped her personal best the last three times she’s jumped,” he said.
Looking ahead, Spadafino points to Brown (high jump) and Bolen (discus) as the McCracken athletes most likely to come away with state titles this weekend. But, state titles or not, he’s just looking for his team to do its best.
“We’ve had two and a half weeks off, and it’s rough having state so far away from regionals. But practices are going well. The weather is holding off for us for the most part — we’re getting our workouts in early before any heavy rain or intense heat. They’re looking pretty good, and I’m hoping they’ll be sharp on Saturday,” he said. “If they can peak on Saturday, that’s what we’ve worked for all season long. That’s the end goal all season long is qualifying for state, and when you get to state, hopefully you’re performing at your peak.”