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TRACK: Eight Bearcats qualify for state meet

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Seventh-grader Buser makes huge push in home stretch

By John Herndon

LEXINGTON – Eight might be enough for some people, but not for Anderson County track.

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Last Thursday, at Lafayette High School, eight Bearcats qualified for seven events this week's Class AAA state meet meet, to be held Saturday at the University of Louisville. It is the highest number of Anderson entries in recent years, but Anderson coach Robert Meacham sees his team's showing as a preview of what could be some stellar track years on the horizon.

All of Anderson's individual qualifiers are underclassmen, with junior Tyson Yett listed as one of the favorites in both the high jump and triple jump.

Yett, who had just won the Central Kentucky Conference triple jump the week before, left little doubt that he would be going to Louisville for the finals when he unleashed a jump of just over 43 feet on his first attempt. Meacham orginally thought Yett had passed the automatic qualifying standard but, in reality, he was just short.

While Yett was not in the two automatic qualifiers, his third place finish, behind Bryan Station's Corey Williams and Dunbar's Emery Thompson, was more than enough to stamp a ticket to Louisville. Yett is ranked FIFTH among the 32 competitors who will be at the University of Louisville on Saturday. Then Yett went to the high jump, where is 6-2 finish was good for second place, again four inches behind Williams, and an automatic berth at the state.

“I think Tyson has a great chance to medal in both,” Meacham said. “His best chance is in the triple jump. He has shown by hitting the 43-foot mark that he is a top-tier, next-level triple jumper.”

Both events are set begin at 4:30 on Saturday at the University of Louisville's Owsley Frazier Cardinal Park. Meachan says that will not be a problem.  “He will be helped by the fact that most of the guys that are high jumping are also triple jumping,” Meacham said. “There will be a little group of them jogging back and forth.”

Buser, Anderson's only other automatic qualifier, literally blew by her competition in the regional 1600-meter race. Running in a group of runners trailing Lafayette's Miranda Mullins and alongside Woodford County's Kylie Mink for much of the race, Buser shifted into a rocket gear coming off the final turn and raced past Mink for second place. Buser's 5:29.09 time was nearly nine seconds better than her personal best and .84 better than Mink. Buser was more than two seconds behind Mullins, a senior.

“Elle was not a surprise in the sense that I knew she would run a competitive race,” Meacham said, “but she went way past my expectations. The race was so gritty, as if she had run 100 races before. It was poetry.

“When she kicked in and started pushing her pace in the final 300 meters, I was worried that she might have gone out too soon. I really like her to kick the final 150. The young lady from Woodford County passed her on the turn at the spot where I thought (Buser) needed to be making her move. But then I was elated to see her find another gear in the final 70 meters and blow through to second place.

“This young lady is special.”

The other six Bearcats who will trek to Louisville on Saturday had to wait until all of the other regional meets had finished, but it was worth the wait.

The other six Bearcats learned that they had also advanced as at-large entries, made up of the 10 best other performances in all regions.

Yett will be joined in the high jump by classmate Ross Cox, while pole vaulter Paul Leskiv advanced in his first year of competition. Casey Moninger qualified in the boys' 400-meter dash and is a member of Anderson's 4x200-meter relay team, which also qualified. Other members of the relay team include Patrick Burns, Ryan McGregor and T.J. Lewis.

“Ross scrapped by with a decent performance (5-8 in the high jump) on an injured foot,” Meacham said. “He was helped by the other regions underperforming.”

Leskiv is one of six vaulters from around the state who qualified at 10-06. All season, Meacham has been extolling Leskiv's potential. A state berth in his first year of vaulting backs the coach up.

“I refus to be surprised by Paul anymore,” Meacham said. “His attitude is that of a man playing with house money.”

Moninger, who has been impressive in the 400-meters all year, placed fifth at 52.36, but made the at-large cut with plenty to spare. “No surprise there,” Meacham said. “He has been in the top tier of that race all year. He didn't run his best race (at the regional), but did what was necessary to keep his season going.”

Anderson's big surprise came in the 4x200-meter relay where the 1:35.60 time was only good enough for sixth place in the region but made the at-large cut statewide. Anderson is seeded 23rd out of 24 teams to make the state. “I just didn't think 1:35 was going to be good enough, but it was a great time for us,” Meacham said. “I changed the team right before the meet to give a senior, Ryan McGregor, a shot at resetting the school record.”

The school record still stands as the team missed by .12, but the elusive state berth is there. “It worked in conjunction with a few teams that fell off the table with disqualifications,” Meacham noted, but it happens every year. Sometimes the best teams crack under pressure and miss their handoffs. We didn't. Our handoffs were great and Ryan is making his final run in his first appearance at the state.”

Several Anderson performers were just shy of the state as well. Ethan Woodrow's 54.85 in the 400-meters was just short while Nathan McGregor's fourth-place finish in the discus throw was also just shy. Anderson got strong performances from the girls' 4x100-meter relay team and the boys' 4x400 relay while Connor Stockton and Ty Gilkison just missed in the shot put and pole vault, respectively.

“These kind of performances are exactly why I am excited for the next few years. We have some powerful runners and jumpers returning,” Meacham said before quipping, “The best is Yett to come.”

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