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Bardstown takes the class hike from 1A to 2A this season, but the goals never change for the boys’ squad — win region and be in the hunt for a state title.
To make a big splash at state, however, it requires a team that can score points in a variety of ways, with athletes able to pick up big points in multiple events. The Tigers have that look, with a veteran core to lean on.
“Our four seniors are key to our success in region and on the state level,” Bardstown coach Jeremy Dale said. “They kind of cover different realms. That’s where we’re able to pick up points throughout a meet.”
Dallan Goldring is one of those versatile athletes who’s a threat to score in multiple events, grabbing top-five finishes in three events at Saturday’s rugged Clash of the Classes, which features several of the top track squads around the state. Goldring medaled at state in the 300 hurdles last year and just missed doing the same in the 110 hurdles and triple jump.
“Our goal is to win regions and have the best chance at placing as high as we can at state and hopefully becoming state champions,” he said. “But it’s all about how we put in work at practice and get better each meet.”
That’s been the case with another of the Tigers’ anchors, senior Brandon Price, who excels in the middle distances. Price won the 400 at Saturday’s meet and was second in the 1600, but was unable to finish the 800 — he was 4th in Class 1A in the event last year — because of an illness.
Price has a handful of state medals in his career, and said he’s rounding into shape after a knee injury slowed his season start, hopeful he can surpass his previous state performances and help out a larger effort.
“The beginning of the season’s been great; we finally got the basketball players back,” Price said. “It’s very important (for the team to get points from many different events). Most of our points have usually come on the track in the running events, but now we’ve got a solid field (squad) to go with the runners.”
Senior JayQuez Smith anchors a strong group of throwers that includes up-and-coming sophomores Julian Rogers and Luke Cecil, and the Tigers are also able to get points from their latest in a long pole vault legacy with senior Trevor Brecht and middle-schooler Corin Stone.
Junior Gavin Coral has picked up where he left off in his breakout year last season, providing big points in the long jump and high jump, and fellow junior C.J. Hennesy is also strong in the long jump.
The biggest hole right now for the Tigers is in the longer distance events and shorter sprints and relay events, but Dale feels like they’ll get better in those areas as the season progresses. The sprint events are dominated largely by Bardstown basketball players, who are getting a late start at track after the Tigers’ deep run in the hoops postseason.
“We’re still putting pieces in the puzzle, so I don’t know how good we’re going to be yet,” Dale said.
The girls’ side is a story of rebuilding in the wake of the graduation of one of the most successful senior groups in school history, with top-eight finishes at state each of the past three seasons, including a best-ever fifth in 2012.
Gone is Victoria Yocum — who won multiple state championships in her career — now competing for Murray State, as well as her supporting cast in Karis Rogers, Hanna Cecil and Shannon Coleman, who made up a formidable relay team.
“You didn’t find a sprinting squad much better in the state,” Dale said. “It’s real tough to replace when you have that quality of athlete,” in terms of leadership and ability.
The cupboard isn’t completely bare, however.
Hanna Gootee and Halay Shrewsbury make for a solid presence in the high jump, and Anna Villarreal anchors the long jump and triple jump. Caresha Allen leads the sprinters and veteran Mercedes Elder will try to pick up points in the hurdles.
Senior Emily Bowling will be counted on for points after placing fourth in the state in pole vault last year, and she hopes to break the school record set by her sister, Samantha, while also being the next in line to help groom a younger group of Bardstown pole vaulters.
“It’s been a learning experience for four years, and I still am,” she said. “It really does mean a lot to me. I know everybody who’s vaulted for us previously, and they’ve been helping me along the way too.”
Bowling said she’s embracing being a leader for a young team heavily populated by middle-schoolers. Dale jokes that he’s still trying to figure out the names of many of those youngsters, who he hopes will be the next wave of standouts to get the Tigers back in the mix.
“We’re small in numbers, but we’ve got to continue to recruit,” he said. “We’re going to get better. It’s just going to take some time.”