By Eric Pilgrim | Fort Knox NewsMay 13, 2019
Continuing a dynasty, the Fort Knox Eagles boys' track team seized their third consecutive Class A, Region 2 championship at Green County May 11, earning a nail biter victory against Owensboro Catholic.
The one-point difference between the two squads came down to a battle on the 4x400 relay -- a race that started out with the Aces commanding a solid lead until Eagles' runner Liam Kaune took the baton from Alton Pendergrass.
By the time Kaune got around the 100-meter track, he had closed the gap, setting anchor Jatarrius Battle up for the dramatic win. The four-point victory gave the Eagles 125 overall points, overtaking the Aces by a single point.
The 4x400 win followed on the heels of a solid 4x400 victory by the girls' squad.
"That was amazing! I'm really, really proud of them for that one," said Eagles Coach Terry Turner, after the win. "As a 400 runner, and as a 400-specific coach, that right there for both boys and girls was absolutely amazing. The way they kicked it in the end, that's what we look for."
Dramatic events surfaced throughout the meet. Earlier, the boys' 4x200 team had been disqualified for a bad exchange.
Turner has been with the team four years; two as a volunteer and two as the head coach. The Eagles have racked up impressive numbers under his leadership, including state titles. This year is playing out as another possible big year for them.
"In the beginning of the year, it was a little rough," said Turner. "We had a lot of rough patches, a lot of things we needed to build together but as the season has gone along, they have really started to find their stride; started to pick each other up."
Turner said they have called this year the season of backpacking.
"Any time somebody is down, somebody else picks it up and carries that load for them," said Turner. "As they move forward, I'm started to see them push each other."
He listed the 400-meter dash as an example. Both Eagles speedsters -- Kaune and Alton Pendergrass -- ran neck and neck throughout the race, finishing 1-2 respectively. Kaune crossed the finish at 52.71 and Pendergrass, at 53.38.
"This is basically their first year running," said Turner. "To see those two push each other at the end like they push each other at practice was absolutely amazing for me as a coach."
Other notables in the boys' performances came from the 4x100 team of Malik Blunt, Xavier Rodriguez, Sidney Gradney and T.J. Pittman, who beat the Aces in dramatic fashion by .43 of a second. Rodriguez captured victory in the 110 hurdles with a 17.27 finish. Pittman earned a long-jump win at 20'-7 1/2", and Jerome Jones and Sidney Gradney garnered 1st and 2nd place finishes in the triple jump. And brothers Josh and James Daniels seized first in the 2x200. The two are ranked first and second in Kentucky going into the State Unified tournament. The Kentucky High School Athletic Association has partnered with Special Olympics to provide Unified Sports as a way to promote inclusion in sports.
"They push each other, which is cool for us because that's extra motivation for our team," said Turner. "I'm glad that we have that program becuaese it shows that we're trying to incorporate everything.
"Everybody has a place on this team."
On the girls' side, Fort Knox finished third behind Owensboro Catholic and Hancock County.
The 4x200 team of Taylor Nordman, Eviana Leggette, Sage Tudryn and Taylor Long grabbed first place with a 1:49.78 finish. In the 4x400, Dylan Ammons, Cora Hahn, Tudryn and Nordman shaved off 10 seconds from their seeded time with a commanding win at 4:30.25.
The Eagles earned second-place finishes in several other boys' and girls' races. The first and second finishers in each race qualify for State, scheduled for next month at the University of Kentucky.
Turner said his boys' and girls' teams are young this year; many of his power runners graduated last year. Though the team has taken some time to gel, he said he is excited about his chances going into State.
"I think when we go into State, we still have our challenges, we have our ups and downs," Turner said. "But the 4x1, we're right up there with the top runners. The 800 now, we're going to be right up there with the top runners. The 4x4, we should be right up there with the top runners. And the boys and girls in the 4x2 are really good. We have a lot of talent."
Turner said it can be tough being a small school in the midst such large powerhouse schools like North Hardin, John Hardin and Central Hardin.
"We have to prove ourselves each and every time," said Turner. "I think this team does a really good job of doing that."