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FKHS ‘gold standard’ of Class 1-A, Region 3, Lady Eagles, Eagles win title

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Just call Fort Knox the ‘gold standard’ of Class 1-A, Region 3.

Fort Knox swept the team titles Friday night at Green County, running away with the boys’ championship and coming from behind in the final few events to win the girls’ top honor.

It was a rainy and cold night, not exactly normal for mid-May, but that didn’t hamper the Eagles and Lady Eagles. The boys finished with 171 points to beat Louisville Holy Cross by 40, while the girls edged the host Lady Dragons, 110-91.

“That’s about as big as it gets,” Fort Knox coach James Bleecker said. “We came out here and they surpassed all my expectations above and beyond. I was confident the boys were going to do well; I was not as confident the girls were going to do as well as they did. To have the boys and girls win regions, I couldn’t ask for more. It’s a coaches’ dream. Both teams winning, it doesn’t get any better.

“I think tonight really proved that if we just push it one more notch, we can go all the way.”

Sophomore Alexandra Lawson was the catalyst for the Lady Eagles, winning all four of her events.

Lawson swept the 100- and 200-meter dashes and the 100 and 300 hurdles, accounting for 40 of her team’s points. In the 100-meter dash Lawson’s time was 16.06. She also broke the school record in the 100-meter dash and 300-meter hurdles.

“I feel really good,” Lawson said. “I’ve been practicing harder now that it’s closer to regions. I want to go to State and I want to win State and get rings and stuff. It feels really good to come out and be able to win all of my events.

“Coming in, I felt really nervous. I didn’t know how I was going to do because of the weather. It was really nice besides the rain, but I feel better now that it’s over with.”

The 300 hurdles was the toughest event of the night for Lawson, who struggled while clearing the final two hurdles.

She nearly slowed to a walk after the last one, clearly exhausted.

“I took off a little bit more than a stride, and I saw (Louisville Shawnee senior Ta’Neshya Allen) coming into the curve, so I decided to pick it up,” Lawson said. “By the time I got to the final two hurdles, I was dead.”

The Lady Eagles also won the 1,600-meter relay, while junior Fabienne Rienl, sophomore Kaitlyn Cornes and their 800 relay squad all qualified for State. The top two finishers in each event automatically move on to State, plus the next 10 at-large bids from across the state.

Rienl was second in the 400-meter dash, while Cornes finished runner-up in the high jump. Rienl, sophomores Abby Donahue and Taylor Nordman and eighth-grader Madelyn Wible were second in the 800-meter relay.

“It’s been really fun,” Donahue said of the season. “The team, we’ve had really good camaraderie. Last year was fun, but this year the bond between the girls is pretty good.

“We had to visualize success. Visualizing success always helps and we had to be confident but yet humble.”

In the pole vault 11th-grader Delano Amaya qualified for State by clearing a height of 5-06.

Bleecker said he was “very surprised” the Lady Eagles won the region. They trailed Green County for most of the night, but turned the tide near the end of the meet.

“I knew they were going to compete and hang, but I didn’t think they were going to win,” Bleecker said. “I’m really surprised.”

Meanwhile, the Eagles were the cream of the crop in winning their first region crown in the last 13 seasons.

In the mixed unified 2x50-meter relay freshman James Daniel and eighth- grader Joshua Daniel qualified for State by finishing first with a time of 18.76 seconds. In the mixed unified 2x200-meter relay James and 11th-grader Joseph Daniel qualified for State by finishing first with a time of 1 minute, 8 minutes, 40 seconds.

Senior Matthew Rivera battled through a back injury to win all of three of his events, placing first in both hurdles and the high jump.

“I’m blessed, really,” said Rivera, who missed a total of five weeks because of the injury. “We’ve all put in the work. It’s really rewarding and I’m glad it paid off. I’m just really thankful. I was out for a majority of the season, but I got enough meets in to gain my confidence so I would be able to execute at regions.”

Junior Geoffrey Gradney won the 200 with a time of 23.37, senior Alhec Santiago won the long and triple jumps and Fort Knox won three of the four relays. Senior Craig Perches also qualified for State by finishing second in the 200-meter dash with a time of 23.62

Gradney, Perches, Santiago and junior Joshua DeRivas won the 400 and 800 relays, while seniors Christian Acevedo, Juan Acevedo and Kamoni Green and sophomore Cole Wilson were tops in the 1,600 event.

Perches was also second in the 100 and 200, junior Alex Eklund placed second in the 110 hurdles, senior Zach Loiselle was runner-up in the high jump, Christian Acevedo took third in the 400 and sophomore Orlando Rojas was third in the 3,200 run. Juniors Maleeq Walters and Christian Castro were 3-4 in the shot put, and junior Myles Gore placed third in the discus.

“It means a lot,” DeRivas said of winning region. “We’re not the underdogs anymore. We’re at the top of the list.”

Perches said the Eagles were determined to do well after finishing second to North Hardin in the Lincoln Trail Heartland Conference meet.

“We didn’t do so well at conference,” he said. “It didn’t stumble us, but it made us have to rethink ourselves and humble ourselves. It made us have a new perspective on things.”

Winning region, Santiago said, is just the first step toward Fort Knox’s ultimate goal: becoming state champions.

The Eagles won it all in 2015 and are primed for another shot Saturday at the University of Kentucky.

“Region is that first step before State, so this is the mental preparation we need in order to tell ourselves this is it, this our last meet before we’re at the top,” Santiago said. “Winning this is just amazing. I can’t ask for a better team.”

As both teams celebrated the wins, Bleecker stood among his athletes, relishing the moment.

Pictures were snapped and hugs exchanged, but the Eagles and Lady
Eagles aren’t done.

“I couldn’t be more proud,” Bleecker said. “They rise to the occasion. Whenever they have a challenge, they don’t get scared, they don’t cower. They just push, push, push, and I’m excited to see what they can do at State when they get even more competition. Tonight was tough. It probably didn’t look like it, but it was. I’m proud of them.”

Editors’ note: Chantal Daniel contributed to this article. n