By GAVIN LAPAILLE
Gold Standard Sports Editor
The Fort Knox High School track and field program brought a state championship to post for the first time in over two decades, as the Eagles won the KHSAA Class-A boys title Saturday in Lexington at the University of Kentucky’s Shively Track Complex.
Brothers junior Khari Saunders and sophomore Kasaun James won a combined three races as the Eagles finished with 70 points, 15 more than their closest competitor. The Fort Knox girls team was also well represented, scoring 17 points finishing 12th place overall.
“Obviously Kasaun and Khari really brought us a lot of points,” coach Danielle Williams said. “They are super supportive of their other teammates and they set a good tone and mood to work really hard.”
The brothers swept all three individual sprint races, going head-to-head in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. Racing in lanes next to each other, Saunders won his first crown of the day in the 100 with a time of 10.89, edging out James (11.16), who finished third. It would be James who got the best of his brother in the 200, as his time of 22.20 was just ahead of Saunders (22.27).
The loss ended a chance at a third state title for Saunders, who also cruised to the 400 championship with a run of 49.57. James nearly added a long jump championship, finishing second with a leap of 21-02.25.
James said this is the first time he has ever beaten his brother in anything, and both said the other gives them extra motivation on the track.
“We get mad at each other about who is going to win,” James said. “I know we both are going to bring our best.”
Saunders and James also anchored separate relays that finished highly. Saunders teamed with seniors Will May and D’Andre Mitchell and junior George Rodriguez in the 4x200 that finished third with a time of 1:32.45, while James, May, Rodriguez and senior Larry Felder were fourth in the 4x100 with a time of 45.45.
“It was hard today,” Saunders said. “There was a lot of competition out here. A lot of great talent. It was so good racing against all of them.”
It’s the program’s first state title since winning the Class 2-A crown in 1991, and sixth overall, good enough for ninth all-time in state history.
“When you can come out with a win after such an amazing season, it’s great to add to that and be part of the history here,” Danielle said. “And the kids really benefit from that, too, because they see hard work does pay off. We’re really proud of them.”
Another set of siblings were the top finishers for the girls, as Miriam Smith was fourth in the 200 (26.70), and seventh-grader Tatiana Smith was sixth in the two-mile (12:01.97). Junior Kalin Her was sixth in the discus with a throw of 95-07, while freshman Dominique Williams (no relation to coach) finished three places behind Miriam in the 200 (26.97). Sophomore Aaliyah Braham, eighth-grader Kasha Bryant, junior Taya Drummer-Chaney and Dominique rounded out the point scorers for the girls in the 4x100, placing fifth with a time of 52.32.
Tatiana admitted to being nervous heading into her first state meet, but wasn’t intimidated by the older competition.
“They’re just runners,” said Tatiana, who also placed ninth in the mile. “It’s cool to beat high schoolers. It’s like I’m in seventh-grade, and you’re in high school, and I just beat you.”
Senior Adam Kiphuth scored in three events for the boys, coming in sixth in the 400 with a time of 53.04 and running legs on the 4x400 and 4x800 relays that each finished seventh. Kiphuth was joined by seniors Richard Thackrey and Redmond Johnson and sophomore Michael Haddix on the 4x800, and Thackrey, Johnson and senior Tier Blanco in the 4x400.
Other state participants for the boys included Mitchell (11th, 300 hurdles), Thackrey (13th, 800), Rodriguez (15th, 110 hurdles) and freshman Alhec Santiago (15th, triple jump). For the girls, Bryant was 16th in the 100 while the 4x800 (Tatiana, juniors Monica Smith and Emily Kiphuth and sophomore Vannessa Jackson) and 4x400 (Monica, Emily, Jackson and junior Joanna McCray) placed 12th and 10th respectively.
Danielle gave credit to those surrounding the program for their support all season and hopes the future is bright for the Eagles.
“We had a lot of athletes who peaked today,” Danielle said. “It worked out exactly the way we wanted. We are really proud of the boys and the girls.”
Class A State Results
1. Fort Knox, 70 points
7. Fort Knox (Adam Kiphuth, Richard Thackrey, Michael Haddix, Redmond Johnson), 8:41.64
15. George Rodriguez, 18.48
1. Khari Saunders, 10.89
3. Kasaun James, 11.16
3. Fort Knox (Will May, D’Andre Mitchell, George Rodriguez, Khari Saunders), 1:32.45
4. Fort Knox (Will May, Larry Felder, George Rodriguez, Kasaun James), 45.45
1. Khari Saunders, 49.57
6. Adam Kiphuth, 53.04
11. D’Andre Mitchell, 43.55
13. Richard Thackrey, 2:08.46
1. Kasaun James, 22.20
2. Khari Saunders, 22.27
7. Fort Knox (Adam Kiphuth, Richard Thackrey, Tier Blanco, Redmond Johnson), 3:38.08
2. Kasaun James, 21-02.25
15. Alhec Santiago, 38-08.75
12. Fort Knox, 17 points
12. Fort Knox (Monica Smith, Tatiana Smith, Emily Kiphuth, Vannessa Jackson), 10:42.40
16. Kasha Bryant, 13.65
9. Tatiana Smith, 5:36.60
5. Fort Knox (Aaliyah Braham, Kasha Bryant, Dominique Williams, Taya Drummer-Chaney), 52.32
4. Miriam Smith, 26.70
7. Dominique Williams, 26.97
6. Tatiana Smith, 12:01.97
10. Fort Knox (Monica Smith, Emily Kiphuth, Vannessa Jackson, Joanna McCray), 4:23.87
6. Kalin Her, 95-07