NKY distance runners in a class of their own at Class 3A state track and field meet

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The supremacy from Northern Kentucky in distance running carried over from cross country in the fall to the track on Saturday at the KHSAA Class 3A state track-and-field meet at the University of Kentucky’s Outdoor Track and Field Complex.

Coming into the boys 3,200 meter race, five of the top six seeded runners were from NKY. When the race ended, all five were standing at the podium to receive their medals in the top six spots led by the champion from Covington Catholic, Will Sheets.

Sheets finished in a time of 9:16.81, beating out the Conner duo of Joey Carroll (9:25.73) and George Johnson (9:30.57), for second and third, respectively. Behind them was Ryle’s Tiger Bartlett in fourth (9:31.20) and Cooper’s Paul Van Laningham in sixth (9:37.50).

“Enemies before and friends after. Us and Conner run together sometimes. Some of the kids at Conner are some of the best kids I’ve ever met. The kid from Cooper, Van Laningham, is a freshman and it’s awesome to see him up there. Love to see us all up there,” Sheets said.

They shared some gummy bears after the race.

“After a race, the 20-minute metabolic window. Love putting gummy bears back in,” Sheets said. “I love the red’s.”

That wasn’t the only distance race where NKY stood out. Covington Catholic’s 4×800 relay team took home first place (7:52.14) by a whopping eight seconds over Conner (8:00.52). Coming into the race, Cooper was the top seed, Conner the second seed.

The Covington Catholic 4×800 relay team finished first at the KHSAA Class 3A state track and field meet. Evan Dennison | LINK nky

“I told these guys Jaguars and Cougars they taste like chicken so let’s just eat ’em up,” Drees said.

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The 4×800 is the first event of the day. It took a while for another NKY state champion to be crowned, but Ryle’s Viktoriya Emelianova ended the wait with a top finish in the shot put (42-10.5). Emelianova also placed second in the discus (124-10) for the top Ryle girls point producer on the day.

Tiger Bartlett and Kaden Gardner also got to the podium multiple times for the Raiders, Bartlett finishing runner-up in the 1,600 (4:15.47) on top of his 3,200 finish. Gardner set a school record in the 300-meter hurdles (39.16) and placed fifth in the high jump (6-04), clearing his region qualifying height by four inches.

“Some really good competition pushing me today. Hit a 39 today in the hurdles and set a school record. Didn’t really like my jumps today, thought I could have done a little better, thought I could have finished top three, but fifth place I’m good with it,” Gardner said.

Gardner is headed to Thomas More in the fall to play football and also compete in track and field.

Conner’s Isabella Vonlehman racked up in the sprints, placing fifth in the 100-meter dash (12.36), fifth in the 400 (57.54) and fourth in the 200 (25.16) while also helping anchor the eighth place Cougars 4×400 team (4:08.05).

“This was my first year ever running the 400, just my third time this season. Last year I got fifth at the 200 and fourth this year so while I wanted to win first place, I still improved,” Vonlehman said.

She was joined on the podium by her future summer running club teammate in Cooper’s Simone Bessong. Bessong won the second heats in both the 200 (25.21) and 400 (58.20) to jump people in the fast heat and finish fifth and eighth, respectively. Bessong had dealt with an injury for the majority of the season, but came into the state meet with confidence.

“I was kind of testing the waters, even at region. It was a great motivator because I saw I could do it at regionals and just gave it my all today because it was the last race of the season,” Bessong said.

Notre Dame’s Ellie Greenwell took up track this year to get ready for college soccer next year and has zero regrets in doing so. She reached the podium twice, placing third in the 800 meters (2:11.92) and fourth in the 1,600 (4:56.71), setting a PR in both.

“I’ve loved running and always have loved running, but I’ve always focused on soccer first. At the end, track keeps me in shape and I decided to go out for it and I’ve loved it,” Greenwell said. “I’m so happy I did this, all the girls on the team really helped me, they’re so supportive.”

Greenwell is headed to Ohio University in the fall to continue her soccer career after leading the Pandas in scoring this past season.

Others to reach multiple podiums were Campbell County’s Olivia Holbrook in the 1,600 (5:12.34) placing eighth and 800 (2:12.23), finishing fourth.

Notre Dame’s Ella Goetz medaled in the throws, finishing sixth in the shot put (37-6) and seventh in the discus (111-6).

Others to place in the top three were Ryle’s Evan Smith in the 800 (1:55.37) in second. He was followed up by Dixie Heights’ Armando Montes in third in the 800 (1:56.60).

“This is just the second time I’ve been able to race against Armando this season, regionals and here. We both came in fresh going into this so it was nice,” Smith said.

Dixie Heights freshman Aubrey Elkins placed third in the long jump (17-7.25).

Ryle was the top area boys finisher in seventh with 31 points. Conner tied for eighth with 27 points, Covington Catholic in 11th with 22 points. Ryle’s girls finished 12th with 19 points, Notre Dame tied for 14th with 16 points and Conner tied for 16th with 14 points.

St. Xavier won the boys team title with 83.5 points, DuPont Manual the girls team title with 88.5 points.

Podium finishes:


4×800 relay – Covington Catholic (Mitchell Drees, Will Sheets, Luke Meagher, Joe Mayer), 1st place (7:52.14)

4×800 relay – Conner (Nathan Hopper, George Johnson, Drew Moore, Joey Carroll), 2nd place (8:00.52)

4×800 relay – Cooper (Preston Winiger, Austin Liversgowdy, Salah Farah, Noah Miller), 6th place (8:11.07)

1,600 meters – Tiger Bartlett, Ryle, 2nd place (4:15.47)

400 meters – Tate Glass, Campbell County, 8th place (50.35)

300-meter hurdles – Kaden Gardner, Ryle, 3rd place (39.16)

800 meters – Evan Smith, Ryle, 2nd place (1:55.37)

800 meters – Armando Montes, Dixie Heights, 3rd place (1:56.60)

200 meters – Ethan Long, Covington Catholic, 7th place (21.92)

3,200 meters – Will Sheets, Covington Catholic, 1st place (9:16.81)

3,200 meters – Joey Carroll, Conner, 2nd place (9:25.73)

3,200 meters – George Johnson, Conner, 3rd place (9:30.57)

3,200 meters – Tiger Bartlett, Ryle, 4th place (9:31.20)

3,200 meters – Paul VanLingham, Cooper, 6th place (9:37.50)

4×400 relay – Cooper (Preston Winiger, Austin Liversgowdy, Alex Prevatte, Elijah Harrison), 6th place (3:26.81)

Discus – Grant Reece, Conner, 4th place (154-9)

High jump – Kaden Gardner, Ryle, 5th place (6-4)

Pole vault – Deion Keller, Campbell County, 7th place (13-0)


100-meter dash – Isabella Vonlehman, Conner, 5th place (12.36)

100-meter dash – Alexis Howard, Simon Kenton, 8th place (12.60)

1,600 meters – Ellie Greenwell, Notre Dame, 4th place (4:56.71)

1,600 meters – Olivia Holbrook, Campbell County, 8th place (5:12.34)

400 meters – Isabella Vonlehman, Conner, 5th place (57.54)

400 meters – Simone Bessong, Cooper, 8th place (58.20)

800 meters – Ellie Greenwell, Notre Dame, 3rd place (2:11.92)

800 meters – Olivia Holbrook Campbell County, 4th place (2:12.23)

200 meters – Isabella Vonlehman, Conner, 4th place (25.16)

200 meters – Simone Bessong, Cooper, 5th place (25.21)

3,200 meters – Allison Kosper, Ryle, 8th place (11:35.03)

4×400 relay – Dixie Heights (Harper Allen, Alayna Hacker, Veronica Orr, Abigail Kopp), 4th place (4:06.63)

4×400 relay – Conner (Lillian Mullins, Chanler Bhoolai, Avery Vanlandingham, Isabella Vonlehman), 8th place (4:08.05)

Shot put – Viktoriya Emelianova, Ryle, 1st place (42-10.5)

Shot put – Ella Goetz, Notre Dame, 6th place (37-6)

Discus – Viktoriya Emelianova, Ryle, 2nd place (124-10)

Discus – Ella Goetz, Notre Dame, 7th place (111-6)

Long jump – Aubrey Elkins, Dixie Heights, 3rd place (17-7.25)

High jump – Caroline Hooper, Dixie Heights, t-8th place (5-0)

Pole vault – Abigale Bauer, Campbell County, 8th place (9-6)

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