Patriots’ 4×400 relay team ends season as state runner-up
LEXINGTON — The Lincoln County High School boys track and field team ended its state medal drought over the weekend, with a handful of athletes hanging medals around their necks after top eight finishes in the 2019 KHSAA State Track & Field Championships.
The Patriots’ 4×200-meter relay team capped the season with an eighth-place finish Friday to reach the medals podium and the 4×400-meter relay team also took its place on the podium – but not until Saturday.
Juniors Bricen Alcorn, Zack Hazlett, Calvin Randall and Hawk Randall claimed the eighth-place medal in the 4×200-meter relay for Lincoln Friday morning, finishing in 1:33.51 for the Patriots’ first state medal since 2012.
After a near 17-hour delay because of weather, Lincoln senior Dalyn Pope, Hazlett and the Randall twins were able to get back on at the University of Kentucky Outdoor Track and Field Complex for the Class 2A state meet.
It turned out to be an exciting finish for the Patriots in Saturday’s race, which was held prior to the start of the Class 3A championships. Pope, Hazlett and the Randalls had a high pre-race ranking, coming into the race with the fifth best time in the 4×400.
But they wouldn’t finish fifth. The Patriots sprinted to the front of the nine-team field behind Boyle County on the second leg in Heat 2 of the finals (the fast heat) and came away with a state runner-up medal.
Lincoln’s relay team earned the runner-up finish in record-breaking time, covering the distance in 3:28.10 to break a 20-year school record of 3:29.56 set back in 1999 by the team of Maurice Napier, Josh Morgan, Lorenzo Suter and B.J. Gooch.
Napier is the last Lincoln track and field athlete to win a state title, 100-meter dash. Zack Hill, a high jumper, was the last team or individual to claim a runner-up finish prior to Saturday, placing second in 2011.
While Patriot coach Jose Pope knew his team’s talent, he had not predicted a runner-up finish, especially not a record-breaking effort.
“Actually, I did not expect that. We came in fifth ranked so I was probably expecting at least fifth,” he said. “It tripped me out.”
The Patriots turned on the afterburners in the second leg of the 4×400 to blow past the field of teams and go from seventh place to second behind the favored team from Boyle County in Saturday’s final heat. The Rebels, who won the team state title, won the relay in 3:23.89.
Dalyn Pope, the lone Patriot senior who ran the first leg of the 4×400, admitted that he was a little rattled at the start of the race.
“At first when I started taking off, I was kind of worried because I didn’t realize that we were all staggered and that everyone wasn’t going to be running and ending at the same place,” he said. “At first, I thought I was behind everybody. But then when I handed off I realized that we weren’t that far behind. I just forgot.”
“State shakes you up a little bit, doesn’t it? Hazlett interjected.
“It shook me up,” Pope replied.
Although rattled, Pope said he was not intimidated by the field of elite athletes.
“No, I knew we were going to do good. I knew what we had,” he said.
As Pope finished the first leg, Hazlett stood waiting in the exchange zone for his chance to carry the baton.
“I’m the second leg and he passed the baton off to me and I just tried to make up ground,” Hazlett said. “I really didn’t think I could get us to second. I just ran and I caught everybody but Boyle County. We went from seventh (off a staggered start) to second on my leg and I passed it off to Calvin and I was really hoping he could catch that Boyle County guy. But Jackson Cox is an athlete.”
“That daggone Zack Hazlett,” Coach Pope said. “He runs the sweeper leg (second leg) and he just took off.”
Calvin Randall would not catch Cox but he held to the second-place spot.
“When he gave it to me, we were in second but third, fourth and fifth were pretty close. So once he gave it to me I just took off so we could hopefully get a good start,” Calvin said. “If you take off it makes the teams behind you try three times harder and waste more energy to catch you. I tried to get as close as I could to Jackson. I guess you could say I got kind of close, probably not. I just kept us in second, made sure of that.”
Then it was up to Hawk Randall, the anchor leg, to finish strong for the Patriots. And he did.
“Once I got the baton I tried to keep the pace,” said Hawk. “I tried to keep the same distance between me and (Chris) Duffy. That kid’s split is like a 48. I just tried to keep the distance. I tried to keep a good pace until I got to the last 100 meters and I was just going to kill it.”
However, with North Oldham anchor Logan Boone on his heels, Hawk Randall had to alter his game plan.
“That last curve I saw a shadow. North Oldham was on my tail and I had to kick it in a little early,” he said. “Once that 100 meters came, I just gave it an extra kick to get a gap between us.”
The gap Hawk got was just enough to clinch the runner-up finish. North Oldham was just 22-hundredths of a second back in third with a time of 3:28.32. East Jessamine, the team which finished ahead of Lincoln at region, ran fourth in 3:29.18.
While the weather delay required athletes to get up early on a Saturday morning to finish the meet, the Lincoln consensus was that the delay was good for the team.
“The second day was better,” Calvin said. “We were better. We were good to go.”
Hazlett said he welcomed the postponement to Saturday. Fatigue and wet feet due to a flooded tent area after Friday’s storms rolled through had him wanting to call it a day.
“Honestly, my legs were kind of a little tight because of that 4×200,” he said. “We’d been there all day because that is the last event. We ran that morning. The 4×200 is one of the first events. After that race we were all pretty upset because we didn’t really finish how we wanted to finish. Had a little hiccup, but still got eighth place and brought home a medal.”
“At the end of the day, your legs start hurting. I went home and went to bed. Got about nine hours sleep. Got up that morning feeling good. I was feeling like a new record.”
Calvin Randall echoed Hazlett’s sentiment.
“I’m glad we got another day. My nerves were through the roof,” he said. “I got there (Friday) and knew kind of what it was like. The second day I got there and I felt like three times better.”
Their coach agreed about postponement of the meet.
“I think coming back the next morning helped them a lot,” he said. “They were fresh. They were able to get a good night’s rest.”
While some athletes lamented having to travel back to Lexington to resume the meet, Pope said his athletes were anxious for their return to the UK track for the final race.
“I was thinking about getting there at 8:30 and they were like, ‘Man, we’ve got to be here! We’ve got to be here!’ And then they get second and I said, ‘Well, it was worth the drive back, wasn’t it?’ and they said. ‘Absolutely.’”
Hawk Randall ran in three events at state, taking the track for the 100-meter dash as well. Randall finished out of contention for a medal, finishing in 11.56 seconds.
Saturday morning’s final Class 2A race marked the end of the 2019 track and field season. And, while Dalyn Pope has run his final high school track race, Hazlett, the Randalls and Alcorn are already looking ahead to next season.
“It’s a big accomplishment,” Hazlett said of the 4×400 relay team’s runner-up finish. “But we want to be more contributive next year. We want to win a state title, in more than one event.”
And how do they propose to do that?
“We’re looking at recruiting athletes,” said Calvin Randall.
A lack of numbers seems to be the biggest problem the Patriot team faces each year.
“Our main problem is we don’t have no field event people,” said Hazlett. “Us three right here, me, Hawk and Calvin, we’re maxed out on the sprint relays. He (Hawk) might do the individual 100 and we do the 200 or something. Nobody’s scoring in shot. Nobody’s scoring in that stuff (field). We need a couple more athletes to come out for hurdles, high jump, field events. If we can score in those events, we can compete for region titles and state titles. But, if it’s just four guys, it’s hard to score enough points for that. We have the athletes, they just don’t want to come out.”
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