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By Boyd Hayes | @KernelHayes
It’s not every day that you see a collegiate outdoor track and field competition at UK. In fact, it hasn’t been any day for the past 17 years.
Collegiate, high school and unattached runners, throwers and jumpers were out bright and early at the UK Outdoor Track and Field Facility on Saturday for the Heart of the Bluegrass Classic, the first collegiate meet at UK since the 1996 SEC Championships.
When all was said and done, the Cats had won 28 of the 29 events they competed in.
With collegiate and high school athletes competing on the same track, UK head coach Edrick Floreal wanted many UK track and field alumni to be in attendance to create a confluence of past, present and future at the meet.
“Today was moreso about putting on a good show, bringing track back at UK,” Floreal said. “Making sure people know that we do care about track, about performing well, about the fans, about the alum, so that hopefully we can enlist their support for the future, so we can build and develop as a team.”
In letting the fans and alumni know his appreciation, Floreal wanted to thank his seniors, and thus the meet also served as a senior day, a rarity in college track.
“My thing is, if a student athlete is going to choose to come to UK — they got other places they can go, too. It’s not like they’re forced to come here. They could go somewhere else. They’re great athletes,” Floreal said. “If they’re going to come here, the least we can do is when that time comes to an end, to give them a meaningful thank you. You know, to really highlight what they’ve done, and that was my goal.”
Katy Achtien, Kevin Bonfield, Keith Hayes, Shelby Kennard, Ben Mason, Shiara Robinson, Danielle Sampley, Luis Orta and Megan Wright were honored in a ceremony that took place prior to the final relays.
Though Floreal encouraged his seniors to have a relaxing meet and participate in one event, several of the seniors were in the mood for more.
“I told the seniors that I just wanted them to do one event so they could be part of the action, but they all refused,” Floreal said. “They wanted to do multiple events because this was their first time ever competing at home. We let them run and they went out there and enjoyed it.”
Hayes, for one, ran in four events, winning each.
“We should be proud to put this uniform on at the end of the week. We do all the work during the week. I want to wear the uniform as much as I need to,” Hayes said. “I just want to run, just to be out there, because all the people, they don’t see what we do on a day-to-day basis.
“They see results here, results there, but (today) we actually got to put on a performance.”
Parts of that performance were two school records set by senior Cally Macumber (not yet graduating) and sophomore Michelle Canterna. Macumber won the women’s 1-mile with a time of 4:37.75, blasting through the previous outdoor record at UK, while Canterna cleared the pole vault at a height of 3.87 meters (12’08.25”).
Between collegiate events, the high school competitions showcased talents such as Franklin County senior Ryan Timmons (a UK football recruit) and Western Hills senior Alisha Adair (Kentucky’s 2012 Miss Track).
Adair won the girl’s 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes, while Timmons placed third in the boy’s 100-meter with a time of 11.07. Bryan Station sophomore Bolaji Ogbulu won the boy’s 100- and 200-meter dashes.
Floreal says he had a grander scheme in mind when he invited the high schools to the meet.
“With the high school, I’m a little sneaky,” Floreal said. “I’m hoping that I can get the high school state meet back here. That’s one of my goals, because I think the meet belongs here at UK.”
Though the Cats won’t host an official meet in the new facility until next season, this event was a chance for Floreal and his team to highlight the new facility and see how well a meet there can go.
“It’s useful to know what our mistakes are going to be, because we’re hosting (the SEC Championships) next year, and we don’t want to screw that meet up,” Floreal said. “It’s important that we put on a good show and know what our mistakes are. We have 12 months now to fix those mistakes.”
Mistakes or not, college athletes and high school athletes, alumni, and the crowd in the stands enjoyed the chance to be involved in the first outdoor track meet at UK since Bill Clinton was president of the United States.