Hurt, Bell are state track champs

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By Mike Forster

While no team came close to winning a title, there were enough standout performances by local athletes at the state meet this past weekend to cause rejoicing.

Liberty?s Kenara Hurt and Staunton River?s James Bell won it all at state. Hurt blistered a 41.26 in the 300 meter dash, while Bell went 14? 4? for top honors in the pole vault. The two gold medals doubled last year?s county haul (Forest?s 4 X 800 relay took first in 2007).

On top of her winning performance in the 300, Hurt also earned a third place in the 55 meter dash. In that race, she lost in a photo finish to the appropriately-named Michelle Speede, of Grafton, with both athletes crossing the finish at 7.37 seconds.

Hurt?s 16 points (10 for the win, 6 for the show) was greater than all but 14 other schools in the state. The 16 points represented Liberty?s point total on the girls? side.

Liberty?s college of coaches was thrilled for the junior. ?We were just trying not to mess her up,? said Coach Ben Wiese. ?We kept her on her regular workout and it paid off.? Wiese is joined by Sherry Elliott, Shawn Webb and Joe Kuster on the Liberty staff.

Now that basketball season is over, greater opportunities beckon Hurt in the world of outdoor track. ?We can?t wait to have her for a whole season,? said Wiese. ?Athletes like her don?t come along too often.?

Staunton River Head Coach Joe Curcio was calmly pleased over Bell?s win. ?It?s no surprise,? said Curcio. ?He was the best AA vaulter all season. He?s real competitive and works hard.?

It should be noted that Bell was just coming out of basketball season when the track and field post-season began. ?That?s not ideal,? noted Curcio. ?But he?s talented enough to adjust.?

Bell has reportedly drawn the attention of a number of Division 3 schools across the state.

Bell?s performance was a marked improvement over last year, which was pretty darned good in itself. In 2007, Bell went 13? to take fourth at state. This year, as a senior, he easily was the cream of the competition, as he topped arch-rival Andrew Epperson, of Brookville, who topped out at 13? 9?.

Epperson, a junior, should keep his eye on his rear view mirror. There, he?ll see Forest?s Josh Drablos. The Cav sophomore went 12? 6? to take seventh in the state. Another one to watch for is Cav freshman Nathan Booth, who has shown a ton of potential.

Drablos doesn?t look like your typical pole vaulter. However, he seems to get the job done because he has ?a great will to make it happen and a natural technique,? according to Cav Head Coach Robert Butler.

Butler was also pleased with the performance of his 4 X 400 relay team. The crew, consisting of Megan McDaniel, Emilee McDaniel, Cameron DeWitt and Kelsey Shelton, earned third place. Their time of 14.13.82 was less than 1.5 seconds off the wining mark (Courtland High).

The team, which broke its own school record, exceeded expectations at State. ?You beat a record by four seconds, you?re doing something,? said Coach Butler. ?It was a super job.?

Liberty?s Ryne Bollinger hit a mark, as the senior finished fifth in the 500 meter dash. His time of 1:07.12 earned him a medal, as well as a trip to the Nike National Meet, set for March 15 in Landover, MD.

?Ryne?s hard work paid off for him,? said Coach Wiese. ?The last three years, he?s given his all. It finally came together for him.?

Finally, senior Sarah Witt earned medals in two events for Staunton River. Witt?s 8? 6? effort in the pole vault earned her eighth place in the state. In her main event, the hurdles, she settled for eighth place after she had run ?the best race of her life in the preliminaries,? according to Curcio.

However, in the finals, Witt hit three hurdles, which hindered her somewhat. In addition to the medal, Witt also earned a nice bruise on her knee. ?She?s disappointed, but I?m excited for her,? said her coach.