Friday, May 27, 2016

Lucas running to state this weekend

Originally published in The Crittenden Press May 19, 2016

CCHS sophomore Aaron Lucas
Somewhere among the hills and hollows surrounding Mattoon there’s a dream lingering.

Last summer, Aaron Lucas chased it at dawn, running three miles from his home as measurered on a smartphone fitness app, then turning around for a return trip. He runs the roads surrounding the rural community in northern Crittenden County, building stamina for long-distance racing.

The Crittenden County sophomore never really thought much about running until high school, he said, after his career as a football player failed to pan out. A friend and teammate, Jacob Russelburg, encouraged the tall, lanky ninth grader to try out for track last spring.

To say it’s all been down hill from there would be inaccurate. Lucas is a raw but talented harrier, just now learning to run. His times in the 1600 and 3200 meters continue to plummet and on Memorial Day weekend he hopes to compete for a state championship in the mile- and two-mile races at Lexington. For good measure, he wants to break Crittenden’s age-old records in those races.

Recently, at the First Region Class A Finals at Murray State, Lucas won the 1600 meters with a time of 4:51.43. That’s not far from James Willoughby’s CCHS school record back in the early 1970s at 4:35.80. In the 3200 meters, Lucas also was regional champion, completing the race in 10:30.23. That isn’t too far off Claude Williams’ school best time of 10:14.30 that’s more than 25 years old.

Lucas won the two-mile regional race for the second time in a row. Last year, he was second in the mile at regionals and earned a state berth in both events as a freshman. As a sophomore, he wants to improve on his times at Lexington where the state finals are held on the UK Campus. He wants to do better than his 17th-place finish in the 3200 and 21st in the 1600 a year ago.

Lucas has trimmed more than a half minute off his two-mile time since last spring. Track coach Angela Starnes says Lucas’s speciality is the two-mile run and she thinks he already shows enough promise to be a collegiate prospect.

The sophomore was the only state qualifier from Crittenden County after last weekend’s regional meet. However, Starnes said the boys’ and girls’ 4x400 relay teams and hurdler Dylan Hicks have chances to earn invitations to the state meet once all of the state’s regional events are complete and at-large berths are handed out.

Starnes said Lucas has potential to indeed set school records and perhaps more. His unrefined skill set amazes opposing runners and their coaches. Starnes said Lucas’s overtly casual approach to competition is refreshing and revealing.

“He is just so laid back,” the longtime track coach said. “Before races he’s always shaking hands with the other runners and striking up conversations.”

For now, Lucas is just having fun, excelling in a sport that he’s far from mastering.

He put in several miles during the offseason to get better, but realizes the peak is much farther down the road.

“I plan on working even harder this summer, waking up early and watching the sun rise on a long run,” he said.

UPDATE: When times tallied Crittenden relay team, hurdler are in 
After all of the regional track and field meets were completed last weekend and the state numbers crunchers took a look at who deserved a berth in the Kentucky High School Athletic Association state track meet at Lexington, Crittenden was given four more tickets in two events.

The state meet is this weekend at Shively Field on the University of Kentucky campus. Already, Crittenden’s Aaron Lucas had earned a nod in the 1600 and 3200 meters by virtue of his First Region Class A championships in both events on May 14. Now, the Rocket 4x400 relay team has qualified based on its regional third-place time of 3:45.74, which is less than 17 seconds from a Crittenden County school record.

The relay squad includes sophomore Jacob Russelburg, freshman Devon Nesbitt, senior Dylan Hicks and junior Will Tolley.

Coach Angela Starnes knew her foursome was among the state’s best and she’s pleased that Kentucky track officials have added them as an at-large invitee to the state meet.

Also, Hicks has qualified for the state finals by virtue of his 300-meter hurdle time of 44.55 during the regional meet almost two weeks ago at Murray. Hicks narrowly missed second place at regionals after clipping the final hurdle. He finished the race .07 second behind the No. 2 runner Chase Cooper of Livingston Central.

“Our region is so fast, I thought we would be in the top 10 once all of the results were in,” coach Starnes said.

The meet will be a tight squeeze for Hicks, who graduates Friday night.