Devils have a lot to BRAG about: Host team wins big at annual meet

Apr. 27—RUSSELL — For Russell senior David Harless, Thursday's BRAG track and field meet was an opportunity to test out his championship-caliber throwing power.

"I had an injury in my leg all season," Harless said. "So I haven't been able to full spin. This is actually my first week of full spinning again."

Harless, who took the state championship in the discus last year, bested the competition at the BRAG meet with a distance of 154 feet, 5 inches.

And while that score is well short of the 168-9 Harless threw at State, it's actually just above the 152-6 he recorded at last year's BRAG, a distance he built up moving into the postseason.

Russell's coach Chris Holbrook has been impressed with how Harless has progressed with his injury and is glad he's not trying to push it too much so soon.

"He's handled the injury pretty well," Holbrook said. "He knows he's not where he needs to be, but he's not trying to force it. He's getting physical therapy done and he's staying positive. He knows where he's at and I trust him that he does. You gotta trust your kids sometimes."

The pressure of repeating as a state champion is difficult enough on its own, but throwing in this type of obstacle adds a new level of difficulty for Harless.

"It's been rough," Harless said. "I've wanted to spin all year, but all I could do until this week is power throw until this week really. It's been really frustrating."

Despite that frustration, Harless focuses on getting himself prepared to make another run at the state title.

"I probably won't be 100% at region," Harless said. "Maybe I will, but I'm not too worried about region. All I have to do is qualify and I'll go state and hopefully, I can win it again."

Harless won the shotput (54-8.5) as well at the meet. The feats were just two of Russell's 26 victories out of the 37 events in the meet.

"It went great tonight. It's a fun meet," Holbrook said. "I think all the teams have fun with it. It's kind of a light-hearted meet right before all the big ones start. Everyone gets a chance to do something before we start to narrow down our region roster later."

Another Red Devil who found success in the field events was Bethany Allen, who took first place in the girls long jump (15.6), triple jump (32.5), and high jump (4-10) events.

"I think it went really well," Allen said. "I did a really good job on all of my jumps, but I just didn't get down on myself if it didn't go my way."

Allen, who competed at the 2023 state meet in the long jump and triple jump, is looking to extend her distances as she heads toward the postseason.

"I'm doing pretty good for now," Allen said. "I need to start clearing 5 feet more consistently for the high jump to get ready for region. But, I think the rest of my jumps should go pretty good."

Other field event winners for Russell were: Jordan Blanke in girls pole vault, Isaiah Hammond in boys triple jump, Celia Monte in girls discus throw, and Aiden Newman in boys pole vault.

Also grabbing a first-place spot in the field events was Ashland's Brooklyn McConnell who won the girls shot put event with a distance of 26-4, beating out teammate Aryanna Gulley (25-11).

McConnell, a sophomore, is in her first year competing in the shot put and is happy with the progress she's made this year.

"I'm proud of myself because I've only been doing it for this year," McConnell said. "I was a little nervous at first, but now that I've been going to the meets. It's cool."

When asked what she needed to do to get ready for the postseason, McConnell's answer was to the point.

"Just keep working," McConnell said.

Greenup County took a pair of field events. Eli Adkins won the boys high jump with a personal record of 6 feet, 2 inches while Brody Stevens took the long jump with a distance of 20-1.

Stevens, who is coming off a top-10 finish at state in the indoor state championships in long jump, came just shy Thursday of his personal record (20-1.75), which he hit on Tuesday at the EKC championship meet.

"I feel great," Stevens said. "I've got my steps on perfect this whole season and I'm comfortable with it starting every time."

And while Stevens is certainly doing well at this point in the season, he knows there's always room for improvement.

"I'm alright where I am right now, but I could always do better," Stevens said. "I know that, so I'm just going to focus on improving and just keep working on it."

Stevens also won the boys 300-meter hurdles during the track portion of the event with a time of 43.32, a personal record for him.

Stevens was one of two Musketeers who captured first place in the track events on Thursday.

The other was Cody Brown, who posted a time of 2:12.34 to take the 800-meter run by a margin of nearly 12 seconds.

Despite this being his first 800-meter run of the season, Brown still wanted to shave a couple of ticks off his time.

"I really wanted to run a 2:09," Brown said. "I was a couple of seconds off of that, but running that by myself is pretty difficult, so I'll take it."

Brown likes where he is right now in the season, but knows he has to push himself a little more to make a run toward State.

"I'm kind of where I want to be, but I definitely have a little bit of work to do," Brown said. "I need to work on speed endurance. More spring workouts would help. My legs are a little weak from so many meets, two or three a week, just need to cut back on the meets and work my butt off."

Another runner looking to push himself more as the calendar creeps towards May is Boyd County's Mason Newsome.

Newsome took first place in the 400-meter dash with a time of 55.03.

"That was my first time doing the 400," Newsome said. "I think the last time I did it was maybe in middle school. It was fun."

Newsome ran his section of the race against just one other runner, Russell's Tate Smith. Smith came in second just behind Newsome with a 55.75 time.

"That guy was fast," Newsome said of Smith. "It took a lot to go that fast. He's a great guy to run against."

Newsome won at last year's region meet in the 800-meter event (2:01.99) before getting a top 10 finish at State with a personal record time of 2:01.27.

"I think I'm just now starting to step into what I can achieve," Newsome said. "I want to get under 2:00 in the 800. If I keep training hard, I think I'll get it."

Russell took a multitude of first-place track wins as well, including a trio of wins from Courtney Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick won the girls 100 and 300-meter hurdles as well as the 400-meter dash.

"I think I did pretty well today. I felt very comfortable," Fitzpatrick said. "I'm really satisfied with all three of my times."

Fitzpatrick is ready to make the adjustments necessary as the season winds down.

"I'm happy to be where I am right now, but there's a lot of room for improvement," Fitzpatrick said.

Russell also took first in both the boys and girls 1600-meter run thanks to Luke Pridemore (4:49.92) and Allison Brown (6:22.46) respectively.

"I had a pretty big lead," Pridemore said. "I started out pretty quickly and just finished kind of cruising, but it was a good race."

It was Brown's first time running in the 1600.

"I feel pretty good about it," Brown said. "It was my first time running it so I surprised myself. I would've been happy just breaking seven minutes, so running a 6:20 was really good."

Both are looking to make a splash in the postseason.

"Hopefully, since that was my first time around, I can break six minutes at region," Brown said. "That's my hope. If I can do that, I can make it to State."

"I'm not trying to burn out," Pridemore said. "I've got some heavy competition from Mason County that I'm going to be dealing with but coach Chuck (Cantrell) has been putting me through a lot and we'll do more towards the end of the season. I'll be ready."

"We're getting there," Holbrook added. "We don't do a whole lot of meets. We practice a lot and then when we get to region, hopefully, we're at our peak. We don't want to peak in April, we want to peak at region."

Full race results can be found at