Vaught's Views: Track and field championships shows spirit of athletics

June 06, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - He was not one of the headline makers, but Danville's Ben Carter certainly epitomized what the state track and field championships should be about.

Carter finished third here Saturday in the Class A 110-meter hurdles in 16.4 seconds to help the Admirals finish fourth in the team standings. But the smile on his face was the equal of any state champion.

"I'm very satisfied," said Carter. "I was ranked fifth going into the race and got third. I like the way I finished, especially since I got 10th last year. I'm quite happy with what I did because I know I did my best."

That refreshing attitude is what makes Carter, and others like him, unique in a sports world far too often dominated by athletes consumed only by winning and individual success.


Carter was a role player on Danville's basketball team, but he never complained. He was not the star of the track team, but he never complained.

His event was the first one at Saturday's meet. So what did he spend the next three hours doing? He was cheering for teammates.

"I am the loudest one, especially when we are running relays," Carter said. "I want to be as close to the track as I can to let them know I am supporting them."

Carter looked like he had been running after teammate Kelvin Turner just missed giving Danville a win the 800-meter relay. But Carter also took just as much interest in teammates who finished seventh or eighth.

Perhaps it is his upbringing. His father is a minister who measures success differently from many parents.

"Sometimes it is hard being an athlete and a minister's son," Carter said. "My father has a lot of high expectations for me. Not for my performance, but for my attitude. He's always going to judge me more on my attitude and how I acted than how I performed."

Don't think his father had no interest in his sports, though. The two often went one-on-one on the basketball court and both his father and mother are former track athletes.

"Dad talks a lot of trash when we play basketball, too," Carter said. "Maybe he just wanted to see how I would respond."

No matter what happened, he kept smiling

If that's the case, he must be proud of how his son responded both on the basketball court and the track. No matter what happened, he always kept a smile on his face.

"I don't think anyone could have appreciated competing more than me," Carter said. "But no matter what happened, God always put a smile on my face. Just getting up and being able to breathe is reason enough to smile. I love the competition, but I love just being around the competition, too."

Most of those here Saturday did, too. There was Danville fourth-grader Kaitlin Snapp eating a hot dog covered with mustard and ketchup - a meal her mother, Barb, called a "breakfast of champions" - about an hour before she finished 10th in the 3,200-meter run.

Or there was Harrodsburg junior Travis White giving up his spot on the 400-meter relay team in hopes of helping the Pioneers run a faster time (the team finished sixth).

Or Casey County senior Beth Patterson not panicking before the Class AA triple jump, an event she has won for the past two years, when she discovered someone had removed the tape she put down indicating her starting spot.

Or Boyle County's Patrick Morgan muscling his way through competitors trying to stay in contention in the Class AA 1,600-meter run.

Or what about former Lincoln County football and track coach Tim Estes? He was back at his customary spot overseeing the high jump competition all weekend, a job he's held the last 16 years.

Or there was former Harrodsburg football and track coach Alvis Johnson, and his wife, Rosetta, once again back in their customary spot on the top row of the bleachers at the finish line to watch every step of every race as they've done for almost 30 years.

His story is extra appealing

The stories could go on and on from Class A to Class AAA. That's the beauty of track and field. However, Carter's story is still extra appealing because he's never changed. He had the same attitude as a sophomore basketball player on Danville's 12th Region runner-up team as he did Saturday when he crossed the finish line third to earn a state medal.

He says his best memories would include this year's regional team win over defending Class A state champion Raceland, winning the slam dunk competition at the 12th Region Junior All-Star Game, and beating Boyle County twice in basketball last season.

"Really, I have no regrets," Carter said. "Every day produced a different memory, and I think I'll look back and cherish them all."

He should. All the athletes here Saturday should. Just being able to compete in a state championship is a huge accomplishment whether it is for a small school like Harrodsburg or a Class AAA team like Lincoln County.

Just ask Carter.

"How could you make it here and not be happy?" he said. "No matter how you did, just being here is an honor and reason to smile."

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