The Lincoln athletes were not among the elite taking the medals podium at the center of the track Saturday, but Coach John Sanders said all left satisfied with their efforts.
"We had a really good day," Sanders said. "Everybody was hitting PR's (personal records) and Zack jumped well against some really, really good jumpers."
"We tell them every year that the competition that they face in state is nothing like we see during the season," he said. "When Lincoln gets to state, we compete against the powers from the big Louisville and Lexington schools and it's just tough to compete, but, today, we felt very good about how we did."
While a medalling-finish eluded the Lincoln athletes, one narrowly missed stepping up on the podium — Hill.
Hill was a surprise entrant among the slate of competitors Saturday after missing an automatic berth by placing third in regionals. Because of a 6-00 regional jump, Hill was extended an invitation and, despite late notice of his inclusion, the LCHS sophomore managed to place ninth overall in high jump (the top eight receive medals) with 6-00.
"They (KHSAA) take the top two (jumpers) from each region and then they look at the state average and choose a few other athletes to compete at state. He didn't realize until the middle of week that he was in," Sanders said. "There were four in our region with 6-00, including the winner and runner-up, so Zack was among those getting the wild card rule applied. And 6-00 is what he did today."
Hill was unaware of his final finish at the state meet, making a hasty exit after his three misses at 6-02. Sanders said he wishes that Hill could have lasted just a little longer in the event — time wise.
"Right after he went out, it started to cool down so the track got cooler and started to get stiffer," he said. "Right now that kid (pointing to eventual champion Jonathon Hood of Madisonville North Hopkins) is going for 6-10. He's got a much stiffer track to take off of than Zack did and he's getting a real good take off."
"I know he's good (Hood) but, when Zack was jumping 30 minutes ago, the track was hot. When he's (Zack) jumping when it's hot, he's going up and the track is going down so it takes some distance out of his jump," Sanders said. "I'm not saying he could beat him (Hood) but he could have gotten at least 6-02 and possibly a medal if he'd gotten to jump when it was cooler."
Bunch, who just missed a state medal at last year's state meet, had another close call in the girls' 1600-meter run Saturday, finishing 11th out of 24 runners. She covered the distance in 5:27.32, a personal record and five seconds better than her previous state run.
"Her place was two spots back from last year but she ran five seconds faster," said Sanders. "It was a real strong field but she did great. She was the youngest kid in the race."
Bunch was pleased with her time in the 1600, but she wasn't pleased with her 800. Her time in the 800 was 2:31.47, placing her 18th.
"I was really happy with our 4x8 (3200 relay team) and I was real happy with my mile because I PR'd, but I just really didn't have anything left in the half," she said. "After the first two races, I was just exhausted and couldn't do my best."
"Running three races is not a good idea — at least not for me," said Bunch. "Emma Brink (Sacred Heart Academy), she tripled. She won the mile, the half and the two-mile. But she's really, really good. It can be done, obviously, but it's not for me."
Bunch may not have been pleased with her final race, but she and her relay running mates were beaming after the first race of the day. The quartet of Frith, a sophomore, Shelby Meece and Alaina King, both freshmen, and Bunch set a new school record in the 3200-meter relay as they finished in 10:21.27 for 13th place — nine spots higher than their pre-meet rankings.
"We felt really good," said Meece. "You have to run so much faster to get any place at state because the competition is so fast. When you're ranked at the bottom of 24 teams and you get in the middle where they didn't expect you to get, it's a really good feeling."