BLOOMINGTON — South Knox's Steven Burkhart came up short in his goal of earning a state championship in the IHSAA Boys Track & Field State Finals on Friday, but the senior still managed to reach the podium.
Burkhart finished his 300-meter hurdle race in 39.35 and claimed ninth place by two-hundredths of a second at the Indiana University Robert C. Haugh Complex.
Teammate Will Staggs also competed at the State meet, and the sophomore took 16th out of 29 competitors with a 13-6 clearance in the pole vault .
Though Burkhart was seeded third among 27 runners in his event, he was confident he could compete for a championship in his third consecutive appearance at the State. He ran in the third and fastest heat, so his finish there was a good indication of how he'd place overall. Burkhart was among the leaders coming around the second turn, but he stumbled slightly over the next two hurdles, forcing him to settle for sixth in the heat.
Burkhart's time was still good enough for ninth, edging Oak Hill's Sammy Sommers, who ran a 39.37. Franklin Central's Malachi Quarles, who was the top seed, won the event in 38.10, nipping Portage's Trey Sebben, 38.15.
“Ultimately that's been our goal since he started running for us, getting to State and getting him a podium spot,” Spartans coach Travis Herb said. “The time he ran was the second fastest he's ever run, and if he'd run his regional time, that would have moved him up a few spots. But he still got to the podium, and we're pretty proud of that.
“He was in the race until he got to the fifth hurdle. We all kind of thought he could get in the top five at least, and with his performance up to that point, he looked like he was doing it.”
Burkhart is the first county athlete to reach the podium since Lincoln's Paige Jones took ninth in the girls high jump in 2016. He was 16th in the 300 hurdles last season at State and took 21st as a sophomore. He set the school record, 38.80, while claiming a regional title in the 300 hurdles last week.
Staggs leapt 13-6 in the pole vault, tying with eight others for the mark, but he finished in the middle of that group due to the number of attempts. He just missed out of equalling his seed, 12th, but came up short of matching his career best, 14-0. Lawrence North's Nathan Stone was the pole vault State Champion, eclipsing 16-6. Churubusco's Sam Wood was runner-up at 15-9. Staggs was third among sophomores in the competition.
“He's only jumped 14 feet twice. He got 13-6 today and just missed getting 14 on his second jump,” Herb said. “He did really well, especially as a sophomore. Getting 16th is nothing to sneeze at. He kind of hoped he'd do a little better, but the State meet is a different kind of atmosphere. It's a lot longer wait time between attempts, and that's hard to get used to.”
Herb was also pleased to send two competitors to State.
“We're doing great things everyday at South Knox. We feel like it's state or bust for our team,” he said. “Both of these gentlemen are examples of what South Knox students can achieve if they believe in themselves and work toward their goals. We will continue to get as many athletes as we can to the State meet and compete when we get there. Spartan track is alive and well.”