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Sports

May 10, 2013

Duncan boys track seniors take different paths to state

DUNCAN — Two returning state champions. One high jumper in his first season. One relay runner still in his first month of competing.

Take one look at the careers of the Duncan boys track senior class and it’s easy to see all its members have taken different paths to reach the ultimate goal: Friday and Saturday’s state tournament in Yukon.

What unifies the group is its recent success, as Jack Braught, Christian Carnahan, Kevin McKnight and Dylan Mettler will all vie to win a state championships for themselves and their team this weekend.

“It’s a great senior class. It’s a very dependable group and a very hardworking group of kids,” Demons coach Todd Ledford said. “There are a few that haven’t been around all of the last four years, but just watching them go from freshmen into the athletes that they are has been fun. They’ll be missed.”

When McKnight and Mettler take the field Friday, one thing will be on their mind: repeating.

McKnight enters as the reigning state champion in the shot put, while Mettler will be focused on winning his third straight Class 5A title in the pole vault.

Looking back on his career, McKnight has realized that his experience with the team has been a time of growth.

“Freshman year I came out and kept hitting 39 feet consistently. Before I knew it, I was throwing more than 50,” McKnight said. “Getting here has been about all the hard work and my coaches helping me out every day. Like the coaches told me, it’s a lot easier to become a state champion than it is to repeat as one.”

McKnight credits Demons throwing coach Tim Bubin for helping him through the growing pains it took to become a state champion.

“Coach Bubin has been like a father to me,” McKnight said. “There have been a lot of times that I got down because my throws weren’t good and things were looking bad for me. Then one week, everything started clicking. He told me ‘that’s all we wanted from you all along.’”

Those difficult times, including a campaign at state in his sophomore year which left him “with the worst feeling I’ve ever had,” all shaped McKnight to become the best at his craft. Just one tournament remains, and McKnight has not overlooked the meet’s importance.

“It’s the last time I put on the Duncan uniform,” McKnight said. “I can’t even describe how meaningful that is to me, it’s huge.”

McKnight will also compete in the discus throw after taking second behind teammate Kevin Roddy at regionals.

Duncan’s other returning champ Mettler has been here before, but knows winning the pole vault at state for a third straight year won’t be easy.

“Everything we’ve worked for all year is happening this weekend,” Mettler said. “It’s really exciting, I’m just hoping to do some be things and try not to be sad about how this is our last meet together.”

This year had tested Mettler, who entered what he called a “mental slump” for most of the earlier part of the season.

“I’ve been in a slump for most of the year mentally, but I’ve been able to get over it at the most important time,” Mettler said. “It really was just simple as continuing to compete and working at it. You stay positive and you’ll do positive things, and that’s what I expect at state.”

Most in Duncan know Braught as the Demons star basketball player, but he’s also committed his senior year to competing in the high jump for the first time.

His regional championship speaks for itself – it didn’t long for Braught to get acclimated.

Braught attributes the success in his newest sports to years of his experience in his older one on the court.

“The transition was not as difficult as you’d think,” Braught said. “With all the basketball I’ve been able to play over the years, I’ve been jumping long before I started competing in the event. To me, the high jump is like going up for a layup, just jumping up and trying to get high enough.”

While Braught admits the very beginning of the switch “started out shaky,” he attributes diligence and what he learned from his coaches to his success at regionals.

As if two sports weren’t enough, the life-long Duncan native will try to walk on as a punter for the OU football team when he heads to Norman to attend college after graduation.

The class’ newest member has only been with the team for three weeks, but that’s all it took for Christian Carnahan to make an immediate impact on the 4X100 Meter Relay team. Joined by Braught, Mettler and James Gilbreth, Carnahan helped the team finish fifth at the regional tournament.

With Duncan in need of a fourth runner, Mettler reached out to Carnahan earlier this month. After Carnahan agreed to give it a try, it didn’t take long for the Demons to realize the team had found their final piece.

“I had not done it too much, but it’s been fun and it’s a great group that I compete with,” Carnahan said. “When it comes down to it, all you really have to do is run, the biggest thing for me was learning the handoff.”

The former Demons wrestler said the key to the smooth transition was the people around him.

“You’ve got to be close to your teammates to succeed, and we’ve communicated really well on handoffs,” he said “That’s been a key for sure. If we can run well, we should make the final, and anything’s possible then.”

Make no mistake: the Demons, whose seniors all acknowledged seeing their careers end at Duncan would be far from easy, are legitimate title contenders this weekend after winning their regional meet.

“The cool thing is we have an actual shot to finish really high at the state level,” Ledford said. “If everyone does what they’re supposed to do and we compete hard, we have a great chance.”

 

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