Shelby boasts 3 state track champs

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Shipley, Karas sisters dominate their events

By Josh Cook

LOUISVILLE – Shelby County High School junior Zach Shipley won his first state championship, and Collins sisters Caterina and Gabby Karas added to their total Friday night at the Class AA State Track & Field Championships.


Shipley held off several challengers to win the boys’ 300-meter hurdles at the University of Louisville’s Owsley Frazier Cardinal Park, while senior Caterina Karas captured the 800 and her seventh-grade sister, Gabby, took home the title in the 1,600.

It was the fourth overall state title – and third in track & field – for Caterina Karas and the second overall but first in track for Gabby Karas.

Shipley wins his first title

It was an imperfect race with a perfect ending for Shipley.

He entered Friday with the fastest time in the state this season in the 300 hurdles (39.70 seconds) and had the best qualifying time (40.27) in all seven AA region meets, but he had plenty of competition in the event’s third and final heat.

However, that was by his own doing, according to Shipley.

“My steps were off. If I had my steps down, it would’ve been thirty-eight [seconds],” said Shipley, who finished fourth at State last year in 40.87. 

On the all-important third hurdle (which precedes the turn) Shipley, who was afraid of hooking it, overcompensated.

“I jumped way too high just to get over it, that kind of threw me off, too,” he said.

It also threw him into a “down-the-stretch-they-come” finish.

Shipley crossed the finish line in 39.41, edging Madison Southern sophomore Casey Dionne (39.56) and Butler County senior Clay Embry (39.59).

“It scared me,” a relieved, but happy, Shipley said afterward. “I beat them with form I guess on the last two hurdles.”

Shipley became the first Shelby state track & field champ since Stacey Eden won the boys’ 3,200 in 2009, and the Rockets’ first hurdles champ since Chris Lancaster in the early 1980s.

“I don’t know [how it feels],” said Shipley, who got a big hug from his father (Shelby assistant track coach Todd Shipley) after the victory. “It hasn’t sunk in yet. Right now I’m just tired. I’m sure afterward I’ll get it, but right now it feels like any other race.”

Gabby Karas wins 1,600

Looking at the seeding times, it appeared that the girls’ 1,600 was going to be a 2-horse race between Gabby Karas and Paducah Tilghman freshman Aleja Grant, who entered with the top two times (Karas at 5:11.35, Grant 5:12.02), more than 20 seconds ahead of the No. 3. And it was that way – for a little while.

Karas led after the first two laps with Grant a couple of steps behind. Near the 1,000-meter mark Grant made her move, nearly pulling even with Karas, who then made her’s. 

“The first half-mile I felt like I was pushed,” said Karas, who ran a 68-second first lap and a 77-second second one. “On the second lap I knew I had to start making my move. I knew if I tried to burn her out I could hold that pace.”

Karas pulled away from there and never again was challenged, winning by nearly 17 seconds.

Karas completed the four laps in 4 minutes, 57.62 seconds – less than one second off the AA record of 4:56.68 set by Mercy Academy’s Carmen Mims in 2004. Grant finished in 5:14.05.

“I have to give her credit: She said her third lap was what she wanted to focus on,” Collins assistant and distance coach Stephen Drawbaugh said. 
“I said, ‘Run it like it’s a twelve-hundred.’”

“To me, that’s about as impressive a thing as I’ve seen in a long time for a seventh-grade girl,” said Collins Coach Jerry Lucas, before adding with a smile, “wait ‘til she gets in the eighth grade.”

Said Karas: “It feels really good, especially to almost break the record. But I guess I have five more years to do it, so it’s all good.”

“I was so proud of her, she did amazing,” Caterina Karas, the defending state champ in the 1,600, said of her sister. “She was so awesome.”

It was the second state title this school year for Gabby Karas, who won the AA state cross-country meet in November.

“We may have to have a Karas wall [of state championship banners in the gym] before it’s all over with,” Lucas said.

Caterina wins another

The elder Karas added another to her already impressive state title total, capturing the one race that eluded her at last year’s State meet, when she won the 1,600 and 3,200.

After finishing runner-up in the 800 – when she tried for the triple crown of distance running – Karas ran away with that race this year. She lunged at the finish line, crossing it in 2:16.30, three-tenths off the AA state mark of 2:16.03 set by Pam Raglin of Bourbon County in 1983.

“I wanted to win it and that’s what I tried to do, and I succeeded, thankfully,” she said.

Spencer County senior Christina Shawver was second in 2:23.09, and Grant – her sister’s main competition in the 1,600 and later the 3,200 winner – was third in 2:24.41.

It was the final high school race for Karas, who also won the AA state cross-country meet as a junior, who will run at Xavier University.

“It’s kind of upsetting and exciting, but at the same time I’m glad I had a good last race,” said Karas, who also was the winner of the National Guard’s Best & Brightest award (she won the same honor at the state cross country). “This was a good way to end it. I’ve been running since the fourth grade and worked all the way up to here.”