Winning is becoming contagious for the Harlan County cross country program.
The Black Bears claimed team victories in the boys and girls varsity races, the middle school boys race and the elementary boys race in the Harlan County All-Comers meet Tuesday.
“I’m very proud of all these kids for their effort tonight,” Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe said. “They’ve worked incredibly hard this summer, and they’re starting to see the fruits of their labor. There were several really good teams here tonight, and we were fortunate to come out with wins. The kids have done a great job to be ready at this point in the season, and I’m proud, but we still have a long way to go.”
The win was the second in a row to open the season for the varsity boys squad, following an impressive victory at Boyd County on Aug. 25.
A strong finish by the middle of the Harlan County boys pack propelled the Bears to a two-point win over Central (Wise), Va., on Tuesday as Harlan County overcame an impressive individual victory by Central’s Alex Wheatley, who posted a winning time of 17:38.03.
Sophomore Josh Lee led the Bears’ effort, finishing third with a time of 18:42.69. Alex Lewis placed sixth with a time of 19:21.88. James Dean (19:31.03) and Zach Hunting (19:31.93) took eighth and ninth place, respectively, and senior Dalton Shepherd (12th, 19:36.78) edged Central’s Sam Houston at the finish line to clinch the victory.
“We’ve talked a lot about how to close out a race, and the effort in doing that tonight was the difference,” Vitatoe said. “We did an excellent job in finishing out the last quarter-mile, and that’s something that will be very important for us to perfect as we get further into the season.”
Rounding out Harlan County’s results were Zackary Carmical (15th, 19:50.00), James Chasteen (16th, 19:56.28), Seth Sanders (19th, 20:32.62), Cody Howard (20th, 20:36.50), Ben Lewis (33rd, 21:49.22), A.J. Teagle (40th, 23:06.34), Tyler Kelly (45th, 24:18.50), Sean Cooper (48th, 24:38.28), Ryan Kilgore (54th, 27:02.34), Andrew Crawford (56th, 27:20.34) and Jose Roque (60th, 28:13.28).
Harlan’s Gavin Cornette finished 69th with a time of 39:26.38.
The Harlan County varsity girls defeated Central by six points, led by strong performances from senior Allison Cornett (second, 23:49.28) and sophomore Phebe McHargue (fourth, 24:01.15). Katie Graham (seventh, 25:17.22), K.K. Johnson (11th, 26:16.09) and Breezy Epperson (14th, 26:31.93) rounded out Harlan County’s scoring performances.
“The girls ran very well tonight, and it was a total team effort leading to the win,” Vitatoe said. “They ran as a team, and I was pleased with how they ran the second half of the race. We’re still early in our development process, but I feel really good about the direction they’re heading.”
Also participating for the Lady Bears were Jordan Blevins (19th, 26:58.52), Briana Roque (21st, 27:24.81), Katelyn Hensley (26th, 28:19.34), Janice Dean (31st, 30:01.97), Mackenzie Combs (33rd, 30:19.34), Shiann Westfelt (34th, 30:34.97), Taylor Jordan (35th, 30:47.18), Grace Dean (40th, 31:41.12), Amanda Caudill (42nd, 33:05.38) and Laura Creech (43rd, 33:07.62).
Harlan freshman Lucy Bryson finished 20th, posting a time of 27:03.00.
Ulysses Roque and Brayden Blakley posted times of 12:32.03 and 13:02.25, respectively, to claim the top two spots in the middle school race. The Bears took six of the top seven spots, with Roque and Blakley followed by Daniel Joseph (fourth, 13:37.59), Cooper McHargue (fifth, 13:38.90), Matt Yeary (sixth, 13:46.34) and Lucas Epperson (seventh, 14:08.50).
Ariel Madden claimed a fourth-place finish on the girls side, posting a time of 15:15.94.
Austin Crain finished third with a time of 9:23 to lead the elementary boys charge as Harlan County defeated Central by five points. Junior Sanchez finished sixth with a time of 9:42.84, followed by Bryan Howard (eighth, 9:52.56), Brennan Blevins (11th, 10:31.43), Andrew Yeary (12th, 10:48.09), Bradley Brock (14th, 11:21.22), Braxton Crain (16th, 12:09.84), Ethan Lewis (19th, 12:54.62) and Tristan Cooper (21st, 13:33.44).
Haylee Couch was the top girls finisher for Harlan County in the elementary race, finishing fifth with a time of 12:37.81. Sophie Day (eighth, 12:50.06) and Emily Honaker (ninth, 12:51.34) also posted top-10 finishes. Rounding out Harlan County’s results were Kaydie Coots (14th, 14:33.44), Abby Sherman (17th, 19:29.06) and Adrianna Hockenberry (18th, 19:43.56).
Harlan’s Mia Pace was the fourth girls finisher, posting a time of 12:37.25.
The high school squad returns to action Saturday in Lexington at the Bluegrass Invitational.
In previously unreported action, the Harlan County boys claimed a two-point win over host Boyd County in the Early Season Showcase on Aug.25.
Josh Lee’s second-place finish with a time of 19:07.40 led the Bears’ attack. Alex Lewis (sixth, 19:25.90) and Dalton Shepherd (ninth, 19:35.60) also posted top-10 finishes. Rounding out the results were James Dean (11th, 19:44.70), Zach Hunting (13th, 19:51.90), James Chasteen (19th, 20:13.70), Zackary Carmical (23rd, 20:34.60), Seth Sanders (24th, 20:47.60), Cody Howard (25th, 20:51.10) and Ben Lewis (40th, 22:35.40).
The girls claimed a second-place finish at the meet, led by Allison Cornett (eighth, 24:55.15). Phebe McHargue, Katie Graham and K.K. Johnson claimed the 12th through 14th spots, posting times of 25:31.62, 25:48.44 and 25:57.53, respectively, and Breezy Epperson finished 16th with a time of 26:42.69. Rounding out the results were Katelyn Hensley (20th, 27:46.47), Jordan Blevins (22nd, 27:51.84), Briana Roque (26th, 28:53.97) and Emma Day (27th, 28:54.87).