After a solid start to the season, the Harlan County cross country squad set out for Lexington on Saturday with two goals in mind: to gain some big-meet experience and to remember that they still have work to do.
The boys varsity squad claimed a 22nd-place finish in the huge 31-team field at the Bluegrass Invitational at Masterson Station Park. The field was comprised largely of Class 3A schools.
“We’ve talked a lot during the summer about placing well at the state meet,” Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe said. “I feel it was important to see the type of field of runners we’ll be seeing at the state meet. It’s also important to see we have a way to go to be able to compete at that level. We’re closer than we were this time last year, but we have a lot of work to do to get over the hump.”
Junior Alex Lewis paced the Black Bears, finishing 82nd with a time of 18:49.60. Josh Lee (128th, 19:42.47), Zackary Carmical (133rd, 19:48.59) and James Dean (139th, 19:54.67) also posted sub-20:00 times. Rounding out the Bears’ results were Dalton Shepherd (152nd, 20:06.02), Seth Sanders (154th, 20:07.64), James Chasteen (163rd, 20:24.50), Zach Hunting (165th, 20:26.15), Cody Howard (185th, 20:57.64) and Ben Lewis (228th, 22:32.41).
The varsity girls finished 18th in a field of 26 teams, led by senior Allison Cornett’s 63rd-place finish with a time of 23:11.45. Katie Graham finished 77th with a time of 23:41.48, and Breezy Epperson posted a 24:54.77 for 106th place. Rounding out the results were Phebe McHargue (128th, 25:39.91), Jordan Blevins (149th, 26:49.21), Emma Day (157th, 26:59.61), Katelyn Hensley (177th, 28:10.30) and Briana Roque (189th, 29:13.63).
“We gained valuable experience today in this meet that will go a long way to help us as we proceed into the season,” Vitatoe said. “Overall, I’m pleased with our performance. It’s not easy to adjust from running in a field of 60 kids to a field of 300, but we needed this experience.”
The girls junior varsity squad placed ninth. Sophomore Janice Dean finished 68th with a time of 29:15.46. Shiann Westfelt (78th, 29:48.12) and Taylor Jordan (81st, 29:52.98) also posted sub-30:00 finishes. Rounding out the results were Kali Nolan (113th, 32:44.08), Mackenzie Combs (118th, 33:34.04), Amanda Caudill (120th, 33:55.94), Grace Dean (125th, 34:27.79) and Laura Creech (126th, 34:36.33).
The junior varsity boys squad finished 13th, led by Tyler Kelly’s 79th-place finish with a time of 22:40.63. Sean Cooper finished 88th with a time of 22:55.94. Rounding out the results were A.J. Teagle (110th, 24:05.38), Ryan Kilgore (132nd, 26:21.35), Andrew Crawford (139th, 27:20.11) and Jose Roque (149, 28:49.91).
Harlan County returns to action Saturday in the Corbin Invitational.