A chilly rain didn’t stop the Harlan County Lady Bears cross country team from continuing their home course dominance and claiming their second championship trophy of the season Saturday.
Even without sophomore Jordan Blevins, who was held out due to illness, the Lady Bears claimed five of the top 10 spots en route to a first-place finish at the Chuck Vitatoe Classic.
“I’m very proud of the girls getting the victory despite being shorthanded,” Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe said. “They all came out and did their jobs to perfection.”
Sophomore Breezy Epperson led the Lady Bears’ effort, finishing third overall with a time of 24:08.69. She was followed by Phebe McHargue (fourth, 24:24.38), Katie Graham (sixth, 24:49.12), Allison Cornett (eighth, 25:08.53) and Taylor Rowe (10th, 25:34.72). Rounding out the Lady Bears’ effort were Emma Day (11th, 226:15.06) and Briana Roque (26:31.47).
Whitley County finished second, 13 points behind the Lady Bears. Bell County’s Lindsay Bryant was the individual champion, posting a time of 22:26.91.
Harlan County’s boys squad came up just short, falling to Bell County by one point.
Dalton Shepherd paced the Black Bears, finishing fifth with a time of 19:36.56. James Dean (19:50.91) and Cody Howard (20:21.28) finished sixth and seventh, respectively. Alex Lewis (20:45.69), Zach Hunting (21:02.38), Zack Carmical (21:05.21) and Josh Lee (21:07.52) claimed the 13th through 16th spots.
Harlan’s Mason Miller finished third in the race with a time of 18:58.50.
Bell took the top two spots, as Mitchell Miracle won the race for the second straight year, posting a time of 18:43.94. He was followed by Jonathan Henry (18:54.62).
Harlan County runners took the top boys and girls spots in the junior varsity race, as Katelyn Hensley (25:56.56) won the girls race and Seth Sanders (22:17.03) was the boys winner.
Grace Dean finished third on the girls side with a time of 29:31.44. She was followed by Iris Sanchez (fourth, 29:50.94), Janice Dean (seventh, 31:51.01) and Laura Creech (eighth, 31:51.10).
Rounding out the boys results were A.J. Hall (second, 22:49.66), Austin Adams (third, 23:03.59), Nick Blair (fourth, 24:20.41), Andrew Crawford (seventh, 25:55.50) and Jose Roque (eighth, 26:16.91).
Harlan County’s Ulyses Roque (12:21.25) and Sean Cooper (12:56.59) claimed the top two spots in the middle school race. Harlan’s Story Miller (13:32.50) took third.
Daniel Joseph led the Harlan County boys elementary contingent with a third-place finish, posting a time of 9:09.58. Cooper McHargue (9:39.69) and Bryan Howard (9:51.23) finished fifth and sixth, respectively. Rounding out the boys results were Junior Sanchez (eighth, 10:39.34) and Lucas Epperson (10th, 12:45.54).
Haylee Couch finished third on the girls side for the Bears with a time of 12:40.53.
“I’m proud of these teams,” Vitatoe said. “We needed a meet in tough conditions to help us later in the season. Both teams gained valuable experience today.”
The invitational is named in honor of Vitatoe’s father, an avid cross country supporter who passed away just before Harlan County High School opened in 2008.
The Harlan County varsity squad returns to action Tuesday at Knox Central in the Southeast Kentucky Conference championship. The girls race is slated to begin at 5:45, followed by the boys race at 6:20.