A fast start by a strong Corbin team proved too much for the Harlan County Lady Bears to overcome as they tried to defend their Southeast Kentucky Conference cross country title Tuesday at Knox Central High School.
Corbin posted three of the top seven finishers to hold off the Lady Bears 43-56.
Harlan County was led by freshman Phebe McHargue, who finished ninth with a time of 25:02.35. She was followed immediately by Breezy Epperson (25:04.69), Allison Cornett (25:09.48) and Katie Graham (25:14.72). Junior Emma Day finished 14th with a time of 25:43.18. Rounding out the Lady Bears’ results were Briana Roque (19th, 26:43.82) and Taylor Rowe (26:48.85).
The Lady Bears were again without sophomore Jordan Blevins, who missed her second straight competition due to illness.
“I’m really proud of the girls’ effort tonight,” Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe said. “They were shorthanded without Jo Jo, and with a couple other girls battling through minor injuries, but they competed hard. Corbin has a really good veteran team, and our girls battled them the whole way.”
Williamsburg freshman Selena Mattingly (21:16.98) was the individual champion for the third consecutive year. Corbin’s Reese Helton (22:02.37) and Bell County’s Lindsay Bryant (22:49.04) finished second and third, respectively.
Harlan County’s boys, projected to finish fourth, battled to a third-place finish as they avenged Saturday’s Chuck Vitatoe Classic loss to Bell County.
“The boys really came out focused after a lackluster performance in our last meet and ran with winning performance against a great field of teams,” Vitatoe said. “It would’ve been easy to let a bad race turn into two, but they came out focused to run, and that says a lot about how mature they are as a team.”
Freshman James Dean (19:26.52) and sophomore Alex Lewis (19:29.96) led the Bears’ effort, finishing ninth and 10th, respectively. Dalton Shepherd came in 14th with a time of 19:34.64, followed by Cody Howard (19th, 20:05.26). Rounding out Harlan County’s results were Zach Hunting (21st, 20:13.72), Josh Lee (25th, 20:29.78) and Zackary Carmical (31st, 21:36.45).
Bell County’s Mitchell Miracle was the overall winner with a time of 17:41.88, followed by Mitchell Trent (18:06.01) of Knox Central and Tyler Hinkle (18:07.60) of Corbin.
Knox Central nabbed three of the top five spots and cruised to a 21-point victory over Corbin.
Vitatoe noted that the conference championship meet was similar in atmosphere and team makeup to the regional championship meet, set for Oct. 31 at Morgan County.
“This was a great atmosphere tonight. Cross country has really grown in eastern Kentucky, and this is the strongest field of teams I’ve seen in the SEKC in a long time,” he said. “It’s exciting to see the sport gaining strength in our area, and this meet will go a long way in helping us prepare for what’s ahead of us.”
The Black Bears return to action Saturday in the Corbin Invitational.