Some of the top cross country teams from around southeastern Kentucky will be in town this Saturday as Harlan County High School plays host to the Class 2A, Region 7 meet.
The Harlan County girls and boys teams each placed second in the regional race last year, and both squads should be among the contenders this weekend.
The Lady Bears enter the race with momentum, coming off of wins in the Southeastern Kentucky Conference (SEKC) Meet and the Area 9 Meet. The Lady Bears tied with Letcher Central in overall points in the 2011 regional meet, but finished second due to the tiebreaker.
“We have a senior-laden team that is really focused on winning a title. They had a disappointing finish to the season last year losing on a tiebreaker at the regional meet,” said Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe.
Harlan County’s Kassie Rouse is among the favorites to capture the individual title.
Due in large part to the graduation of regional champions David Lee and Hunter Middleton, the Harlan County boys were in rebuilding mode this year. The Bears were selected fifth in the region in the preseason, but have exceeded those expectations. Harlan County recently repeated as SEKC champions and will look for a high finish on Saturday.
This has been one of the hardest working groups I have ever had. They have really established themselves as contenders. I think they will be right there in the race on Saturday,” Vitatoe said. “Josh Wynn has been a tremendous captain this season. He has really helped the younger ones come along. Steven Engle is our overall top runner, and I look for him to have a good race on Saturday.”
The regional course will begin near the baseball complex and will include two laps around Harlan County High School.
“The kids tell me they think it is a little tougher than the old course,” Vitatoe said. “The hill around the school is very long and gradual. There is also a hill on the lower end and you have to hit those twice. That is big challenge.”
The girls race will begin at 10 a.m., with the boys following at 11 a.m.