For The Independent
Russell cross country runners Jacob Heyerly and Jordan Vallance had a bet Saturday. If Vallance ran the 5-kilometer race in the Class 2A Region 6 meet at Mason County in less than 18 minutes, 30 seconds, Heyerly had to have both ears pierced.
Vallance did by a second, and Heyerly said he would. While that happens, they and the rest of the Red Devils may still be celebrating their team title, 34-57, over Mason County.
It took a few seconds for Vallance to decide what kind of jewelry Heyerly is supposed to wear, then … “Purple studs,” he said.
“I'm scared,” Heyerly said. “I don't really want them, but it's a bet.”
Russell's runners were scary good Saturday — the Red Devils first five runners finished in the top 13 and under 18:20.
“And I'm so happy,” Heyerly said. “I've worked for (a regional team title) for five years.”
Heyerly, a junior, finished third in 17:22, and closely behind him were: junior Josh Riley in fourth (17:23); senior Ross Lane in fifth (17:32); sophomore Chris Cooper in ninth (18:11) and eighth-grader Seth Atkins (18:19). Vallance, a sophomore, was 15th in 18:29, and senior Stephen Russell was 24th in 19:24.
What was more, Russell won its first team title since 2008 and ended Ashland's three-year regional reign.
“That's what we worked for all year,” Russell coach Chuck Cantrell said. “They wanted to beat Ashland. I knew Phil (Ashland coach Phillip Caudill) would have his team ready to go; it was just our day.”
Russell finished third to Mason County in the Area 7 meet on Oct. 20 on the Royals' course. One difference Saturday was Atkins, who competed in the middle school race two weeks ago.
Cantrell thought last week's practices, helped prepare for Saturday's 40-degree, drizzly weather.
“We ran in the rain Monday and Tuesday, no complaints,” Cantrell said. “I give it all to the boys. The first runner's as important as the fifth.”
Mason County junior Nick Robinson edged Rowan County junior Shelley DeHarte by two seconds for the individual title in a race in which they traded the lead before Robinson pulled away with less than 100 yards to go.
“(DeHarte) was letting me draft off him too much,” Robinson said. “I started cramping real bad the first mile.”
Russell, Mason County, Ashland and Rowan County qualified as teams for next week's state meet at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. Individual qualifiers not on the winning teams are: Lewis County's Joshua Heininger; Conner Goble of Boyd County; Noah Kelsey of Morgan County; Ben Napier of East Carter; and Mason Massie of Lewis County.
The Boyd County girls won their second team title in as many weeks on Mason County's course. The Lady Lions squeaked past the Lady Royals, 52-56.
Boyd County coach Dirk Hollar was nervous as usual, but when the team scores were released, he immediately knew why his team won.
“These girls are so mentally tough,” Hollar said.
Junior Alliyah Kautzman's fourth-place finish (20:53) led the Lady Lions. Sophomore Darian Steele was seventh in 21:13, senior Hannah Cassady was eighth in 21:13, freshman Courtney Gibson took 14th in 21:51, and junior Saralyn Miller was 19th in 22:17.
Hollar said Cassady was the reason Boyd County won because she passed a pack of runners late in the race. Cassady, meanwhile, credited Gibson for her performance.
“(Gibson) was running with me,” Cassady said. “I took off the last 800 meters. I saw a group of four girls, including a Mason County girl, I needed to get.”
Mason County eighth-grader Megan Sizemore won the individual title by 14 seconds over East Carter senior Macy Dyer. Fleming County freshman Abby Fearin was third.
Sizemore was predictably cold and spent afterward. “I tried to stay out front the whole time,” she said. “It was a really hard race.”
Boyd County, Mason County, East and Fleming County qualified for state as teams. The five individual qualifiers were: Rowan County seventh-grader Janae Graham; Russell sophomore Cara Coldiron; Ashland eighth-grader Michaela Polley; Russell eighth-grader Peyton Cantrell; and Russell senior Emily Hanson.