For Boyd County girls and Russell boys cross country programs, the season has come full circle.
From winning the region to finishing high at state, both programs’ success is reflected in The Independent’s 2012 All-Area teams.
After failing to field a team for so many seasons, Boyd County not only had a team but thrived, finishing as Class 2A Region 6 champions along with a sixth place finish at the Class 2A State Championships in Lexington.
Boyd County coach Dirk Hollar was named All-Area girls Coach of the Year, but in his eyes he didn’t do much.
“I wouldn’t have won without the girls,” Hollar said. “When me and (assistant) coach (Shawn) Thornbury were picking times we wanted, we never imagined winning region, so placing sixth in state was a big surprise. But by the fourth and fifth meet we knew we had a legit team.”
Boyd County is represented with three selections in Alliya Kautzman, Courtney Gibson and Darian Steele.
Junior Kautzman led the way for the Lady Devils at the State Meet pacing the team in 21:31.24, good for 42nd place overall. Steele finished 72nd while Gibson was close behind her at 75th.
“They’re very humble and proud to represent Boyd County,” Hollar said. “They’re happy to get recognized. And it’s proof that hard work pays off. They’re showing others in the school cross country is not just running, it’s a sport.”
On the boys side, Russell returned to the top, winning its first Class 2A Region 6 title in four years.
Russell coach Crystal Cantrell was named boys Coach of the Year.
And while his name won’t appear anywhere officially, she wanted to share the title with husband, and fellow coach, Chuck Cantrell.
“It’s as much his award as it is mine,” Cantrell said. “We coached every practice together and he put as much of his heart into it as I did. It was a real team effort.”
Russell placed five runners on the All-Area team — Chris Cooper, Seth Adkins, Ross Lane, Josh Riley and Runner of the Year Jacob Heyerly.
“Anything we asked them to do, they were up for the challenge,” Cantrell said. “Our boys worked as a group. We set goals and they each encouraged each other and it was like a family.
“There wasn’t any animosity, and they didn’t try to be faster than the other. They just wanted to work together to a common goal from the very beginning of the season which was to win a regional title.”
And while Cantrell said all of Russell’s runners contributed in big ways, Heyerly was the one who pushed his teammates the most.
At the State Meet, the junior led all area finishers by placing 24th with a time of 17:47.05.
“Running is (Heyerly’s) passion,” Cantrell said. “He runs year-round and trains harder than anyone I know. He shows up to every practice and motivates his team to do their best. He ran as part of a team, not as an individual.
“He’s also a junior, so we’re expecting even bigger things from him next year.”
Matching Russell’s five was Ashland.
Representing the Tomcats were Taylor Bradley, Austin Craft, Hunter Gullett, Tristan Kennard and Cameron Sanders.
Ashland finished 13th in the Class 2A State Meet, with Bradley leading the way at 37th with a time of 18:03.97, and Craft followed less than a second behind.
“Ashland is just exceptional,” Cantrell said. “They’ve beaten Russell the past couple of years and had a lot of their better runners coming back. And Ashland coach Phillip Caudill is just an amazing coach and he’s been so helpful to us as well.”
The only representative not from Russell or Ashland on the boys team was Rowan County’s Shelly Deharte.
Fairview girls cross country continues to be a mainstay on the state level and on the All-Area team.
The Lady Eagles were represented by Brooklyn Bowen, Lyndsey Burke and Haley Layne after the team won the Class A Region 7 title and took fifth in the State Meet after four consecutive top-four finishes.
Bowen and Burke led Fairview at State by placing 13th and 15th, respectively.
“The Fairview girls are our benchmark,” Hollar said. “I respect (Coach Becca Chaney) so much. When you’re at the same meet as them, everyone wants to go out there and beat Fairview.”
Runner of the Year honors went to East Carter’s Macy Dyer.
Dyer, a junior, took 15th in the Class 2A State Meet (20:28.51) to lead area runners. She was also the region runner-up.
“She just looks so smooth when she runs,” Hollar said. “Her coach said she works her butt off and it’s just amazing to watch her run. And she’s just a good person too. When she’s at the meet the other girls hate that she’s there because she’s so good, but love talking to her.”
The All-Area team also includes East Carter’s Cady Chaffin, Russell’s Peyton Cantrell and Rowan County’s Janae Graham.
At the State Meet, Chaffin placed 64th for the Lady Raiders, who were 14th as a team. Rowan County’s Janae Graham finished 43rd while Lady Devils’ eighth-grader Cantrell was 65th.
KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2658.