For The Independent
Shawn Thornbury treated what he knew like a national secret for nearly an hour.
The Boyd County Lady Lions were thus squealing for joy when they found out when everyone else did: they won their second straight Class 2A Region 6 cross country team title Saturday at Lykins Park. Boyd County defeated Fleming County, 70-88.
“I was happy,” Boyd County junior Darian Steele said. “I think we all did good.”
As many a television pitchman would say — but wait, there's more. Boyd County's boys finished fourth — the first time both teams qualified for the state meet in the same year since 1997.
“I'm pretty excited,” said Thornbury, the former head coach and current assistant to first-year coach Randee Burke. “I'll say that I've been a part of this program for a long, long time, and this is the first time I can remember since I was in high school that both boys and girls teams qualified for the state meet, so for me this is a really special day, and I know it's special for them.”
Steele's time of 21 minutes, 9.79 seconds was good for the runner-up spot to Fleming County's Olivia Leet. Courtney Gibson was third in 21:09.70, Cydney Thompson was seventh (21:53.50), Saralyn Miller was 23rd (24:02.02), and Christine Vazquez was 35th in 25.16.24.
Thompson, who's also played soccer, is finishing her first season of cross country. She's used to running 5-kilometer races on the road in spring, and it took some convincing.
“I didn't think I'd like cross country as much as I do,” she said. “I love it now.”
Vasquez and her teammates wore Christian Ichthus fish symbols with the word “run” that Miller had drawn on their hands.
“I believe without Christ, me being able to run like this, we couldn't do it,” Vazquez said. “... I'm in the band. I want to be in a team sport; I want to be healthy.”
Leet won the individual title (20:36.45) by a little more than 33 seconds over Steele. She said she simply did what coach Timothy Hamm told her.
“My coach always told me if you don't get out (front) in the beginning, you'll fall too far behind,” Leet said. “... I gained more distance on the hills.”
Added Steele: “I didn't want to go out too hard. I don't do too well when I go out too hard.”
Mason County finished third with 89 points, and East Carter was the fourth team qualifier with 94.
Qualifying for state as individuals were: Kara Coldiron of Russell in sixth place (21:44.98), Ashland's Michaela Polley in eighth (21:53.83); Bath County's Carrie Staviski in ninth (22:06.57); Kelsey Cyrus of Rowan County in 10th (22:23.68); and Janae Graham of Rowan County in 12th, (22:24.77).
Polley makes her third straight trip to state, but she said the first one in 2011 was most memorable. “It was unique because not many seventh-graders qualify for state,” she said.
Russell’s boys repeat
Like Boyd County's girls, the Red Devils easily won their second straight team title over Rowan County, 39-74 — the third championship since 2008. Senior Josh Riley's third-place finish led Russell, and he pronounced yesterday's win just a first step on the way to next Saturday's state meet at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
“I told the guys not to be happy or satisfied,” Riley said. “Our goal at the beginning of the season was to make stage, which is top four teams in the state … We're going to work twice as hard this next week to get (to the) stage.”
Russell coach Crystal Cantrell at first said the newest trophy was “bittersweet” because the Lady Devils finished fifth and won't go to state as a group. Still …
“I'm thrilled, I'm overjoyed,” she said of the boys. “They worked as a pack.”
Five Red Devils finished in the top 12: Riley (17:54.27); Tyler Andre in fourth (18:15.93); Seth Atkins in ninth (18:38.01); Jacob Heyerly in 11th (18:48.96); and Jax Downs in 12th (18:54.50).
Ashland finished third with 90 points, and Boyd County claimed the fourth team spot with 96. Tristan Kennard (seventh place, 18:33.22) and Hunter Gullett (eighth, 18:35.39) were the first two Tomcats to finish and Elijah Miller's fifth-place result (18:22.85) led the Lions.
Last year, Mason County senior Nick Robinson edged Rowan County senior Shelley DeHarte by two seconds. Saturday, they switched places — DeHarte won by a little more than 13 seconds.
“I feel like I did good,” DeHarte said of his 17:11.38 time. “I think this is the best I've run on this course.”
A few seconds earlier, Robinson offered DeHarte a winded commentary: “Good race. I let up a little too early on you.”