Regional team champions Fairview, Boyd County and Russell are looking for more 5K thrills at Saturday’s State Cross Country Meet.
As usual, Fairview’s girls will be in the hunt for the Class A title. They finished runner-up last year after winning the championship in 2010.
It’s been an eventful season for the Lady Eagles, especially their head coach.
Becca Chaney delivered her first baby — a daughter — in late September. Fairview motored along while the new mother missed some meets, but she was back in plenty of time to watch the Lady Eagles achieve another perfect score at regionals as Lyndsey Burke, Brooklyn Bowen, Haley Layne, Maddy Rymer and Brandi Loudenback swept the top five spots on their home course.
“We kind of came together,” Chaney said. “We ran the best we have in a couple of meets. I’m hoping that carries over to Saturday.”
Chaney said the team has done better than she expected this fall. Loudenback, an eighth-grader, provided a big boost in the regional meet with a fifth-place time of 22 minutes, 9 seconds — far and away her best yet.
The Lady Eagles know it will take a big effort to come away with the first-place team trophy Saturday at Kentucky Horse Park. Defending champion St. Henry, Bishop Brossart, Louisville Holy Cross and Green County are other strong contenders.
“Right now, we are fifth,” Chaney said of rankings for the season. “It’s going to come down to who has the best day. Those spots are so close.”
Fairview had its customary pep-rally dinner for the State Meet on Thursday night at the elementary school cafeteria.
“We usually have a guest speaker, this time a coach from Shawnee State, and the seniors (Bowen and Paige McKnight) will speak,” Chaney said Thursday afternoon.
Russell, meanwhile, put on a Pre-State Dinner Thursday with former Red Devils cross country and track standout Tate Dillow as guest speaker. Dillow now works as a chef at Domino’s Pizza headquarters in Michigan and has gained popularity in TV commercials.
“We’re doing it as a sendoff for the team,” said Crystal Cantrell, first-year head coach of Russell’s boys and girls cross country teams.’”
Cantrell, with considerable support from her husband, Chuck, guided the boys squad to its first Class 2A regional title since 2008.
“That was the goal all season,” Crystal said.
The Red Devils beat out Mason County for first place after finishing third to the Royals in the Area 7 meet.
Juniors Jacob Heyerly, Josh Riley and senior Ross Lane led the way for Russell by placing 3-4-5 at Maysville. Chris Cooper, Seth Atkins and Jordan Vallance also finished in the top 15, with teammate Stephen Russell not far behind.
“The boys are all very excited,” Crystal Cantrell said. “They really support each other. Going into the State Meet, we feel like the sky’s the limit.”
Riley, Heyerly, Cooper and Vallance are returners from last year’s team that took 16th at state.
“Ross has been a fantastic addition,” said Russell’s head coach. “Seth is an eighth-grader. His performances have been tremendous this year.”
Heyerly, Riley and Lane have run in the low 17s and are aiming to break into the 16s on Saturday.
The Cantrells’ daughter Peyton, an eighth-grader, is one of three Russell girls qualifiers along with Kara Coldiron and Emily Hanson.
Another first-year area head coach, Dirk Hollar at Boyd County, is ecstatic about the girls team heading to the State Meet as regional champs for the first time in a long while. The Lady Lions edged Mason County by four points.
“That was big, really big,” said Hollar, who is assisted by former Lady Lions coach Shawn Thornbury. “Later on, Shawn said it was exactly 25 years since the last time Boyd County won the region.”
Freshman Courtney Gibson finished 14th despite hurting her hamstring earlier in the week.
Senior Hannah Cassady helped make the difference for Boyd County with a strong finish to get eighth place, right behind teammate Darian Steele.
“Hannah passed six girls in the last mile, five in the last 800 meters,” Hollar said.
Alliya Kautzman was fourth overall to lead the Lady Lions’ effort. Saralyn Miller placed 19th to round out the team’s scoring.
Hollar and Thornbury realized early on that the team could be special. Boyd County knocked off three highly ranked teams at one of the season’s first large meets.
“We were sitting in the locker room one day writing down times we thought the girls could run,” Hollar said. “They blew them out of the water after two or three races. Shawn and I looked at each other thinking, we are going to be good.”
The team’s greatest quality may be its tenacity.
“I’ve never been around a group of people that are this competitive, and I’ve been running since sixth grade,” Hollar said. “At the beginning of the year, we talked with them about hitting certain times. When it comes down to big races, we tell them to go out and beat the other girls. They really take that to heart.”
Hollar said the Lady Lions’ goal Saturday is to get their top four runners under 21 minutes, and Miller below the 22-minute mark.
“If we do, we have a shot at the top five,” he said.
Look for East Carter junior Macy Dyer, the regional runner-up, to be among the 2A leaders. She finished ninth at the State Meet the past two years.
On the boys’ side, Rowan County’s Shelley Deharte posted the sixth-fastest time (16:53.08) among qualifiers.
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2671.