Elijah Miller had a heavy heart entering Saturday’s Ashland Invitational.
It’s only fitting he made his final move on vaunted “Heartbreak Hill,” on his way to winning the boys’ 5K at Wildwood Park with a time of 18:23.
For a majority of the race, the Boyd County seventh-grader was neck-and-neck with Ashland’s Tristan Kennard and they were still beside each other heading into “Heartbreak Hill.”
After an agonizing few minutes of climbing the hill, Miller said the pain was relieved when he saw he was alone heading down the final stretch.
“It hurts your legs so bad once you get to the top,” Miller said. “But the pain was gone as soon I got down the back of the hill and started my way to the finish.”
Miller, who moved to the area from Cullman, Ala., came into the race after receiving news that former teammate Nicholas Fillinger died on Thursday.
Fillinger just set a school record in the last week, and after news of his death reached Miller, he wanted to run the race in dedication to him.
“(Miller) and his family had some things they were struggling with this week,” said Boyd County coach Randee Wallace. “Elijah and his sister, Saralyn, both had awesome races today. I really think that kind of helped them.”
Another impressive feat for Miller is the seventh-grader had been doing mostly middle school races.
After watching him in the middle school race at Wildwood Park last week, Wallace decided to have him run with the varsity squad.
He repaid her by not only winning the race, but also by leading Boyd County to the team title.
“I really didn’t know how he would do in the varsity race,” Wallace said. “He usually runs the middle school races, and wins. But it was really cool to see him come out here and win the varsity race.
Along with Miller, Boyd County had three others finish in the top 10: Aaron Parent (fifth), Connor Goble (seventh) and Kaleb Mullins (ninth).
East Carter finished second, and was led by Ben Napier who placed second with a time 19:18. Joey Williams finished 11th and Kyle Yates pulled in at 13th.
Kennard ended up taking third with a time of 19:20. Ashland got another Top-10 finish from Peter Jenkins, who came in 10th.
While local schools dominated the boys portion, the girls’ 5K was all about St. Henry.
The school, from 142 miles away in Erlanger, is the defending Class A state champion. St. Henry also dwarfed the others with 30 entries of the 63 girls who competed.
Of those 30, St. Henry had seven finish in the top 10 and picked up the overall team title.
“This is, in my opinion, the most challenging course in the state of Kentucky,” St. Henry coach Tony Harden said. “And coming in this was kind of a gut-check. I told them not to worry about times, and I think they showed some guts today.
“Nobody walked and they said they all survived, so it’s a pretty gutsy performance on a pretty tough course.”
St. Henry junior Sam Hentz won the event and almost set a course record with a time of 20:02. The course record stands at 19:55.
After Harden talked up the course during the week, Hentz was quick to admit it lived up to her coach’s praise.
“He said it was going to be the hardest course we ran this year and he was definitely right,” Hentz laughed. “I can now say I ran Heartbreak Hill. I’m glad we can all say that. We all made it and I’m really proud of everyone.”
Right behind Hentz was teammate Taylor Connett, who finished second with a time of 20:14. Other top 10 finishers for St. Henry included Renee Svec (fourth), Abbey Epplen (sixth), Libby Annekan (eighth), Elizabeth Hoffman (ninth), and Molly Brownfield (10th).
And while Harden is used to seeing Hentz and Connett at the head of the pack, he’s pleased that he could get five more in the top 10.
“That’s the big thing we’ve been working on this year,” Harden said. “We’ve been working on closing time-gaps between all of our runners. I told them we can’t control what other teams do ... but we can focus on what we do in practice, which is pack it in and stay close to the front runners.”
Breaking up St. Henry’s sweep of the top 10 was Boyd County. Courtney Gibson finished third in 20:40 and Darian Steele was fifth with a 20:59 to help give Boyd second place.
It’s the second strong finish of the week by Steele and Gibson, who finished first and second at the KOVCCT Championships on Tuesday.
“Usually Courtney is front and Darian is behind,” Wallace said. “But sometimes they can switch it up. Every time we run I’m surprised. They just did a fantastic job today.”
East Carter finished third with Macy Dyer grabbing seventh place and Madison Dyer placing 14th. Ashland’s Michaela Polley finished 12th.
KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2658.
Elijah Miller had a heavy heart entering Saturday’s Ashland Invitational.
- Local Sports
Panthers pound Ashland for repeat trip to Rupp (with video)
The Fleming County Panthers waited nearly an hour to ascend the ladders set up under the goals at Ellis T. Johnson Arena on Tuesday night.
To the victor belongs the spoils, which traditionally includes the nets after winning a tournament title. But Fleming County milled around on Morehead State’s floor taking pictures and soaking in the atmosphere after handling Ashland 82-59 in the 16th Region Tournament final.
Snipping the twine was almost an afterthought. In fact, except for a minute or so of celebration with their student section immediately following the final buzzer, the Panthers didn’t really even seem all that excited.
They expected to be here, and they were all business after earning back-to-back region titles and trips to Rupp Arena.
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Ashland was left feeling like the shy kid after an intense game of Truth or Dare.
Truth: Fleming County outrebounded Ashland, 39-24, after Ashland outdueled Greenup County by 10 the night before.
'Relaxed' Steward earns MVP award
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Central's 15th Region reign continues
Once was good.
Twice was nice.
Three was sweet for the Johnson Central Eagles.
Senior Slade McPeek scored 22 points and earned most valuable player honors Tuesday night as Johnson Central rolled past Shelby Valley, 81-56, for its third straight 15th Region championship at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
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VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights
Fleming County defeated Lewis County, 66-58, and Ashland beat Greenup County, 81-61, on Monday night at Morehead State University to set up tonight's championship matchup. Tipoff is set for 7.
Ashland cruises past Greenup to 16th Region championship game
Tyler Stewart is known for his unrelenting hustle as one of Ashland’s glue guys.
When the senior guard can pitch in some offense too, as he did Monday in the 16th Region Tournament semifinals, that’s just one more problem for Tomcats opponents.
Stewart scored 20 points, senior Steven Friley posted a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Ashland outscored Greenup County 21-9 in the third quarter to break open what was a seven-point game at halftime and cruise past the Musketeers, 81-61.
Fleming battles back to 16th Region final
A healthy Wilder Williams this season has given Fleming County a whole new dimension.
Prior to his sophomore year, Williams sustained a football injury that resulted in three ankle surgeries and limited him to bench duty last season while the Panthers made their run to the 16th Region championship.
A physical 6-foot-3 player, Williams is making his presence felt around the basket as Fleming County looks to return to the Sweet Sixteen.
AARON SNYDER: Will the next hero be unmasked?
Who will the bat signal shine for tonight?
Or, should I say, the Cat signal?
In the third installment of a trilogy that might rival the Batman three-pack of “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” Fleming County and Ashland will battle in a matchup that has produced a classic clash in each of the last two 16th Region Tournaments.
If the first two collectively served as a gradual progressions to tonight’s scene, the climax could be off the charts.
Corey Gregg was Ashland’s superhero in 2012, when the senior confidently fired a perfect 3-point shot from the right corner. The triple thrust the Tomcats and Panthers into overtime, from which Ashland emerged 79-73 in a first-round game.
Central wins, Lawrence falls in 15th
The biggest concern for Lawrence County coach Josh Cook was staying out of foul trouble.
His team stayed in it all night, and it cost them a spot in the 15th Region title game.
Shelby Valley senior Tyler Carr led four players in double figures with 19 points as the Wildcats knocked off Lawrence County, 72-60, in the semifinals of the 15th Region Tournament at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
“This one hurts,” said Cook. “We’ll learn from this, and I have no doubt that our kids will get back here and finish the job.”
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