Sophia Newsome giggled slightly when the issue was addressed.
The question asked of Boyd County’s junior runner — The Daily Independent’s All-Area Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year — was: Which was more satisfying, finishing sixth in the state Class 2A meet Oct. 30 or leading the Lady Lions to fifth place in the team standings?
At first, Newsome thought the team finish was more significant.
“We just wanted to break into the top five, and when we got fifth, everyone was ecstatic about it. Going up that many spots in just one year is kind of unheard of,” Newsome said.
Then, a gleeful chortle.
“They’re both equally great,” Newsome said. “I can’t put one in front of the other one because I wouldn’t have placed in the top 10 individually if I didn’t have my teammates’ support.”
Boyd County coach Becca Chaney — who garnered Coach of the Year honors — talked about the team finish.
“It’s the highest girls team (result) since, I think, 2012; that team was sixth place,” Chaney said. “I was very pleased with them and very happy, but those girls, they wanted to be top four.
“Some of them were in tears; some were upset. And I thought, ‘Ladies, you were ninth last year, and you’re fifth this year.’”
Newsome ran the 3.1 miles at the Bourbon County Cross Country course in 20 minutes, 9.63 seconds; a week earlier, she won the Class 2A, Region 6 race in 19:26.85.
“This year she came and worked in our strength and conditioning training,” Chaney said. “She just developed strong in her legs, in her hips, in her core. I think that was the biggest thing.”
Newsome’s opponents had nothing but praise for what happened.
“She’s so encouraging to me and other runners, and she is so nice; and honestly, I love racing her,” Ashland sophomore Aubree Hay, another All-Area first-teamer, said. “I have beaten her in the past. I did not beat her this season, though.”
Newsome enjoys the fellowship — whether it’s Hay, state champion Maggie Schroeder of Highlands, runner-up Addi Dewey of Christian Academy of Louisville or Mason County’s Paige Decker.
“I don’t get to talk to a lot of these girls outside of cross country,” Newsome said. “Being able to support each other, even being from different areas, different schools (is good). If I have a bad race, they’re still gonna be there.
“You’re giving your guts to go and do this; it’s hard. Talking to them, getting personal, makes it better when you finish.”
Four of Newsome’s teammates made the All-Area list: seventh-grader Sami Govey (who finished the state race in 23rd place out of 213 runners in 21:07.63), sophomore Lexie Sworski (37th, 21:33.35), seventh-grader Ava Kazee (38th, 21:37.56) and sophomore Abby Baldridge (58th, 22:16.32).
Hay finished fourth in the region run (20:16.32) and 31st at state (21:24.11).
“Aubree’s just a team leader for us,” Ashland coach Chris Bruner said. “Without that (region) finish, we wouldn’t have made it as a team.”
Hay was disappointed with her State time. “I was in the same heat as (Rowan County freshman) Autumn Egleston,” she said. “I was planning to stay with her, but I just wasn’t able to.”
Bath County senior Amelia Oldfield won the Class A, Region 7 title in 21:45.78, a little less than six seconds faster than West Carter junior Elizabeth Middleton’s 21:51.35. Morgan County senior Krista Perry finished third in 22:36.51.
In Class 2A, Autumn Egleston and twin sister Ariah finished fifth and 12th in the Region 6 race, respectively. At State, Autumn was 15th in 20:44.80, and Ariah was 51st in 22:07.88.
East Carter junior Riley Brown was sixth and seventh-grader Ryann Brown was 28th.
Greenup County freshman Addyson Meadows was 15th in the region.