Robin Tolle found out the hard way what “win at all costs” really means. Bath County’s girls cross country team took it to heart.
Shawn Tolle, a Bath County football Hall of Famer and the husband of the school’s 12th-year cross country coach, was diagnosed with colon cancer in March. The way the Lady Cats ran this fall — culminating in the Class A, Region 7 team title — likely provided salve, but it was also sparked by Shawn’s public battle, which Robin said began with a “Losing is Not an Option”-themed night put on by Bath County Middle School’s basketball team.
“They took that little motto and carried it into their season,” Tolle said of Bath County’s runners. “It’s been a really inspiring season through it all. ... Throughout all of the adversity of it all, if you can translate that into sports, that’s wonderful, and if you can promote that fight and help him along the way, that’s been a great thing.”
Shawn is doing well, recently receiving a good report from the doctor, Robin said. He underwent chemotherapy and radiation, had surgery in July and continues chemo.
“We’re in hopes of a full, good, cancer-free Christmas,” Robin said. “We think that’s where we’re headed.”
That is undoubtedly the most important reason for a potential pleasant yuletide for the Tolles, but what the Lady Cats accomplished will be a pleasant recollection, too.
Bath County won its second region title in three years behind the first runner not named Kailee Perry to claim that region’s individual honors since 2012 — senior Isabella Copher. Copher was the first of four Lady Cats in the top 15 at Powell County. She and junior teammate Amelia Oldfield, the No. 4 region meet finisher, made The Daily Independent’s All-Area Team.
Copher’s top time this season was 20:05.36, while Oldfield checked in at 21:31.56.
“Isabella wanted to go out like that, and she really had set a goal for herself to be champion, if at all possible,” Tolle said. “So I was really proud of their work. ... We knew going into it that there was a good possibility (to win the region), but we thought it would be a close race, because it’s a pretty tough region.”
It wasn’t particularly close, and, due largely to Bath County’s 28-point victory in that meet, Tolle is the All-Area Coach of the Year.
She has sustained the Lady Cats’ program from having one runner when she took over in 2008 and has continued to ride the crests and troughs of coaching at a small rural school.
“It was just because cross country — and I guess it happens in a lot of sports — there’s swells of it and then it goes through a lull,” Tolle said. “Soccer had become very popular, and there were these other booms coming out. I just worked hard to recruit (within the school), and word of mouth has been a real seller because once you get things going and there’s winners on the team, it kinda promotes itself.”
Few northeastern Kentucky runners have won as consistently as Ashland senior Bekah Howard. Her high school career culminated in her second Class 2A, Region 6 championship, a second-place finish in the state meet and her third All-Area Runner of the Year honor. She shared that distinction the last two seasons with Perry, the Morgan County star who has gone on to Bowling Green State.
By her own high standards, born from finishing in the top 11 in the state meet every year from her seventh-grade season on, Howard didn’t feel like she got off to a strong start this fall. But once she rounded into form, she was her typically remarkable self.
Howard’s top time this year was 19:09.96, the best in the area by a shade over 40 seconds, and her 19:31.92 in the Class 2A state meet was second. She posted a top-three finish in the region meet for the fourth time in as many years.
“Once I finally had one good race, I kinda got my confidence back, and then I had a couple in a row there,” Howard said. “It was better than the beginning, especially to know that I started out so rough. I think it was even more rewarding to finish like that.”
Howard, who has gone on a handful of college visits since the season ended, intends to pick her next school between Thanksgiving and Christmas, “just so I can stop worrying about it,” she said. Around then she’ll resume running after a well-earned break in preparation for track and field season, with the intention of earning a spot in the Kentucky Dream Mile, she said. That’s a time-based invitational held annually in Louisville featuring the 16 fastest milers in the state.
“I usually don’t run for five or six weeks, but I’ll probably start a little earlier this year,” Howard said.
Freshman Aubree Hay, whose best time this year was 20:37.80, and sophomore Haley Fielding, who posted a 21:31.68, joined Howard from Ashland on the All-Area team, which is composed of the runners with the top 16 times this season reported to MileSplit.
Boyd County’s ninth-place Class 2A state team — which recorded the Lady Lions’ first top 10 showing since placing sixth in 2012 — garnered four All-Area selections: sophomore Sophia Newsome (19:50.15), sophomore Emily Harrington (21:05.71), freshman Emma Steel (21:35.75) and freshman Lexie Sworski (21:40.54).
East Carter sisters sophomore Riley Brown (19:59.47) and seventh-grader Ryann Brown (21:31.70), as well as eighth-grader Mary Stephens (21:33.10), placed All-Area. So did Rowan County twin eighth-graders Autumn Egleston (19:50.20) and Ariah Egleston (20:46.72).
Senior Jordan Riley (20:54.41) represented Russell, and sophomore Beth Middleton (21:38.18) was a selection from West Carter.
The Runner and Coach of the Year were selected by The Daily Independent sports department.
(606) 326-2658 |
2019 ALL-AREA GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY TEAM
Riley Brown (East Carter)
Ryann Brown (East Carter)
Isabella Copher (Bath County)
Ariah Egleston (Rowan County)
Autumn Egleston (Rowan County)
Haley Fielding (Ashland)
Emily Harrington (Boyd County)
Aubree Hay (Ashland)
Bekah Howard (Ashland)
Beth Middleton (West Carter)
Sophia Newsome (Boyd County)
Amelia Oldfield (Bath County)
Jordan Riley (Russell)
Emma Steel (Boyd County)
Mary Stephens (East Carter)
Lexie Sworski (Boyd County)
RUNNER OF THE YEAR
Bekah Howard (Ashland)
COACH OF THE YEAR
Robin Tolle (Bath County)
Honorable mention: Kaitlyn Adkins (Greenup County), Sadie Chaffins (Greenup County), Taylor Crawford (Boyd County), Courtney Fitzpatrick (Russell), Riley Goodman (Russell), Maggie Johnson (Lawrence County), Stevie McSorley (Russell), Addyson Meadows (Greenup County), Kalynn Pease (Fleming County), Sophie Price (Rowan County).