CANNONSBURG Becca Chaney didn’t think much of it when she opened an email last week from Marilyn Mitchell, assistant to KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett.
“I thought it was just something for the season,” Boyd County’s cross country coach said, “so I open it up and start reading it, and I’m like, oh my gosh.”
What Chaney found left her tearing up: a letter from Tackett informing her she had been selected the state’s boys cross country Coach of the Year.
The letter came mere days before the Lions claimed their second consecutive region team title — a distinction Boyd County last earned from 1980-82.
It’s the second such honor Chaney has attained. She was the Kentucky Track and Cross Country Coaches Association’s girls Class A Coach of the Year at Fairview in 2010.
“That was a fantastic group of young ladies that I had the privilege to coach there,” Chaney said of the Lady Eagles, “and these boys I’ve always said are just so similar. It’s a little bit different (winning the second award) because it’s my alma mater, being here at Boyd County with it.”
Chaney and the Lions have built upon Boyd County’s strong tradition in the running sports to become one of the top teams in Class 2A. They were second at the state meet last fall and have spent time this season ranked No. 1 by MileSplit. Boyd County notably owns a victory over three-time defending state champion Lexington Catholic — the only team to finish ahead of the Lions at the Kentucky Horse Park last year — in Cannonsburg on Sept. 21.
“(The award) was great because we know she’s a great coach,” Lions sophomore J.B. Terrill said, “and it’s finally good to see someone else see it.”
Chaney saw something in Terrill, too, which was realized in Saturday’s Class 2A, Region 6 championship meet on Saturday at Powell County. Terrill became the individual champion in 16:52.98, edging out teammate and titleholder Isaiah Caperton.
Terrill won Boyd County’s fourth individual region title in as many years, following Caperton last fall and Elijah Miller the two seasons before that. Chaney has long since anticipated Terrill would take his place in that line, she said.
“We’ve always been telling him, when he was younger, in middle school, ‘You’re gonna step up eventually. You’re gonna do this,’” Chaney said. “Him and Isaiah, they push each other out here. They’re just great. They don’t even really care who crosses that line first. Good teammates.”
Added Terrill: “(Winning the region) makes me feel really good, and also makes me keep wanting to push everyone up there with me on the team, because I know if we can keep our pack as close to me and Isaiah as possible, then we’re gonna do really good.”
Terrill is part of a core that has come up in Boyd County’s system from elementary age. Chaney became a kindergarten teacher at Summit Elementary when Terrill and fellow sophomores Grant Chaffin and Waylon Smith attended there.
“I’m looking over here, and he’s like a man now,” Chaney said of Terrill, “him and Grant and Waylon. We look back at all these pictures of them when they were little babies, and taking them down to the state meet for middle school, and them doing as well as they did there, and now, they’re just continuing on.”
Seniors Caperton and Tyler Conn joined that mix via transfer and have proven integral.
“It’s great,” Chaney said. “It’s fun to watch them keep competing and growing in their sport.”
Boyd County is seeded fourth for the state meet on Saturday in Lexington. That is far from infallible, Chaney said, because seedings are compiled on region times and don’t account for differences in courses across the state.
“That’s fine with us,” Chaney said. “We know the top six teams, it’s gonna be a battle between one or two points. It’s gonna come down to every jersey we can get across that finish line.”
Conn’s won’t be among them. According to Chaney, he sustained a hip injury so swollen and inflamed it caused edema in the bone marrow. He is shut down until re-evaluation in January or February, she said.
Sophomore Spencer Elswick filled Conn’s spot on Saturday, finishing seventh. Terrill, Caperton, Chaffin, Elswick and Smith all placed in the top nine as the Lions beat second-place Russell and Mason County by 40 points.
“We have all these boys that just keep stepping up, these boys that we would never have thought last year would be where they’re at, running the times that they’re running,” Chaney said. “It seems like they just have this motto, they always have each other’s back. Everybody just keeps filling in and stepping up every race.
“We just don’t ever know who’s gonna be what place, and that’s what makes a great team, when you’re interchanging and people are just stepping up and filling in spots. That’s why they’re as good as they are.”
Terrill said the Lions aren’t feeling pressure to climb to the very top of the podium Saturday. Just reaching it remains a major accomplishment.
“I definitely think we should be on the podium, which is top four,” he said. “Obviously first would be awesome. Yeah, we’re striving to get first, but I think if we don’t get first, it’ll still be great if we get on the podium.”
Ashland’s Bekah Howard carries high aspirations to Lexington as well. Her region-winning performance of 19:17.20 on Saturday in Stanton gave her four top-three finishes in that event in as many years and her second title.
Howard is seeded eighth in the Class 2A meet, but Kittens coach Phillip Caudill puts little stock in that because of the aforementioned differences in course difficulty.
“I believe she is a legitimate contender,” Caudill said.
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