Saturday’s weather at the State Cross Country Meet bordered perfect, just like Fairview’s girls cross country team.
With “Pack Attack” as their motto, the youth-powered Lady Eagles delivered the school’s first state championship in dominating fashion at Kentucky Horse Park.
Fairview, determined to live up to its No. 1 state ranking, won the Class A title by a whopping 35 points and celebrated the moment with screaming, hugging and crying.
“Oh my God, I’m so overwhelmed,” said Katie Richard, one of two seventh-graders to lead an impressive team showing. “I haven’t ever felt anything like this. I’m so proud of my team.”
Fairview stayed true to the plan, sticking together as closely as possible. All seven runners finished less than two minutes apart and most of them set new personal records.
“They deserve all of it,” coach Becca Chaney said. “They put in so much work from June until now. Everybody today ran their best race all season. That’s all you can do.”
Last year, the Lady Eagles were somewhat disappointed with a third-place finish at the State Meet after being ranked second all season.
Saturday, the team left nothing to chance.
Seventh-grader Lyndsey Burke, a small runner with a big heart, again paced the team by taking ninth overall in 19:49.20 — a new PR. She had to battle nerves in her first high school State Meet.
“I was just exhausted this race,” Burke said. “I think I pulled out a little too fast. After that, I tried to hang in. I built up a lot of tension leading up to the race.”
Richard placed 13th in 20:03.25, with eighth-grade teammate Haley Layne just four seconds behind. Fairview sophomore Brooklyn Bowen finished 20th in 20:39.07.
“It feels so awesome to make school history,” Bowen said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy in my lifetime, or cried so much.”
Bowen pointed to Fairview’s depth as a driving force in the team’s success.
“Our competition is our teammates,” said Bowen, also crediting the two seventh-graders for setting the bar high.
“They are wonderful,” Bowen said. “Lyndsey sets the pace. Whenever we feel we need to go, she pushes us. Katie is the same way. She pushes me at practice and meets.”
Freshman Maddy Rymer rounded out the Lady Eagles’ top five Saturday. She ran her season best (21:12.26) by about 20 seconds to place 35th in a field of 172 runners.
“I knew I had to step it up today,” Rymer said. “This is what we worked for. I had to go.”
Burke and Rymer came down with stomach viruses on Monday but were feeling better by midweek. Morgan McIntyre, another freshman, also battled sickness during the week.
McIntyre showed no ill effects on race day, finishing nine seconds behind Rymer with a personal best.
“I tried to stay as close to Maddy as possible,” McIntyre said. “We knew we all had to run well. There were other great teams in here. It’s an unbelievable feeling to be state champions.”
Audrey Sizemore was next for Fairview in 21:44.04.
Lexington Sayre eighth-grader Maddox Patterson won the individual title in 18:25.34.
Chaney’s father, KHSAA official Bob Stacey, made good on a promise to Burke that he would put on a red wig for the rest of the day if Fairview won the championship. Burke had worn the wig at a team-spirit practice.
Stacey coached Fairview’s cross country team in 2005 before Becca took over as head coach. The father and daughter now share a special distinction because Stacey coached Boyd County to its only state team title in 1980 as track coach.
In Class 2A boys, Ashland’s Jon Renneker and junior Brennan Kizziar led their team to fifth in the team standings.
Renneker closed out an outstanding Tomcat career by crossing the finish line 16:42.64 to get third for the second consecutive year.
“I’m kind of happy with it,” Renneker said. “I wanted first of course, but I will take third any day.”
He finished behind only South Warren’s Jared Skrabacz (16:16.70) and North Oldham’s Taylor Sanders (16:27.32).
Renneker’s trophy haul Saturday also included the Sportsmanship Award.
“I had no idea I was getting it,” he said. “It means a lot. Running is almost like a brotherhood. We all respect each other for what we do.”
Kizziar also had a big day for the Tomcats. He placed 11th with a time of 17:11.77 among 236 runners. Taylor Bradley was next for the Tomcats at No. 34.
East Carter freshman Macy Dyer took ninth in the Class 2A girls race. She finished in 20:15.16.
“I have improved my time a whole lot,” said Dyer, who last year placed 53rd in her first cross country season. “I just wanted to get in the Top 15 today. I’m really happy.”
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2671.