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HCHS teams place fifth at Corbin race

The early-season injury bug is still plaguing the Harlan County girls cross country team, souring a relatively strong performance in the Corbin Invitational on Saturday.

The Lady Bears finished fifth as freshman Abby Vitatoe and sophomore Zoie Wilson both went down with injuries during the race. The team was already without the services of junior Katie Graham and sophomore Madison Roark due to injuries.

“We have to get more consistent on the girls side,” coach Ryan Vitatoe said. “We saw today some of the top teams in our region, and how far we have to go. We will keep working, but we have to be hungry to improve on both sides, especially in this new region, if we want to achieve our goal.”

One of the Lady Bears’ new Class 3A Region 7 rivals, North Laurel, won the race by tiebreaker over the host Lady Hounds. Middlesboro and Williamsburg also finished ahead of Harlan County.

Seventh-grader Cadence Ferguson led the Lady Bears, finishing 18th with a time of 25:20.02. She was followed by senior Breezy Epperson (27th, 26:00.48) and eighth-grader Ariel Madden (32nd, 27:11.09). Rounding out Harlan County’s results were Shiann Westfelt (40th, 29:24.69), Katelyn Hensley (42nd, 29:4429:44.23), Laura Creech (46th, 31:04.05), Baili Boggs (52nd, 32:20.44), Amanda Caudill (54th, 32:52.96), Victoria Huff (58th, 35:09.43) and Ally Alred (62nd, 35:38.98).

“Cadence ran a good race today,” Vitatoe said. “She’s still learning how to race, but she has a very high ceiling.”

Harlan was led by sophomore Lucy Bryson, who finished 23rd with a time of 25:50.87. Ella Morton finished 50th with a time of 31:51.54.

Harlan County also finished fifth on the boys side despite another impressive outing by senior Alex Lewis, who finished fifth with a time of 18:43.30.

“The boys had a good day today. Alex ran one of the best races of his career, and Josh (Lee) and Caleb (Brock) were both great,” Vitatoe said. “We’re still trying to find our fifth guy, but I thought all three of our junior high guys took steps in the positive direction.

“For us, it’s about closing out the last mile. We’re going to keep working on it, but we have to get better in the last mile to reach our goal.”

Lee, a junior, finished 16th with a time of 19:33.28. He was followed by Brock (32nd, 20:36.97), a freshman, and sophomore Zack Carmical (37th, 21:08.74). Also finished for the Bears were Daniel Joseph (56th, 22:30.96), Cooper McHargue (58th, 22:33.16), Matt Yeary (63rd, 23:31.68) and Andrew Crawford (90th, 28:06.70).

Tate Bryson finished 44th for Harlan with a time of 21:36.72, and Charles David Morton (22:16.92) finished 53rd.

North Laurel capped the varsity sweep with a 39-point victory over Corbin. East Jessamine and South Laurel finished third and fourth, respectively.

Jackson Huff finished fourth in the boys middle school race with a time of 17:02.96, and John Mark Bryson (19:28.23) finished 16th.

Breydy Daniels led the Bears, posting a time of 19:10.27 to finish 14th. Lucas Epperson (19:51.60), Josh Pinkley (20:25.77) and Andrew Yeary (20:55.63) finished 18th, 22nd and 27th, respectively.

Makenna Jackson finished ninth on the girls side with a time of 22:21.85 for Harlan. She was followed by Mia Pace (12th, 23:31.87) and Emma Owens (14th, 23:54.84).

Junior Sanchez (7:06.84) and Dashaun Smith (7:31.74) finished fifth and 15th, respectively, to lead the Bears in the boys elementary race. Luke Kelly (8:01.76) finished 21st, and Ethan Lewis (8:39.87) came in 25th.

Abby Sherman finished 38th in the girls race with a time of 11:07.37. Kaydie Coots finished approximately 30th, but her official place and time were not available due to a clerical error.

Harlan County will travel to Wayne County on Saturday.