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HCHS boys capture sixth straight Area 9 title

The Harlan County boys cross country squad put the finishing touches on an impressive regular season with another win at home Saturday in the Area 9 Championship Meet.

The Bears won despite being without some varsity regulars, including junior Caleb Brock.

“I’m very proud of the effort these boys gave today,” Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe said. “To come into this race missing two of our top three guys and come away with the win is impressive. I challenged them throughout the week that everyone was going to have to step up. We talked about the importance of our pack being solid, and they were perfect with that today. It was a solid team effort.”

The Bears boasted five of the top 10 finishers, led by sophomore Daniel Joseph, who finished third with a time of 18:35.93. Matt Yeary (19:08.81) and Zack Carmical (19:32.00) finished fifth and sixth, respectively. Rounding out Harlan County’s results were Logan Hensley (eighth, 19:56.75), Lucas Epperson (10th, 20:30.75), Sean Cooper (13th, 21:28.41) and Andrew Yeary (14th, 22:35.84).

Harlan junior Tristen Cornette finished 21st with a time of 24:30.50.

The Bears defeated second-place Letcher Central by 19 points. Johnson Central came in third.

Middlesboro’s Ozzy Norris was the individual winner with a time of 18:08.84.

In the girls race, Harlan County finished second, 17 points behind Middlesboro.

Harlan County’s Peyton Lunsford was second with a time of 21:53.94. She was followed by Caitlin Rice (eighth, 24:33.53) and Cadance Ferguson (10th, 24:52.44). Baili Boggs (25:34.25) and Ariel Madden (25:35.18) finished 13th and 14th, respectively. Lainey Garrett (16th, 28:14.50) and Taylor Clark (20th, 31:53.18) also competed for the Lady Bears.

“I’m also proud of the girls for their effort as well,” Vitatoe said. “Five of the seven girls ran either her season best or a PR. We came up short on our goal, but you can’t be upset with that type of effort.”

Harlan had three runners participate in the girls race. Senior Lucy Bryson (24:56.31) and Ella Morton (25:14.41) finished 11th and 12th, respectively, followed by Mia Pace (15th, 26:14.94).

Middlesboro’s Mallory James won the girls race with a time of 21:05.38.

Harlan County’s Peyton Griffin and Breydy Daniels won the girls and boys junior varsity races, respectively. Griffin had a time of 35:00.18, while Kiki Dean finished third in the girls race with a time of 38:29.06. Daniels (22:06.22) was followed by Jody Summers (second, 23:01.66).

Harlan County Christian’s Olivia Kelly won the girls middle school race with a time of 14:27.15. Harlan County’s Kaydie Coots (18:44.47) and Mary Gross (19:19.31) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

Nazareth Sanchez won the boys middle school race with a time of 13:08.31. He was followed immediately by Bradley Brock (13:13.56). Kaden Boggs (14:05.12) and Seth Coogle (16:40.56) finished fifth and seventh, respectively. Harlan’s Dylan Cox (13:32) placed third.

“I was also pleased with our middle school kids,” Vitatoe said. “These younger kids come to each practice and work as hard as our high school kids without nearly the same amount of recognition or accolades. They give it their all every day, and I’m excited about the future of the program based on what I’m seeing.”

Tanner Daniels won the boys elementary school race with a time of 8:47.00. He was followed by Dashaun Smith (fourth, 9:47.06), Luther Gross (fifth, 9:53.72), Trey Creech (seventh, 10:12.84), Ethan Lewis (13th, 12:04.59), Timothy Hickson (14th, 12:15.09), Kalob Stevens (15th, 12:23.38), Braxton Crain (18th, 13:00.38), Carson Sanders (22nd, 14:10.91) and Zakk Collins (24th, 14:56.34). In the girls race, Alice Gross (12:52.56) and Anna Gross (13:39.03) finished seventh and eighth, respectively, for Harlan County.

The Harlan County boys won the elementary school team title.

“I’m also very proud of our elementary boys for winning Area 9 as a team,” Vitatoe said. “These guys have worked hard this season and they ran great today. Our elementary girls were also solid.”

The elementary and middle school teams will participate in the Meet of Champions in Lexington on Saturday. The varsity team will return to action Oct. 26 at Wayne County in the Class 3A Region 7 championship meet.