Bears finish fifth, qualify for state
The Harlan County boys cross country squad ensured that one of the most impressive seasons in school history will end on the grounds of the Kentucky Horse Park.
Caleb Brock medaled, and the Bears booked a second consecutive trip to the state championship meet with a fifth-place finish Saturday at the Class 3A Region 7 meet at Wayne County.
“I’m very proud of our boys program,” Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe said. “It’s been our goal all season to earn a return bid to the state meet. We wanted to prove last year wasn’t an anomaly, and they did that today.“
Brock, a junior, finished seventh with a time of 17:33.39
“I’m very proud of Caleb. To get on the podium at this level is an accomplishment. He lives, eats and breathes the sport and he deserves a moment like that,” Vitatoe said.
Brock was followed by sophomores Daniel Joseph (23rd, 18:38.60) and Matt Yeary (26th, 18:53.93). Also finishing for Harlan County were Logan Hensley (30th, 19:24.32), Zack Carmical (35th, 19:34.35), Lucas Epperson (41st, 20:05.74) and Sean Cooper (48th, 20:45.89).
“They’ve overcome a lot this season with injuries, but this group didn’t let that deter them. They kept fighting, and they deserve this. I’m happy for them and I’m very proud of them.”
Madison Central cruised to the regional title, led by senior Connor O’Shea, who repeated as individual champion with a time of 15:47.70. Central defeated second-place South Laurel by 24 points. North Laurel and West Jessamine finished third and fourth, respectively.
The boys team will be joined in Lexington next weekend by seventh-grader Peyton Lunsford and freshman Caitlin Rice, who qualified individually in the girls race. Lunsford also medaled for Harlan County, finishing seventh with a time of 20:58.02, while Rice (23:55.69) was 26th.
“Peyton came out this season like a rocket,” Vitatoe said. “To get on the podium at this level as a seventh-grader is impressive. She focused on the race plan we put together for her today, and it paid off. She most definitely deserves this opportunity, and I’m proud of her.
“I’m tickled to death for Caitlin. She’s super quiet and reserved and just shows up and goes to work each day. She’s a hard worker, and she deserves to be there. I told her all year, I believe she would have qualified last year had she not had injuries at the end of the season.”
Rounding out the Lady Bears’ results were Cadance Ferguson (34th, 25:02.51), Riley Key (38th, 25:40.29), Ariel Madden (39th, 25:46.42), Baili Boggs (40th, 25:54.15) and Lainey Garrett (50th, 28:53.29).
“I’m proud of all these kids for their work this season. I want to acknowledge my seniors, to thank them for all they’ve given to our program,” Vitatoe said. “I also want to thank coach (Arynn) Johnson for all her hard work. Now we turn our focus to state.”
West Jessamine won the team championship, defeating North Laurel by 39 points. Madison Central, Pulaski County and Southwestern finished third through fifth, respectively, to qualify for state berths.
Madison Central freshman Ciara O’Shea won the race with a time of 18:56.80.
The Class 3A state championship is set for Saturday. The girls race is slated to begin at 1:30 p.m., followed by the boys race at 2:15.