Harlan County runners set records at state cross country meet

Published 4:44 pm Wednesday, November 9, 2022

By Paul Lunsford

Contributing Writer

Harlan County High School set a couple of school records in the state cross-country championship in Bourbon County.

The Lady Bears finished 16th overall, which is a school record.

“I can’t say enough about these girls. We lost three incredible seniors from last year’s team,” said Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe. “We completely rebooted our program around a young core of girls. We had injuries this season that you would not believe, yet they persevered to make history. Every single girl will return from the group that ran yesterday. The future is very bright for this group, as the experience of this season will be significant in our development.”

Sophomore Peyton Lunsford placed 11th with a time of 20:06, which is also a school record and the highest individual finish.

“I’m so proud of Peyton. She’s been knocking on the door for a high state finish the last two seasons, and she deserves a breakthrough like this,” said Vitatoe. “She can do something special in the next two seasons if she continues to work hard. Her time today has to be the fastest run in the county’s history since the girls moved to a 5k distance.”

The Black Bears took 11th place, which tied a school record for finishing the event.

“These boys brought it today. This equals the highest place in our school’s history, and they were so very close to a top-eight finish overall. I’m just really proud of them,” said Vitatoe. “They had to retool after losing a great senior class last year, but they worked hard and really developed all season. It’s been very enjoyable watching their progress this season.”

The top boys’ individual player was senior Andrew Yeary. He placed 17th with a time of 17:11.

“I’m so proud of Andrew. He has steadily improved each year he’s been with us, and to run our school’s second-fastest time and to finish the highest in our school’s history at the state meet is an incredible accomplishment when you look at the guys who’ve come before him. He deserves this, and I’m so proud,” said Vitatoe,

Tanner Daniels, a seventh-grader, took 47th. His time was 18:04.66. Sophomore Kaden Boggs finished 52nd with a time of 18:09.57.

“Tanner had a great race for us today as well,” said Vitatoe. “He has had an incredible year splitting time between the middle school and varsity ranks. In my career, I’ve never seen a middle school kid as fast as he is. He’s got a great future ahead of him.

“Kaden was lights out today. I’m so proud of his improvement through his career.”

Jacob Schwenke, a freshman, was 99th and finished with a time of 19:03.32.

Other Black Bears finishers were Elijah Moore (127th), Austin Cain (159th), and Caleb Schwenke (172nd).

Following Lunsford, the Lady Bears contributed as Preslee Hensley, a freshman, took 92nd overall. Her time was 23:03.08.

“I’m very proud of Preslee. She’s been fantastic this season in the number two spot for us. She missed some time due to injuries, but she has battled through, and she had a great race yesterday,” he said.

Eighth-grader Kendall Brock (120th) and seventh-grader Grace Roberts (144th) also competed strong.

Kylie Jones, a sophomore, was 151st, followed by Addi Gray (171st) and Aliyah DeLeon (174th).

Lunsford and Yeary took all-state honors.

“I want to thank a wonderful group of parents and volunteers associated with our program who work so hard for our kids,” said Vitatoe. “I also want to thank the HCHS administration for all they pour into our program. The sendoff they gave our team yesterday was one of the coolest experiences of my coaching career, and it helped our kids see the support and provided extra motivation to perform well.”

“Finally, I want to thank my staff. Baili, Jennifer, and Miranda do a great job with our kids. I sincerely appreciate all they do,” he added.