HCHS teams qualify for 2A state meet

By Abby Sherman, Contributing Writer

Familiar faces, new faces. Class 3A, Class 2A.
Whatever changes for the Harlan County cross country program, one thing remains the same: Success in the postseason.
Harlan County’s boys and girls squads advanced to the state meet for the fifth consecutive and third consecutive year, respectively, with impressive finishes at the Class 2A Region 5 championship Saturday at Cave Lake.
“I’m so proud of our kids for their effort today. This is one of the premier regions in the entire class of 2A, and there’s no easy path to the state championship,” Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe said. “I’m hopeful the kids recognize this accomplishment for what it is. Qualifying from AA5 means you’re one of the top 20 teams in the state overall.”
The girls placed third overall. Peyton Lunsford finished second overall with a time of 21:11.07. Preslee Hensley finished 19th with a time of 24:08.41, while Kendall Brock placed 25th with a time of 24:30.70. Other finishers for the Lady Bears were Gracie Roberts (30th, 25:16.93), Kylie Jones (35th, 25:52.13), Addi Gray (37th, 25:57.80) and Aliyah Deleon (39th, 26:11.32).
Corbin won the girls meet, followed by East Jessamine.
“I’m very proud of our girls. We have experienced unprecedented injuries to our roster throughout this season. In fact, we were shuffling our roster as late as Friday to get our seven figured out. This group is also a very young, inexperienced group, and I’m so proud of what they accomplished today,” Vitatoe said. “It says a lot about their character and will help us tremendously as we grow in the coming years. We will have every single girl returning next season from our regional roster.”
“Peyton had a tremendous race today. She’s grown so much with her poise and confidence, and it’s helped her learn when to make a big move,” Vitatoe said. “She pushed at the perfect time, and the results speak for themselves. I’m very proud of her.”
“Preslee and Kendall had great races today. Preslee was in her first regional meet, and I thought she performed well,” Vitatoe said. “Kendall is a second year varsity girl, but is only an eighth grader. She was fantastic today.”
“I can’t say enough about Gracie Roberts, who was in only her second varsity race today,” Vitatoe said. “Her performance says a lot about her toughness and determination. She had a big PR in a loaded field.”
“Aliyah has been bitten by the injury bug most of the season, but she had a solid race today,” Vitatoe said. “Kylie also had a huge race for us. I love what she brings to our team with her level of competitiveness. Addi Gray has fought through a really tough season and gave us a big race yesterday. I’m so proud of her.”
“This is a very good group of girls. We are going to shift our focus toward a high state finish, and that’s our immediate goal, but I’m really excited about the future with this group.” Vitatoe said
The boys placed fourth overall. They were led by Andrew Yeary, who had a fifth place finish with a time of 17:40.62. Kaden Boggs (18:21.10) and Tanner Daniels (18:41.19) finished 13th and 18th, respectively. Rounding out the results for the Bears were Elijah Moore (30th, 19:51.78), Jacob Schwenke (35th, 20:07.73), Austin Crain (45th, 20:41.01) and Caleb Schwenke (58th, 22:10.24).
Corbin won the boys meet, followed by East Jessamine and Bell County.
“The boys had an outstanding day. I’m so proud of Andrew. What a way for him to end his career. He’s been part of our team since he was a little boy, so seeing his growth and maturation makes me feel very proud of him. Today, he had a great race and ran a top five all-time performance in our program’s history,” Vitatoe said.
“Kaden also had a huge PR. He’s come such a long way since he’s been with us. He has a bright future and can step into a leadership role if he wants to,” Vitatoe said. “Tanner was lights out today as well. We’ve all seen what he’s done at the middle school level, but stepping in and performing so well at the region shows his talent level. I’m proud of him.”
“Elijah and Austin were great today as well. Elijah has been big for us all season, and he’s done incredible for a first-year guy,” Vitatoe said. “I don’t know if I can really describe the impact that Austin has had on our program. He was great today, but his presence over the years will impact us for years to come.”
“Both Schwenke boys (Jacob and Caleb) had good races today as well. It was a really solid team effort in a very tough region.” Vitatoe said. “Being fourth here being third of the top seven teams in AA is nothing to hang their heads about. Now we have to shift our focus to the state meet to see if we can get a high finish. That has to be the goal now.”
“It’s worth noting the longevity of success in our program. In the past eight years we’ve shuffled back and forth from class 3A to 2A, back to 3A, and then into a different 2A region. To have a kid or team qualify for the state meet every single year is a testament to how hard these kids work,” Vitatoe said. “I’m really proud of this group, and I’m proud to lead this program.”
Harlan County will return to action in the state championship meet, which will be held Friday at Bourbon County in Paris. The boys will run at 4 p.m., while the girls run at 5.