HC boys place 11th, girls finish 16th in 2A state meet


13th Region Media Network

Harlan County sophomore Peyton Lunsford placed 11th in the 2A state meet on Friday.

By Abby Sherman, Contributing Writer

The success of the Harlan County cross country program in state competition continued its upward trajectory Friday as the boys and girls both set new milestones for the program. The boys placed 11th overall, matching the highest finish in school history, while the Lady Bears set a new mark with a 16th place finish in the Class 2A state championship at Bourbon County.
“I’m so proud of the progress of our program. We have steadily climbed in the KHSAA rankings in the last three seasons. We continue to climb in the state finish each year (in both CC and track),” Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe said. “The commitment of our kids is the reason why. These kids (and not just those on the line yesterday) live and breathe the sport. They work hard. They log lots of lonely miles in the heat and cold. They put in the time for success. We keep knocking on the door for that top ten finish and I believe that (and beyond) is coming in the very near future for our kids.”
“I can’t say enough about the leadership that Andrew [Yeary] and Austin [Crain] provided us this year. They knew the expectations we have year after year, regardless of who’s there, and they set the example on how to get there. Every single guy ran a PR or season best today on the biggest stage.”
Andrew Yeary led the Bears with a 17th place finish, the highest individual finish in school history. He posted a time of 17:11.57. Tanner Daniels (18:04.66) and Kaden Boggs (18:09.57) placed 47th and 52nd, respectively. Rounding out the results were Jacob Schwenke (99th, 19:03.32), Elijah Moore (127th, 19:26.92), Austin Crain (159th, 20:02.46) and Caleb Schwenke (172nd, 20:16.58).
“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. 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.”
“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.
“Tanner had a great race for us today as well. 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. I know I say that all the time about him, but his development has been fantastic. He works hard. He has a great attitude, and I always know what I’m getting from him.
“Elijah has been a huge addition to our team this season. He has stepped into a varsity role immediately and ran some great times. I can’t wait to see what he can do with a full summer of training under his belt.”
“Both Jacob and Caleb ran their best races of the season today. I am so proud of them both. Neither has scratched the surface of what they are capable of achieving. They both are hard-working and they are great kids, and they killed it for us today.
“Austin also turned in one of his best times of the season. It was bittersweet watching him and Andrew cross the line today. They both have meant so much to our program. He always gives his best at whatever he does, and he brought it again today.”
The boys 2A Region 5 had four teams in the top 11 overall.
“I’m so proud of our girls for their efforts today, setting the highest finish in our program’s history. They are a very young group of girls, with four girls toeing the line for their first-ever state meet. Every single girl ran either a PR or their season best, and as a coach, you cannot ask for anything more.”
Peyton Lunsford led the Lady Bears with the highest individual finish in school history of 11th place overall. She also set a new school record with a time of 20:06.96. Preslee Hensley placed 92nd with a time of 23:03.08, while Kendall Brock (23:41.57) finished 120th. Other finishers for the girls were Gracie Roberts (144th, 24:20.46), Kylie Jones (151st, 24:53.84), Addi Gray (171st, 25:30.16) and Aliyah Deleon (174th, 25:39.60).
“I can’t say enough about these girls. We lost three incredible seniors from last year’s team. We completely rebooted our program around a young core of girls. We had injuries this season that you would not believe, and 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.”
“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. 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.
“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.”
“How about Gracie Roberts? Being a seventh-grader with only one 5k under her belt before the regional meet toeing the line and running as she did is incredible. Kendall also had a great race today. She was really dialed in and attacked every step.
“Kylie broke through with a great race today and really collected a lot of points for us in the final mile. I knew she was due, and she absolutely delivered. Addi and Aliyah also ran lights out for us. Both of these girls have battled injuries all season long. It says a lot about their toughness that they were able to rebound and run like they did in the last two weeks of the season.”
“I talked to them just before the race about the focus on competing rather than time. I told them I didn’t want them looking at the clock at each mile; I just wanted them chasing the girls in front of them. That seemed to resonate with how they performed. I’m just really, really proud.”
“I want to thank a wonderful group of parents and volunteers associated with our program who work so hard for our kids. 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 an 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.”