HCHS runners record best finishes in Class 2A state meet


Harlan County eighth-grader Peyton Lunsford, pictured in action earlier this season, placed 42nd out of 215 runners in the Class 2A state meet.

The Harlan County High School cross country teams capped their 2020 season with strong finishes at the Class 2A state meet Friday at Bourbon County High School.
The HCHS girls placed 19th, tying the 2009 team for the best finish in school history. The HCHS boys finished 14th, setting a school record while recording the highest finish for a county team since Evarts placed ninth in the Class A state meet in 1994.
“I’m so proud of these kids. They have endured so much the last seven months and the ability to stay focused through all this is so impressive. It hasn’t been an easy season with everything surrounding us, but ironically it’s been a great season with this group. They’ve been so much fun to coach,” Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe said. “This is a huge accomplishment for the boys. Finishing 14th in the state is a big deal and is something we can build on heading into next season. They see they can compete at this level, and that should serve as motivation to see just how high we can climb in AA. They also have the accomplishment of being the highest finish for the boys in our school’s history. That’s huge when you think about how many really good teams we’ve had over the years. This is a special group. They all get along. They encourage each other, and when one guy has a breakout, the others are genuinely happy for him. That is a great quality in a team and is one of the main reasons for their success. I’m just so proud of them. The girls also ran great, tying for the best team finish in school history. This is a great achievement for them, and we can really build on that. Like the boys, this is a great group. The encouragement and camaraderie between these girls are amazing. They fully support each other and embody true teamwork and support.”
Peyton Lunsford again led the Lady Bears as she finished 42nd out of 215 runners with a time of 21:45.84. Leah Taulbee was next for HCHS in 129th and was followed by Summer Farley (132nd), Riley Key (137th), Cadance Fergeson (186th), Olivia Kelly (199th) and Lainey Garrett (204th).
Caleb Brock led the Bears as he placed 49th with a time of 18:20.32. Daniel Joseph finished 60th and Matt Yeary was 76th. Lucas Epperson (128th), Andrew Yeary (156th), Cooper McHargue (169th) and Austin Crain (184th) rounded out the field for HCHS.
Vitatoe looks forward to the program’s future with only one senior graduating on each squad.
“Both teams are losing one senior and bringing back lots of upperclassmen and experience. We should be locked and loaded for another nice run next season. I’m hopeful this attracts more kids who want to be part of what we’re doing. When you can definitively point out that you are a top 15 boys program and a top 20 girls program, it, hopefully, will attract others to be part of it. I want to thank coach Boo (Johnson) for all her help this season. I also want to thank all the parents of our team for trusting us to keep their kids safe. We strictly followed guidelines. And I know it was sometimes tiring to the kids, but it was necessary. Hopefully, we can get back to a closer version of what we’re accustomed to by the middle of track season. I am just so thankful we were able to get through the season. These kids deserved it. They are an incredible group.”