HCHS girls, boys sweep team titles in opening race of the season


Km Henson

Runners left the starting line on Saturday in the Harlan County All-Comers race.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

Harlan County opened the 2021 cross country season by sweeping both the boys and girls races Saturday on their home course at the Harlan County All-Comers Meet.
“I’m really proud of our kids today. You always want to get the season off to a good start, and today was most definitely a step in the right direction,” Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe said. “I know they’ve been chomping at the bit to get a race in, and this was a solid field of teams for us to get started with. I’m really pleased with their effort. “
Harlan County took six of the top 14 spots in the girls race to finish with 36 points, ahead of Lynn Camp’s 65 points. South Laurel was third with 71 points, followed by Letcher Central with 91 and Harlan with 103.
Lynn Camp’s Abby Mabe was the individual champ with a time of 22:16.69. Harlan County’s Peyton Lunsford was second, followed by South Laurel’s Rose Stanko, Leslie County’s Caroline Burkle and South Laurel’s Lindsay Cox. Other HCHS runners in the top 14 included Riley Key (seventh), Kendall Brock (10th), Leah Taulbee (12th), Sophie Day (13th) and Olivia Kelly (14th). Mia Pace led Harlan as she finished 11th.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had a victory like this on the girls side, and I’m really proud,” Vitatoe said. “I knew early in the summer that this would be one of the deepest girls teams we’ve had in a while and today shows that to be true. I am really excited about the potential of this group. This is a solid group of girls who are close as a team, they work together and there’s no negativity. They are a great group to coach. I’m proud of this win, especially when you consider we were missing a girl (Leah Deleon).”
Harlan County found balance in the boys race also, claiming spots five through eight, to edge South Laurel 32-36 for the team title. Lynn Camp was third with 72 points and Williamsburg was fourth with 89 points.
South Laurel took the top two spots with Will Stanko in first at 17:57.62 and Jacob Tapscott in second. Letcher Central’s Javier Polly was third and Lynn Camp’s Logan Brock was fourth. The HCHS runners in the top 10, in order, included Matt Yeary, Daniel Joseph, Lucas Epperson and Jacob Schwenke.
“South Laurel is one of the top teams in the boys 3A region, so this is most definitely a great victory for our guys,” Vitatoe said. “Matt and Daniel ran great and set the tone, but Lucas did a fantastic job keeping our second group of guys together and that was the difference. We are going to be a little different this year with relying on pack running, and today shows that we can absolutely run that strategy. To get out of here with a win while missing two of our varsity guys (Andrew Yeary and Kaden Boggs) is impressive, and I’m proud of our guys and am excited for what they have in front of them.”
Harlan eighth-grader Dylan Cox ran away with the win in the boys middle school race with a time of 12:02.75. Jenkins’ Chase McNeely was second, followed by Harlan County’s Luther Gross. Other HCHS runners included DaShaun Smith (fifth), Xavier Farley (seventh), Braxton Crain (ninth) and Kalob Stevens (10th).
Amber Hall, of Jenkins, won the girls middle school race with a time of 16:43.53. Red Bird’s Monica Whitehead was second and South Laurel’s Madison Justice placed third.
“Our middle school kids ran great as well,” Vitatoe said. “We have a couple of boys who could be looking to move up into our varsity group if they keep running like they are.”
Harlan County won the boys elementary school team title with 18 points. Harlan was second with 45.
Tanner Daniels, of Harlan County, finished first with a time of 8:30.51. Harlan County’s Trey Creech and Harlan’s Cooper Thomas finished second and third, respectively. Harlan County’s Blake Johnson was fourth. Brycen Saylor, Jacob Brock and Carson Sanders, all of Harlan County, finished seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively. Harlan County’s Jayden Sargent and Zakk Collins were 12th and 13th respectively, with Harlan’s Thomas Miller rounding out the top 15.
Harlan took the top six spots in the girls elementary race to win the team title with 13 points. Harlan County was second with 45.
Harper Carmical won the girls race with a time of 10:35.25 and was followed by teammates Priscilla Stewart, Zoe Lawson, Julianne Miller, Cora Jones and Chloe Brock. Anna Gross led Harlan County by finishing seventh. Harlan County’s Ella Brock was 10th, followed by teammates Natalie Creech, Rhyliegh Goins and Alice Gross. Harlan’s Addison Sanford was 15th.
“Finally, I’m tickled with our elementary group as well. This is one of the biggest groups of elementary kids we’ve had since I’ve been coaching at HC,” Vitatoe said. “I love their energy and enthusiasm, and they are the future of our program. Their performance today shows that our future is bright.”
Harlan County returns to action Saturday at Lynn Camp.