HCHS boys, girls win Area 9 race


John Henson

Runners left the starting line on Saturday at the Black Bears Invitational.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

Running two races at once, the Harlan County cross country teams finished both first and second Saturday. They were first among the Area 9 teams competing and second to Corbin in the Black Bears Invitational.
“I’m proud of my teams today,” Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe said. “When you have the ability to say you’ve won eight straight district titles, that’s pretty special. These boys have worked so hard this year, and they are the epitome of what a true team should be. Everyone knows their job and they go out and do it meet after meet. I can’t say enough good things about they way they work together.”
Lynn Camp’s Abby Mabe was the overall winner in the girls race with a time of 21:52.69. Corbin’s Jaycee Frye was second. Harlan County’s Peyton Lunsford was third overall and placed first in the Area 9 portion of the race. Corbin’s Alex Herren and Mary Simons rounded out the top five in the Black Bears Invitational.
“This is a special moment for Peyton,” Vitatoe said. “She’s been on the cusp of being the Area 9 champion the last two seasons, and I’m really happy for her.”
Harlan County’s Sophie Day was third in the Area 9 race, while Harlan’s Mia Pace was fourth. Summer Farley, Riley Key, Leah Taulbee and Kendall Brock finished fifth through eighth. Harlan’s Abbigaile Jones and Harlan County’s Olivia Kelly rounded out the top 10.
Harlan County was first and Harlan placed second in the team competition in the Area 9 race and took second and third, respectively, in the Black Bears Invitational.
“I’m very proud of the girls,” Vitatoe said. “This has been our longest drought between district titles since our school opened, and they came into this race focused and ready to get that championship back to HCHS. Like they boys, they are really focused on teamwork. Our seniors were huge this afternoon and I’m really proud of them.”
Corbin’s Sean Simon won the boys race with a time of 17:8.10, just ahead of South Laurel’s Will Stanko and Corbin’s John Hail. South Laurel’s Jacob Tapscott and Harlan County’s Daniel Joseph rounded out out the top five. Joseph placed first in the Area 9 race. Matt Yeary was second for HC as he placed 12th, followed by Lucas Epperson (16th), Jacob Schwenke (17th) and Andrew Yeary (18th).
“I’m very proud of Daniel. His development has been fantastic this season. He came into the season in great shape and has the opportunity to say he’s an Area 9 champion,” Vitatoe said.
Corbin took first in the team competition at the Black Bears Invitational with 25 points, followed by Harlan County with 64, South Laurel with 82, Williamsburg with 91 and Bell County with 108.
Harlan County took the top five spots in the girls junior varsity race, led by Taylor Clem at 27:12.59. She was followed by Aliyah Deleon, Lainey Garrett, Kaydie Coots and Mary Gross.
Breydy Daniels, of HCHS, won the boys junior varsity race with a time of 21:34.00. Harlan County’s Seth Coogle, Bradley Brock and Jonavan Rigney took the third through fifth spots.
“I’m proud of Bredy and Taylor as well. Both of these kids are working hard and are close to breaking into the varsity lineup. For them to come out and race like they did today was excellent,” Vitatoe said.
Harlan eighth-grader Dylan Cox was first in the boys middle school race with a time of 11:27.22. Harlan County runners in the top 10 included DaShaun Smith (third), Luther Gross (fourth), Xavier. Farley (fifth), Braxton Crain (seventh) and Kalob Stevens (eighth). The Bears won the team title.
Johnson Central’s Emily Triplett won the girls middle school race.
Harlan’s Harper Carmical was first in the girls elementary school race with a time of 10:13.25 as the Lady Dragons took the top five spots In the Area 9 section as Priscilla Stewart was second, followed by Zoe Lawson, Chloe Brock and Cora Jones. Halle Cox was eighth and Juliana Damaa placed 10th.
Harlan County’s Tanner Daniels won the boys elementary school race with a time of 7:58.81. Harlan’s Cooper Thomas was fifth. Harlan County’s Trey Creech rounded out the top 10.
Lay Elementary School, from Knox County, won the team title with 27 points. Harlan County was second with 51 points, followed by Johnson Central with 63 and Harlan with 98.
“Tanner is one of the best elementary runners in the state. He’s ranked first in the state in the sixth-grade division. He keeps winning at an impressive clip and he has a bright future ahead of him,” Vitatoe said. “I’m really proud of these elementary boys as well. They ran really hard today and they deserve a moment like this.”