HCHS teams take second in Region 5 meet


Both Harlan County cross country teams rolled into the state meet by finishing second Saturday in the Region 7 meet at Wayne County.
“I’m so proud of both these teams. We had a plan laid out coming into the meet and they executed it perfectly,” Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe said. “We had tons of PRS, and you can’t ask for anything more than that from your kids. Their effort was phenomenal.”
The Harlan County girls finished with 56 points, 14 behind regional champ Corbin. Lincoln County was third with 83 points, followed by Boyle County with 85, Bell County with 122, East Jessamine with 146 and Casey County with 144.
“The girls ran great races,” Vitatoe said. “Almost every single girl ran a PR, so that’s a pretty good indication of how focused they were. They also executed our plan well and the seniors did a great job moving them forward. They are also a very close knit group. They wanted a good team finish for their teammates. They’re a very special group.”
Freshman Peyton Lunsford led the Lady Bears as she placed third, behind Lincoln County’s Abigail Bastin and Rockcastle County’s Alexis Dotson, with a time of 21:22.10. Riley Key was 14th, followed by Sophie Day (16th), Summer Farley (20th), Kendall Brock (23rd), Leah Taulbee (29th) and Olivia Kelly (39th). Key, Farley and Taulbee are seniors.
“I’m really proud of Peyton. She keeps moving up in the region. She’s got a bright future ahead of her,” Vitatoe said. “I’m so happy for these seniors. They have had the experience of 3A where we were scratching and clawing just trying to get into the state meet. They deserve the opportunity to leave the regional meet with a trophy in hand. They’ve endured a lot in their careers. I’m really proud of everyone.”
Corbin also won in the boys race, finishing with 20 points as four Redhounds placed in the top five behind Bell County’s Caden Miracle. HCHS was second with 83 points, followed by Bell County with 89, McCreary Central with 114, Mercer County with 114, Mercer County with 123, Boyle County with 130, East Jessamine with 206, Casey County with 223, Garrard County with 251, Russell County with 256 and Wayne County with 304.
“The boys were great,” Vitatoe said. “This is one of the best regions in all of Class AA, and they ran perfectly based on our plan. Our seniors again lead the way, but every guy closed out the last mile well, and that was what we really emphasized coming into the meet. It was a total team effort which I’ve come to expect from such a close group.”
Daniel Joseph, a senior, led the HCHS boys as he placed sixth with a time of 17:51.69. Matt Yeary and Andrew Yeary finished 13th and 15th, respectively. Jacob Schwenke was 24th. Lucas Epperson was 27th, Kaden Boggs placed 31st and Austin Crain was 42nd.
Both teams advance to state competition next weekend in Lexington.
“Now our discussion becomes ‘is this enough?’ This week we will shift our focus toward trying to finish as high as possible at next week’s state meet,” Vitatoe said. “They have a great opportunity ahead.”