HCHS cross country teams have sights set on record finishes in 2A state meet in Paris


The Harlan County High School cross country teams competed in the 2A state meet on Friday in Paris. Team members include, from left, front row: Taylor Clem, Peyton Lunsford, Aliyah Deleon, Kendall Brock, Lainey Garrett, Summer Farley, Olivia Kelly, Leah Taulbee, Riley Key and Sophie Day; back row: coach Ryan Vitatoe, Bradley Brock, Matt Yeary, Kaden Boggs, Jacob Schwenke, Lucas Epperson, Andrew Yeary, Breydy Daniels, Daniel Joseph and assistant coach Miranda Epperson.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

Both Harlan County High School cross country teams hope to make the best showing in school history Friday as they travel to Bourbon County Park in Paris to participate in the 2A state meet
“I think both teams are ready and will not be fazed by the atmosphere. We’ve already run the state course once this season and it was a gigantic meet, so they have the experience necessary to prepare them for the state atmosphere,” Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe said. “We will be looking to prove that we belong and that we are a program that should be taken seriously on the state level.
Both HCHS teams finished second last week in the Region 5 meet at Wayne County. 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).
“The girls have a real opportunity to turn in the highest finish in school history. They have run really well this season and are coming off their best performance of the year. I was really proud of how hard they raced on Saturday against a team the caliber of Corbin. They are turning the corner at the right time, and like the boys, I think they really want to leave their mark,” Vitatoe said. “This is one of the most balanced teams I’ve had in several years and there’s a good mixture of upper and lower classmen, but the attitude of this team has been incredible. It’s truly one of the main reasons for their success this season. Every girl has a great attitude, there’s no negativity and they have all bought into team success and they genuinely love each other. That bodes well for them heading into this meet.”
Daniel Joseph, a senior, led the HCHS boys at the regional meet 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 finished 27th, Kaden Boggs placed 31st and Austin Crain was 42nd.
“I really believe this is a top 10 team in the AA state division. These guys have worked so hard, and they work so well together. I know it’s cliche to say, but they are truly about the team goals over individual goals and they are really focused on being the team to finish the highest at state in the history of our school,” Vitatoe said. “They know the tradition of our program, they know the quality teams we’ve produced across the last 14 seasons, and they want to leave a significant mark on the program. I know I’ve said it a lot, but these seniors have been incredible and I think they are geared up to lead us toward uncharted territory. Our younger guys have really stepped up and ran well, and I believe they are committed to making this happen for the seniors.”