HCHS teams record strong showings at 2A state meet


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.

The Harlan County cross country teams made history Friday in the 2A state meet in Paris as the boys set a school record by placing 11th and the girls tied the best finish ever in school history by placing 19th.
Daniel Joseph, a senior, led the HCHS boys as he placed 34th with a time of 18:02.25. Matt Yeary was 70th, followed by Andrew Yeary (87th), Jacob Schwenke (118th), Lucas Epperson (132nd), Kaden Boggs (146th) and Austin Crain (180th).
“I’m really proud of these boys. They have been tremendous this season and it’s fitting they finish their season in uncharted territory pertaining to state finish. I know they are a little upset they fell short of their goal of top 10, but they have nothing to hang their heads about. These seniors will graduate leading their team to its highest finish in the history of our program, which is an incredible accomplishment,” Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe said. “This has been a tremendous season with a district championship, conference and region runner-up, and before today they never finished outside the top three in a meet this season. Our young guys stepped up all season long and ran well, and today was no exception. Kaden Boggs, Austin Crain, Jacob Schwenke and Andrew Yeary have been fantastic all season long. They have raced hard all year and have learned a lot that they will carry into the next season. They are an excellent foundation to keep building on and our future remains bright with this group and the young guys we have coming up next season. “
Peyton Lunsford, a freshman, led Harlan County as she placed 46th overall with a time of 21:37.83. Sophie Day was 136th, followed by Kendall Brock (139th), Riley Key (148th), Leah Taulbee (173rd), Summer Farley (176th) and Olivia Kelly (190th).
“The girls ran fantastic today. When I crunched the results after, I found that six of our seven girls either ran a PR or their season-best. They had no fear at all during the race and their times prove that. I know they were hoping for a top 15 finish, but they ran great and they should be very proud of that,” Vitatoe said. “The seniors have led this group beautifully, and they’ve had a wonderful season as a team in capturing the district and conference titles and being region runner up. However, our young girls have also been tremendous all season and are a big piece of our success. Kendall Brock, Sophie Day, Olivia Kelly and Peyton Lunsford have run great all season. They are a great group of girls and when you look at kids like Taylor Clem, Aliyah Deleon and Lainey Garrett who all could have (or did) run varsity in the last three or four seasons, are coming back next year with this group. I expect another successful season next year.”
Vitatoe said the success of this year’s team could provide a boost for future squads.
“It’s been a great season on all levels for our program. We have lots of great younger kids, and we hope that we keep attracting more to our program. I’m proud of the program we’ve been able to build here in the last 14 seasons and look forward to the continued growth over the next few years,” Vitatoe said. “I want to thank my assistant coaches, Arynn Johnson and Miranda Epperson, for all their help this season. I also want to express my gratitude to our athletic director, Mr. Farmer, for all his leadership in his role at HC. Finally, I must thank our parents and volunteers for all their help this season. We have a stellar reputation for our ability to host meets (both track and cross country), and I 100 percent owe it to all their hard work.”