HCHS boys, girls sweep Whitley County race


John Henson

Harlan County senior Andrew Yeary, pictured in action earlier this season, was the winner in a race at Whitley County High School.

By Jarrod Sherman, Contributing Writer

With the end of the season looming, the Harlan County cross country team has picked a superb time to find its collective stride.

Harlan County’s boys and girls squads swept the varsity team titles for the second straight meet Thursday in an all-comers competition at Whitley County, while the Harlan varsity girls claimed second.

“I’m proud of our kids’ performances on a very tough course. I absolutely loved the challenges the course brought in the last mile as understanding how to close out the last mile is something we’ve been discussing in the last few weeks,” Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe said. “I thought our kids did a good job rising to the challenge. Now we have to translate that in the next two races.”

Sophomore Peyton Lunsford (21:52.59) cruised to the individual win in the girls race, finishing more than a minute and a half ahead of Whitley’s Sophy Jones (23:29.36). Kendall Brock (fifth, 26:22.07), Gracie Roberts (sixth, 26:56.59), Kylie Jones (eighth, 27:22.18) and Addi Gray (10th, 28:09.14) also nabbed top-10 finishes for the Lady Bears. Rounding out the team’s results were Aliyah Deleon (12th, 28:53.32), Olivia Kelly (17th, 29:54.38), Autumn Farley (20th, 30:40.44), Kiera Roberts (21st, 30:47.81), Taylor Clem (24th, 33:43.11), Lainey Garrett (26th, 35:26.99), Mary Gross (27th, 36:42.61) and Kaydie Coots (28th, 43:46.02).

Seventh-grader Harper Carmical led Harlan, finishing third with a time of 23:30.60. Mia Pace (27:05.31) and Abbigaile Jones (27:47.62) were seventh and ninth, respectively. Juliana Damaa finished 18th with a time of 30:28.00, and Halle Cox was 23rd with a time of 31:36.87.

“Whitley was a tough course, but our runners performed very well,” Harlan coach Anne Lindsey said. “We approached this course as an opportunity to compete for placement rather than time, and our high school varsity runners really rose to that challenge. I’m very proud of them.”

Harlan County won the race by 21 points, with Clay County finishing a distant third.

Harlan County senior Andrew Yeary won the boys race with a time of 18:33.06. Tanner Daniels, fresh off his regional championship victory at the middle school level, was second with a time of 18:35.61. Kaden Boggs (fifth, 19:08.39) and Jacob Schwenke (seventh, 20:04.43) also finished in the top 10 for the Bears. Also competing for Harlan County were Austin Crain (11th, 20:55.95), Elijah Moore (12th, 21:18.90), Caleb Schwenke (15th, 21:36.74), Luther Gross (18th, 22:20.27), Drew Sergent (19th, 22:25.49), DaShaun Smith (20th, 22:44.69), Jonavan Rigney (27th, 25:45.47) and Xavier Farley (29th, 27:26.61).

“Kudos to Andrew and Peyton on setting course records. Everything from here on out is a championship meet, but I think this group is prepared,” Vitatoe said.

Harlan, which finished fourth in the team standings, was led by Dylan Cox, who came in sixth with a time of 19:25.48. Brayden Howard (23:11.00) was 21st, followed by Evan Bargo (24th, 24:25.78). Rounding out the Dragons’ results were Connor Collins (31st, 28:30.31), Seth Coogle (32nd, 31:21.97), Michael Lindsey (33rd, 33:50.76) and Sayed Damaa (34th, 39:31.06).

Harlan County defeated second-place Whitley County by 23 points. North Laurel was third.

Both teams will return to action Tuesday at Harlan County in the Southeast Kentucky Conference championship meet.