Athletes on cross country teams across the state have logged countless miles this fall.
On Saturday, they’ll run a few more in hopes of keeping the season alive.
Bracken County, St. Patrick and Augusta will be heading to George Rogers Clark for the Class 1A, Region 5 cross country meet, while Mason County and Fleming County will competing at the Class 2A, Region 6 meet at Elliott County.
Here’s a look at each meet:
CLASS 1A, REGION 5
BOYS: The Class 1A, Region 5 boys’ race is scheduled to begin at 4:15 p.m. on Saturday at Lykins Park in Winchester.
Bracken County enters as the second ranked team in the region, behind Lexington Christian Academy. The Polar Bears are led by Jared “Peanut” Jefferson, who posted a school record 16:13 at the Area 7 Championship on Oct. 14. He’s currently ranked second in the region, behind LCA’s Adam Wier. Wier posted a 16:09 at the KTCCCA Meet of Champions on Oct. 21, but Bracken County coach Forrest Hunt believes Jefferson has a shot to be the first regional champion in school history.
Behind Jefferson, LCA runners Andrew Madden and Connor Hayes rank third and fourth, respectively, with Brandon Cox of Bracken County fifth. Nicholas Cummins is ranked 14th in the region, posting an 18:01 at the Area 7 Championship. Collin Jefferson is ranked 18th and Daniel Simons is ranked 27th.
“I’m expecting us to win this year,” said Hunt. “I’ve sat down and looked it over, I’ve had some talks with the team and I fully expect that we have a strong opportunity to win this year.”
A team win would also be the first in school history, according to Hunt.
Augusta enters ranked fifth, led by David Reed. He is projected to finish 11th. The senior qualified for the state meet last season, and they'll be looking to send the whole squad this year.
“I think for the first time we have a legitimate opportunity to qualify. It’s difficult when you’re trying to look at the rankings and the runners’ times. From what we’ve looked at, we’ve floated around the fifth, sixth spot,” said Augusta coach Tim Litteral. “We’ve been really focused for the last four weeks, ever since they realized they had the opportunity. It’s kind of changed their mindset a little bit.”
While St. Patrick doesn’t have enough to qualify a team, the Saints do have some individuals competing. Paco Franco is the 13th ranked runner in the region with a best time of 18:00 at the Meet of Champions. His younger brother, Willie, is ranked 26th, while teammate Marvin Koch is ranked 17th. All three have been finishing in under 19 minutes.
“I’m not sure what the rankings are right now, but Paco has a pretty strong chance of going, Marvin’s right there and Willie’s got an outside chance,” said St. Patrick coach Marcus Bess.
“They’re all in the 18’s,” added Bess. “They’re all running good times in the 18’s.”
There are 11 teams expected to compete in the boys’ race, meaning six would qualify for state.
GIRLS: The Class 1A, Region 5 girls’ race will start at 3:15 p.m.
Bracken County was able to earn a trip to the state meet after winning a tiebreaker with host Danville last year to finish third, and the Lady Bears are projected to finish third again Saturday.
Holly Ebert had the best finish for Bracken County this year, coming at 22:14 at the Mason County Cross Country Invitational on Sept. 9. She’s ranked 10th in the region, while Heather Ebert and Macie Sharp are ranked 12th and 13th, respectively. Gracie Ramsey could be another Lady Bear with a top-20 finish, as she is currently ranked 19th.
“Right now looking at it, I think the girls have a strong chance to get second. It would be the first time we’ve ever done that as well,” said Hunt. If our one through five pack stays really close - we don’t have a huge gap between our one and five runner – if they stay close and be near their best time, if not their best time, we should be able to take second place.”
Augusta’s Emma Young will have a shot to earn a spot at the state meet, as she is currently ranked eighth in Class 1 A, Region 5. She finished at 21:55 during the Mason County All-Comers meet on Sept. 5. She’s the only Lady Panther running.
“She’s a solid runner. I haven’t looked a whole lot at the region standings, but I think early on in the season she had a shot to qualify for state, so that would be the first time we had a girl,” said Litteral. “Nevertheless, she’ll be competitive and probably one of the most competitive girls we’ve had run in the region.”
St. Patrick will have two competing. Allison Hughes comes in ranked 11th in the region, posting a time of 22:24 at the Mason County Cross Country Invitational, while Anna Porter enters ranked 31st in the region. St. Patrick changed their schedule midway through the season to run at the GRC Coaches Classic on the course on Oct. 7, instead of the Roy Wright Invitational at Rowan County.
“It was a little rough on them, that meet was. I’m hoping they learn from it. I’m hoping they did,” said Bess. “The course is tougher than I remember. I thought the course was easier than that. That’s why I think it’s going to help in the long run, running on it one time so you understand what you have to do the next time.”
LCA is projected to finish first in team standings, while Owen County is projected for second. Anna Rupp of LCA is the top ranked runner in the event. She posted a 20:30 at the Tates Creek Invitational on Oct. 7. There are eight girls’ teams expected, meaning five would advance.
CLASS 2A, REGION 6
BOYS: Mason County and Fleming County will be competing in the Class 2A, Region 6 meet at Elliott County. The boys’ race is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m.
The Royals are projected to finish third, behind Boyd County and Russell, while the Panthers are projected fifth behind Rowan County.
“Russell and Boyd County ran head-to-head at the Area 7 Championship at our course. Russell won with some level of ease, so I feel like Russell is clearly the favorite and Boyd County is the number two team,” said Mason County coach Mark Kachler. “I honestly think we have a legitimate shot if we run well. I think we have a legitimate shot with Boyd at second.”
Mason County has been led by Connor Linville this season. He’s ranked third in the region after posting a time of 16:48 at the Mason County Cross Country Invitational. Elijah Miller of Boyd County and Jax Downs of Russell are ranked first and second, respectively.
“He’ll [Linville] go into the race as the third seeded individual. Elijah Miller from Boyd County and Jax Downs from Russell will probably battle head-to-head. Connor could get in the mix there,” said Kachler. “He had a great year and made great strides as a sophomore. I think he’s got a pretty good shot. He and Isiah [Riggs] both have legitimate shots at the top 10. Carson Adams is a freshman and he’s right there with those guys.”
Fleming County is led by Robert Applegate, who enters as the fifth ranked runner in the region. The senior posted a 17:12 at the Fleming County All-Comers on Oct. 17, but didn’t have his best showing on the course early in the season.
“Robert has been running a little bit better. He runs better in cold weather,” said Fleming County coach Paul King. “I hope he picks it up just a little bit and maybe comes in fourth. It’s getting Robert prepared for it and getting his head in the game.”
King also expects Cody Kissell to put together a strong showing. He’s ranked 35th in the region entering the meet.
There are seven full teams, meaning four will advance to state.
GIRLS: The Mason County girls’ cross country team has been running to the top of the podium at many races this season, and they’ll hope to continue their success on Saturday.
They’re projected to finish second in the region behind Ashland Blazer. The Lady Royals were able to beat them at the Area 7 Championship, but Ashland finished first at the Meet of Champions last weekend, solidifying their place at the top of class 2A.
“In all years I’ve coached, this team would have won the region without much trouble. We’re the number four team in 2A and we have to run against the number one team in 2A,” said Kachler. “It is what it is and we’ll line up and run Saturday.”
Ashland currently claims the top three spots in the region rankings with Rebekah Howard, Mary Alice Thornburg and Aubree Hay. The top-ranked Lady Royal in Paige Decker, who posted a 20:06 at the Area 7 Championship. Hayden Faris is ranked seventh, Alyssa Bisotti ninth, Elizabeth Lavinder 11th and Kylee Howe 13th. Faris, Decker and Bisotti have all been Mason County’s top finisher at some point during the season.
“That’s actually a sign of being a really good, quality team when that order is always moving,” said Kachler. “They’re always competitive with each other, but still not angry with each other and they get along great and have a great team chemistry. When one doesn’t do well, they pick each other up.”
Fleming County is projected fifth in the girls’ race. The top ranked Lady Panther is Carys Earlywine at 16th. She posted a 21:29 at the Area 7 Championship to finish 13th. Erin Peese is ranked 35th, but King believes she can finish higher and potentially qualify for state if the two push each other.
“It’s a possibility,” said King. “It’s an outside chance, but they’re pushing each other, fighting for the number one spot and hopefully that’ll speed them up a bit.”
Like the boys’ race, there are four that will advance on the girls’ side. The race is scheduled to begin at 12:45 p.m.