WINCHESTER – The summer is over.
The temperature hovered just over 40 degrees at Lykins Park in Winchester on Saturday at the start of the Class 1A, Region 5 cross country meet.
Those watching were bundled in jackets, blankets, hats and gloves.
But it was perfect weather for Polar Bears.
The Bracken County boys’ cross country team, led by a first place finish from Jared “Peanut” Jefferson and a third place finish from Brandon Cox, came in second behind Lexington Christian Academy, while Augusta finished sixth, the Bracken County girls’ finished third and several other individuals qualified for the state meet next Saturday.
“It’s amazing to me how some people react to the situation and other people don’t. As I tell them, and Jared has taken this to heart and Brandon – champions don’t care what the conditions are. Champions are going to show up. They’re going in with the intention to win,” said Bracken County coach Forrest Hunt. “Anyone else that’s worried about anything else – they’ve already got them beat and that’s the reason why he’s at where he’s at.”
Jefferson entered the meet as the No. 2 seed, behind LCA’s Adam Wier, but finished at 16:58 - four seconds faster for the first place finish, which was the first in school history.
“I let them take it out as fast as they wanted to and then about a mile or a mile and a half I started going,” said Jefferson.
Cox, who was in a pack of four battling for the lead after the first lap around Lykins Park, finished third at 17:06. Nicholas Cummins finished 16th, while Collin Jefferson finished 19th and Thomas Yelton finished 20th to round out Bracken County’s top five, which finished with 53 points.
“Brandon Cox – best race he’s ran in his career. With the battles that he’s had this season, where he finished at taking third overall, was amazing. To follow that up, we had some big performances out of Jarrod Woods and Thomas Yelton. They were six and seven guys that came way up today,” said Hunt. “If you look at the results – not too bad with the others guys, but just not where we honestly needed to be and they felt they should be.”
Wier finished second to lead LCA, who also claimed the fourth, fifth and sixth spots on their way to a team title with 27 points.
Augusta was able to sneak into sixth as a team, behind Burgin, Sayre and Owen County, claiming the final team qualifying position. David Reed finished 26th at 19:41 to lead the Panthers, who are going to the state meet as a team for the first time since the program was revived seven years ago.
“It’s kind of the one thing we have not done so far as a program that we’ve been striving to do, so it feels good to be able to put it all together this year and for these kids to come out and really focus on that goal and come in here today in not great conditions – a little on the cool side with some wind – but make it happen,” said Augusta coach Tim Litteral.
St. Patrick had two boys compete – Marvin Koch and Willie Franco. Koch finished 15th at 18:47, while Franco finished 21st at 19:16. Both qualified individually for the state meet.
“This is a tougher course than the last couple of courses they ran 18’s on. They ran a little higher 18,” said St. Patrick coach Marcus Bess. “I don’t know what Wilie’s time was, I didn’t catch it, but they ran a good race.”
On the girls’ side, Bracken County finished third behind champion LCA and Owen County. Bracken County finished with 68 points, while Owen County had 35 and LCA had 30.
Heather Ebert and Macie Sharp, who finished 13th and 14th, respectively, led the Lady Bears. Ebert came in at 22:45, while Sharp finished at 22:46. Gracie Ramsey finished 18th, Holly Ebert finished 20th and Chloe Routt finished 28h to round out Bracken County’s top five.
“I thought that one through four we were really strong today with the girls. I was impressed with them. I knew that it was a long shot for us to take second place. Owen County – I was super impressed with how they ran and LCA is always strong,” said Hunt. “For our girls to be right there in the mix, because it looked like a pretty big gap between third and fourth, I feel like they really performed today.”
Augusta’s lone female runner, Emma Young, finished sixth overall at 21:49, claiming the first individual qualifying spot for the state meet.
“She ran a really strong race. We actually really wanted her to run a 21:50, and I think that’s pretty much what she got,” said Litteral. “Hopefully it will encourage other ladies to come out and see there’s opportunities in this sport."
St. Patrick’s Allison Hughes came in 16th at 23:01, which earned her a place in the state meet. Anna Porter finished 44th for the Lady Saints.
“Last time she ran a 25 or 26 and today she ran a 23-flat, and she passed a girl I found out she probably didn’t have to pass [to qualify],” said Bess. “She went and got it and it was an awesome run.”
The state meet will take place next Saturday at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. The Class 1A girls' race is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m., while the boys' race is scheduled to start at 10:15 a.m.