SANDY HOOK - Saturday was all about mental toughness.
During the KHSAA Class 2A, Region 6 cross country meet at Lakeside Elementary School, the rain poured down, the cold stewed in, the course was muddy and the conditions were far from ideal.
"My message to the team today was this race will be decided who is mentally tough. For me and you to stand out here with all our clothes on it's uncomfortable, just imagine if you were just out here running basically in your underwear. That takes a lot of mental toughness," Royals coach Mark Kachler said.
But that still didn't hold down some area runners from qualifying for next week's state meet, including both the Mason County boys' and girls' teams.
The Royals finished in third and qualified for the state meet in Lexington next Saturday while the Lady Royals netted a runner-up finish at the meet.
Fleming County's Robert Applegate and Lady Panther runners Carys Earlywine and Erin Peese also qualified for the state meet.
"Erin's been coming on for us. I figured she would do something this week. Carys ran smart, she was ready to run by the time the race started, picked a spot in the race and stuck with it," Panthers coach Paul King said.
In the boys' meet, Russell took home the team title, edging out Boyd County by eight points. The Royals finished third, Rowan County fourth, Ashland fifth, Fleming County sixth and East Carter seventh.
"We finished where we were seeded," Kachler said. "Our back end guys ran really strong today. I think we had seven in before some other teams behind us had five."
Boyd County's Elijah Miller ran away from the field with a time of 17:01, beating Russell's Jax Downs by 40 seconds. Russell's Jared Goodman placed third while the Panthers Robert Applegate ended with an impressive fourth place finish in a time of 17:54.
"I did much better this year compared to last year. Last year I had a bad race, the course was a little muddy today but I feel I did alright," Applegate said. "I said this is my last regional, so heck with it just go."
Other notable finishers were Mason County's Connor Linville in ninth with a time of 18:17, Royals' Isaiah Riggs in 11th at 18:22 with another teammate Carson Adams in 16th at 18:46.
"We talk like Connor and Isaiah like they are older guys and they're just sophomores and going back to state. This is Carson's first year of doing cross country and did great," Kachler said.
In the girls' race, Ashland ran away with the girls' race with five of the top seven finishers. They beat Mason County by 44 points. Following the Lady Royals was Boyd County in third, Russell in fourth, Fleming County in fifth and East Carter in sixth.
Rebekah Howard was the first of the Kittens to finish in a time of 19:52. Teammate Mary Alice Thornburg finished behind her in second with a time of 20:12.
Mason County's Alyssa Bissotti (9th, 21:15), Paige Decker (10th, 21:21), Elizabeth Lavinder (12th, 21:49), Hayden Faris (14th, 22:10) and Kylee Howe (18th, 22:46) all placed in the top 20 for the Lady Royals.
"We probably didn't run our best today but we ran good enough to hold our seed and finish second. Hopefully we can hold it together and do something special next week," Kachler said. "Ashland is a great prep for us. They were aggressive from the start and hopefully we took some notes from that."
Earlywine (11th, 21:44) and Peese (23rd, 23:21) paced the Lady Panthers.
The state meet will take place Saturday, November 4 at the Horse Park in Lexington.