Lee, Vitatoe lead All Area 9 squad

The Harlan County cross country program continued its recent dominance of the all-Area 9 teams, placing a total of 21 athletes on the squad.

Junior Josh Lee nabbed Runner of the Year honors on the high school boys team. He was joined by senior Alex Lewis, sophomore Zack Carmical, freshman Caleb Brock and seventh-grader Cooper McHargue. Harlan was represented on the squad by Tate Bryson, a junior.

Rounding out the team were Middlesboro’s Ozzy Norris and Letcher Central’s Nick Mason, Nick L. Mason and Colton Ratliff.

Harlan County’s Ryan Vitatoe was named boys Coach of the Year.

The Black Bears were represented on the girls squad by senior Breezy Epperson, seventh-grader Cadance Ferguson, eighth-grader Ariel Madden and sophomore Shiann Westfelt. Harlan sophomore Lucy Bryson was also named to the squad.

Middlesboro eighth-grader earned Runner of the Year honors. Also on the squad were Leslie County’s Kinsey Forgey, Middlesboro’s Jocelyn Wright and Letcher County Central’s Samantha Crawford.

Vitatoe was also the girls Coach of Year as his squad swept the varsity team titles. The Harlan County girls squad has won the Area 9 championship for seven consecutive seasons, and the boys won their fourth straight this year.

The all-Area 9 reserve girls teams was made up of Harlan County’s Laura Creech, Baili Boggs, Ally Alred, Amanda Caudill and Hailey Madden, along with June Buchanan’s Kaitlyn Hall. Letcher Central’s Jordan Osborne, C.J. Akers and William Hollan were named to the boys squad. Coaches were Vitatoe (girls) and Letcher Central’s Jordan Osborne (boys).

The middle school squad included Harlan County’s Breydy Daniels, Andrew Yeary, Josh Pinkley and Lucas Epperson, along with Harlan’s Jackson Huff and John Mark Bryson. Rounding out the team were June Buchanan’s Dylan Moore, Letcher Central’s Riley Fields and Mullins’ Cole Bowersock and Ethan Robinson. Moore was named Runner of the Year.

Harlan’s Makenna Jackson was the Runner of the Year on the girls middle school team and was joined by teammates Emma Owens and Mia Pace. Also named to the squad were Letcher Central’s Hope Roark and June Buchanan’s Ashley Moore and Adleigh Marshall.

Harlan County’s Junior Sanchez and Dashawn Smith and Harlan’s Dylan Cox and Brody Owens earned all-Area 9 honors on the boys elementary school team. They were joined by Mullins’ Cole Humphries, Cooper Humphries and Corbin Humphries, June Buchanan’s Carson Combs and Cooper Combs, and Letcher Central’s Nathan Kiser. Cole Humphries was Runner of the Year, and Mullins’ Leann Keathley earned Coach of the Year honors.

The girls team included Harlan’s Tess Bryson and Mallory McNeil, along with Harlan County’s Kaydie Coots. Rounding out the team were Letcher Central’s Katie Combs, June Buchanan’s Taya Osborne, and Amber Hall, Jaya Osborne, Hope Hall, Abby Moore and Hannah Hall from June Buchanan. Combs was named Runner of the Year, and June Buchanan’s Robin Cook was selected as Coach of the Year.

All-Area 9 awards are based on finishing order and team results at the Area 9 championship meet, which was held Sept. 30 at Harlan County High School.

“I’m happy for these kids. They worked hard this season and are deserving of this honor,” said Vitatoe, who is also the Area 9 representative for the Kentucky Track and Cross Country Coaches Association. “They were a really enjoyable group to coach, and I’m proud they are getting recognized for their effort.”