The Harlan County Lady Bears successfully defended their Area 9 cross country title last weekend. Harlan County beat rival Letcher Central by 16 points to earn its second straight area championship.
“I had a suspicion they would run well based on practice, but I was really surprise by the way they won, It was, without a doubt, the best race of the season” said Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe. “Letcher is a very good veteran team. So, it was a big win for our kids.”
Senior Kaitlyn Stittums captured the individual title in her first season as a runner. Stittums finished in 22:33 to pace the Lady Bears.
“Kaitlyn has been very impressive with her work ethic and the way she ran that race. She learns more each week and you can see her getting better and better.
Allison Cornett followed in second place, with Katie Graham coming in third. Both runners recorded personal record times. Samantha Howard was sixth. Breezy Epperson, back from an injury, placed eighth. Amy Clark was 10th. Sidney Kelly came in 14th.
“This is quickly becoming one of my favorite groups. They work hard every day and really like each other. They have not given me anything but their best since the season started. That explains the huge improvement they have made as the season went on. It was a total team effort.”
Harlan Independent’s Mason Miller was the top local finisher in the boys race. Miller came in fifth with a time of 19:08.53.
The Harlan County boys finished second, behind Letcher Central.
Caleb Bailey paced the Black Bears with a seventh-place finish. Corey Hornsby and Steven Engle followed in eighth- and ninth-place respectively. Jared Ball, Noah Hughes and Alex Lewis were 12th-14th. Dillon Turner came in 17th.
“Overall, that was one of the better team efforts the boys have had. Caleb Bailey had a great race. We got more out of the back of the pack in this race than we have all season,” Vitatoe said.
Harlan County’s Grayson Raliegh and Megan Witt finished first and second respectively in the middle school race.
Harlan County’s Matthew Brown captured the elementary title, while Harlan’s Story Miller placed second.
The teams will return to action on Nov. 2, in the regional meet at Wayne County.