The Harlan County cross country program has been one of the most consistent performers in the area in the past five seasons, capturing numerous titles during that time. HCHS will have an opportunity to add to its accomplishments today in the SEKC meet.
Leading the Bears into the meet will be senior Caleb Bailey. The captain of the Harlan County boys team is in his third season with the Harlan County cross country team, after starting the sport as a sophomore.
“He has done a good job of stepping into the captain’s role this year. He leads by example and there has never been a time where I felt like he cheated us. You know when they fire the gun that he is going to give you everything he has got until the finish line,” said Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe. “I knew he would be a very good role model for the younger guys. He is somebody to look up to and emulate your practice habits after. Caleb is the kind of guy they will remember as good example when they are juniors and seniors.”
Bailey said he decided to start his running career after receiving a unique message in a dream.
“I was in conflict between playing basketball at the time. Then, God came to me in dream and I saw myself crossing the finish line. That is how got I got the idea of running,” he said. ‘It has been a phenomenal experience. It is emotional for me since it is my senior year. I embrace each moment spent with all the guys before each meet. Coach Vitatoe has given a lot of good lessons and taught a lot about running. I don’t know what I would have done without coach.”
During his time on the Harlan County cross country team, Vitatoe said Bailey has been one of the hardest workers on the roster.
“He is probably one of the hardest working kids I have had on the team. In three years he has ran, I don’t think he has ever taken a day off. You always know what you are going to get from Caleb every single day,” he said. ‘He is a great teammate and a great kid. He is the type that you know in 10 years is going to be successful.”
Bailey recently recorded his personal record of 19:36 at the Pulaski County Invitational. He turned in an 11th place finish at the recent SEKC Meet, and has routinely placed in the top 10 this season. Bailey has been a part of a lot of success during his time at Harlan County. In the past three years, he has been a part of two Southeastern Kentucky Conference championships and a pair of regional runner-up squads. Bailey still has a few goals he would like to accomplish before his career at Harlan County is over.
“I am really aiming to get to 18 minutes by the region. I would love to compete for a top spot in Area 9,” he said.
Bailey and the Black Bears will host several teams in the Area 9 Meet today. The elementary race will begin the events at 10 a.m. The girls varsity race is expected to start at 10 a.m., with the boys race following at approximately 11:45 p.m.