An Enterprise Staff Report
After falling to Letcher Central on a tie-breaker in 2011, the Harlan County Lady Bears had one goal entering Saturday’s Class AA Region 7 meet.
Seven Lady Bears were among the meet’s top 18 finishers, as Harlan County knocked off Letcher Central for the team title.
“The girls really had a focus coming in that they wanted to finish the job. They were ready to run and accomplished their goal,” said Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe.
Senior Kassie Rouse won the individual title to lead Harlan County. Rouse finished in 22:43.91 to edge Letcher Central’s Ally Damron. Rouse is the third straight Lady Bear to capture the regional individual title.
“Kassie’s improvement this year is a testament to what hard work can do. She has ran an average of two minutes and thirty seconds faster because of what she did this summer,” Vitatoe said. “I am very proud of her.”
Cassidy Ball finished fourth at 23:32. Jennifer Graham was sixth at 23:51. Breezy Epperson placed eighth at 24:22, while and Lacey Stevens (24:31) came in 10th. Arryn Jackson was 14th with a time of 24:59. Miranda Epperson rounded out the Lady Bears in 18th at 25:40.
Steven Engle ran a 19:26 to finish 10th and lead the boys squad to a second-place finish behind Letcher Central. Caleb Justen and Donavan Johnson finished at 19:44.12 and 19:44.52 for 13th and 14th place respectively. Josh Wynn came in 16th place at 19:49. Caleb Bailey was 19th with a time of 19:54. Noah Hughes came in 22nd at 20:07. Steve Reed closed out the Bears with a 28th place finish at 20:59.
“I have never been more proud of a group of boys,” Vitatoe said. “This is without a doubt the hardest working group I have ever had. Placing second is not an easy feat. A lot can be attributed to the leadership Josh Wynn has displayed as captain.”
Vitatoe said Saturday’s strong finishes display the strength of the Harlan County cross country program.
“We are very proud of where our program is,” he said. “We have been in contention for a regional championship on both sides. I hope the kids are starting to notice that and want to take part in it.”
“It’s obviously an advantage to run the regional meet on your home course,” Vitatoe said. “We have worked very hard and had a lot of parental support. l am very proud to have the meet at Harlan County High School.”
Both teams will advance to the state meet at the Kentucky Horse Park on Saturday.