Letcher Central, the only other team in the meet, won both the boys and girls races, but Harlan County runners were the top finishers in both races.
“It’s still not out of the question that we can make some noise in the region, but our top five are going to have to be more consistent if we’re going to have a shot at winning the region,” Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe said.
Freshman Hunter Middleton set a new course record in the boys race, posting a time of 18:59.
“He ran a very good, smart race,” Vitatoe said. “With a quarter of a mile or a half-mile, (Middleton and Letcher Central’s Cody Gregory) were still neck-and-neck, and Hunter was able to beat him on the last hill. He’s grown a lot as a runner this year.”
J.K. Hensley finished sixth with a time of 20:17, and Justin Baird (eighth, 20:41) and Chris Cupp (10th, 20:48) also cracked the top 10. Rounding out Harlan County’s results were Jacob Hunter (11th, 20:50), Chris Southerland (13th, 22:46) and Drew Shepherd (15th, 24:30).
“It’s kind of deceiving, because we were without Blain Grubbs and he’s our No. 2 or No. 3 guy,” Vitatoe said. “The other times we ran against them, it was really close. Before yesterday, they had beaten us three times by a total of three points.”
On the girls side, Hayley Helton posted a winning time of 23:03, one second faster than Letcher Central’s Nicole Banks. AprilGrubbs (26:51), Lindsay Sim (27:48) and Whitley Martin (28:38) finished seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively. Rounding out Harlan County’s results were Carlie Caudill (11th, 30:21) and Lauren Simpson (12th, 47:27), who participated despite battling the flu.
Vitatoe noted that all six Harlan County girls posted faster times than their previous race on the course.
The coach expressed optimism that the meet will grow in the future.
“I’m really disappointed. I thought we would have more schools than that,” he said. “But we’ll grow over time. When I started the county championship meet, the first couple of years there were only eight or 12 spectators, and then last year we had over 200 people there watching.
“Plus, having the region there next year will be a big help because a lot of schools will want to come and run on the course.”
Harlan County will participate in a meet at Pikeville on Saturday. The regional meet is scheduled for Nov. 8, also at Pikeville.