By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Paced by a fourth-place finish from seventh grader Sydney McWhorter, the South Laurel girls’ cross country team earned a spot in Saturday’s state meet at the Kentucky Horse Park. The North Laurel boys’ team also qualified, led by Scout Bundy’s eight-place finish.
“I was a little scared at the end because I was counting spots, but it was a good finish,” South Laurel coach Carrie Kirby said.
Where your top five runners finish can have consequences for not only your team, but other teams as well. When South Laurel placed third it left a spot open for North Laurel seventh grader Sidney King to qualify for the state meet as an individual. The top five runners not on a qualifying team also go to the state meet.
“We are just really thrilled to have Sidney qualify for the state as a seventh grader,” Gaynor said.
The South Laurel boys also qualified one runner with freshmen Trey Valentine earning a spot.
The South Laurel girls had three runners in the top 15 led by McWhorter with a time of 20:33.11. Alyssa Hamilton placed ninth (21:24.09) and Leslie Dixon 13th (21:42.55). Pulaski County’s Alyssa Hyden finished with the best time at 19:51.70, but it was Madison Central that took team honors with five runners in the top eight.
“I was real pleased with how (Sydney McWhorter) ran. I was pleased with how all the girls ran. They have been training hard and they are a great bunch of girls to work with,” Kirby said.
South Laurel’s Laurence Beliveau (23:31.19) placed 24th and Cara Hibbard (25:06.09) was 36th. Helena Beliveau (26:29.39) was 44th in the field. There were tense moments for South Laurel as several West Jessamine runners crossed the finish line together and appeared to be making up ground on the third place Lady Cardinals.
“It wasn’t as close as I thought, but that West Jessamine team was so closely grouped that’s what scared me,” Kirby said.
Watching just as closely was Gaynor, who was counting spots to see if King had qualified for the state. Also running for North Laurel was Kendall Myers (23:59.49), Macy Feltner (24:37.01), Gabi Collier (25:22.50), and Sierra Hedrick (31:57.21).
“They ran good. We only had one runner under 25 (minutes) all year and we had three today,” Gaynor said.
The North Laurel boys’ top three runners finished ahead of the top three of West Jessamine. The higher finish for West Jessamine’s fourth and fifth runners would be enough to give them a 10-point edge over North Laurel for third place. Madison Central also dominated the boys’ race with five runners in the top 10.
“We’re pretty pleased with our finish, but we hope to do better next week. We hope to beat West Jessamine at state,” Gaynor said.
Bundy’s eighth place finish with a time of 17:24.97 was not the only strong performance for North Laurel. In a sport where you compete against yourself as well as your opponent, two runners set personal records (PRs).
“Scout ran well. John Michael PR-ed, Noah Smith PR-ed and Garrett (Napier) ran his best time of the year, although it wasn’t a PR for his career,” Gaynor said.
Napier (17:58.06) placed 15th for the Jaguars and Bowling (18:26.98) was 19th. North Laurel also earned points from Caleb Schumacher (19:04.64) and Smith (19:28.68). Trey Feltner (19:36.36) and Thomas Melton (21:05.85) rounded out the North Laurel runners. It is Melton that could make the biggest impact for North Laurel at the state meet. A determined Melton ran most of the race Saturday fighting for breath due to asthma.
“In the boys’ race, we’ve been without Thomas Melton the last two weeks. Today he wanted to give it a shot. He had been our No. 2 runner all year. It definitely would have made the difference between third and fourth,” Gaynor said. “It’s kind of hard to compensate for someone running right at 18 (minutes).”
Valentine (18:36.08) paced the South Laurel boys. Also competing for the Cardinals were Jonathan Hampton (19:31.76), Hayden Wilson (19:51.24), Zach Davis (21:33.24), Christopher Butcher (22:59.04), and Jake VanHook (24:04.76).