Harless leads Boyle County cross country to third place finish at state
Published 6:00 pm Monday, November 6, 2017
LEXINGTON — It wasn’t a personal-record kind of day in Lexington for the state cross country championships, but the Boyle County boys cross country team made a strong showing at the Kentucky Horse Park.
The Rebels placed third out of 32 teams in the 2A race, the highest overall finish in Boyle County history.
Boyle’s top five runners were separated by just 1:04 and averaged a 17:48 pace. That 1:04 split between runner No. 1 and runner No. 5 was the lowest in the race.
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“We were tied for third, fourth, coming into the meet. I knew this would be the highest-finish ever at Boyle County if we were going to get third,” Boyle head coach Donna Anderson said. “And we ended up smoking the No. 4 team, that was a surprise.”
Lexington Catholic smoked the competition, scoring 39 points and placing five runners in the top 20. Warren East placed second with 134 points, Boyle third with 153 points and Highlands fourth with 228 points.
Ezekiel Harless led the way for Boyle, placing 13th after running a 17:12.48.
“Watching Zeke go out really hard made me nervous,” Anderson said. “I wasn’t sure if he could hold on to that pace, and then he did. He got passed by some people but he was able to hang on to be in the top 15. That’s an accomplishment.”
Harless was seventh after a mile, and he said that he knew that he was surprised at how fast the lead pack started the race.
“I was nervous too,” Harless said. “I was looking at the clock and she told me to draft behind Mitchell (Miracle) from Bell County, and I did. I thought I was doing fine until she said ‘5:05’ at the mile and I was flipping out.”
Harless’ second mile was 5:43, but he was still in good shape. He stayed right behind Miracle the rest of the race, who placed 12th.
“My mindset was to basically just stay consistent and not to die,” Harless said. “Mostly it was work the hills, because that was where most of the hills are, and I had to work up them to work past people and stay up there … Placing in the top 15 is really good, it made me really happy because that was my goal this race.”
The Rebels backed up Harless’ strong performance: Jackson Cox placed 29th with a 17:45.66 time; Malik Allahham was 34th with a 17:52.75; Will Lafavers placed 38th after running a 17:57.29 and Seth Stomberger rounded out the top five with a 52nd place finish at 18:16.61.
Allahham is the only senior in the top five for Boyle, but No. 6 and No. 7 — Nate Smith (84th, 18:42.68) and Trey Gilliland (136th, 19:24.25) are also seniors. The other four are juniors.
“I’m really excited for them, it makes me really, really happy,” Harless said. “When I was at Shelby County for the last two years, we got third place. So this is kind of three for three.”
On the girls’ side, Boyle County placed sixth for the second-straight year.
“With the girls, we’ve been ranked at best seventh, and coming in, we were ninth,” coach Anderson said. “So for us, we didn’t have a great race, but to move up to sixth, that means the other teams weren’t having great races either. I’m thrilled that they ended up sixth, that’s where we finished last year.”
Top finisher Ally Anderson placed in the top 15 last season but was 19th this year after running a 20:31.06.
“She started falling off pace at about a mile and three fourths,” coach Anderson said. “I knew the gap separated her from that group that she was hurting, then I saw some girls coming up from behind and it kept getting worse. It’s heartbreaking to watch, it’s frustrating because she couldn’t place. I feel bad for her as a runner and as a mom. But everybody has bad races.”
Senior Amelia Fogle was next up for the Rebels, placing 49th with a 21:25.79 time. From there, it was youth: Eighth-grader Emma Jackson was 59th (21:46.76); Freshman Ashlen Roller was 68th (21:59.02); Eighth-grader Naia Hutchins placed 73rd (22:03.34) and freshman Addison Hensley was 105th (22:36.51). Senior Summer Allahham finished 170th with a 24:23.07 time.
“Ashlen had a good time. They were all solid,” coach Anderson said. “The same with the guys, I don’t know if anyone had a PR today but as a group they ran well. Everybody looked strong, they ran close together, used each other and I think that was helpful.”
Mercer County’s Haley Blevins had the strongest race out of all area runners. She finished third overall in the Class 2A race with a 19:34.78 time. As a team, Mercer County placed 16th.
Casey County placed eighth, led by Alyssa Sharp’s 20:59.59 time.
Alexis Slone of Lincoln County placed 90th, running a 22:27.12.
In Class A, Danville’s Holly Helmers led the way with a 23:51.30 time, placing 119th.
“It’s nice to have an eighth grader running in the 23s during her first state meet,” Danville coach Chris Verhoven said. “She’s always been a 23 runner, but this is state. She could’ve gotten freaked out, gotten sick. But we try to cut up, stay loose. Hopefully that carried over. They just seemed like eighth grade girls, cutting up and having a good time. The goal was to get some good experience, and I’m pleased that they got that experience and ran some good times.”
Danville brought a trio of eighth-graders — Helmers, Mackenzie Matthews (181st, 26:44.16) and Ellise Meaux (188th, 27:25.03) — to pair with seasoned junior Claire Strysick (137th, 24:27.11).
The Admirals would’ve had a full team with senior Kelsie Steber, but she was unable to attend.
“It’s unfortunate that scheduling conflicts kept Kelsie from coming here, but hopefully she’ll earn that scholarship,” Verhoven said.
In boys Class A, Burgin’s Trevor Lay placed 36th with a 17:58.14 time. Teammate Drew Hatfield was 47th, running an 18:10.48. The Bulldogs placed 13th as a team.
Danville’s only runner in the boys’ race was freshman Jessie Cummins, who placed 204th with a 20:58.74 time.
“I wish he had a better time, better place, but he got the experience as a freshman,” Verhoven said. “His future is ahead of him. He’s going to get bigger, taller and stronger. Hopefully this experience will pay off, because this is a cool experience. Not everybody gets to do it.”