Even before my head hit the pillow on Friday night, I knew it was going to be a great morning of racing in the Bluegrass State. After a relatively hot week, the air finally had that early-fall crisp to it and a cool breeze blew freshly fallen leaves across the ground. THIS was the cross country weather I remembered from high school. Fortunately for runners and spectators alike, that same kind of weather carried over to the morning and we had a perfect day for racing.
Women’s High School Race
The next race of the day showcased some of the best young talent in the state as AA #2 Michaela Reinhart went toe-to-toe with AAA #9 Emma Valle. Both shot straight to the front in a smoking pace of 3:16 for the 1K. After briefly flirting with 16:20 pace, the two athletes settled in to a 5:36 opening mile pace. Behind them, three other bright young stars in Maddie Covey of Tates Creek, Kendall Hayes of Woodford Co., and AAA #19 Katelyn Nichols of Ryle battled with the senior from Sovereign Grace (TN) Madeline Carmody. In front though, Reinhart and Valle were still neck and neck through 2 miles in 11:38. Coming back down to the soccer fields and the last kilometer, Reinhart was starting to push the pace a little and pull away from her freshman counterpart. With about 400 to go, Reinhart was a few steps ahead of Valle, and as coaches, fans, and teammates pushed her through the closing straight away, she just barely missed her sub-18 time finishing in 18:00.79. Emma Valle, after a hard fought runner up, turned in a very impressive time of 18:06. Madeline Carmody turned in a solid 19:13 for 3rd and Maddie Covey (19:20) and Kendall Hayes (19:26) rounded out the top 5. The team race was decided by a single point as AAA # 9 Ryle defeated Woodford Co. 82-83. The young ladies of Tates Creek took 3rd with 90 points.
Men’s High School Race
Continuing right where the high school girl’s race left off, the boy’s race saw two more top Kentucky athletes squaring off with a slew of other top runners hitting PR’s across the board. AAA #18 John Spencer of Lafayette and A#3 Eric Baugh of Villa Madona found themselves up front early with Zach Birdsall of Fairfield (OH) right behind. Spectators saw another blazing fast opening kilometer as Spencer and Baugh crossed in 2:51 with AAA #14 Ben Young of Tates Creek, A #9 Nathan Riggs, and Greenbriar East’s (WV) Levi Snedegar in a pack a few seconds behind. They settled into their pace as they crossed the mile in 4:52. Much like the girls race, Spencer and Baugh put some significant separation between themselves and the competition and began to dual it out, swapping the lead on multiple occasions. The two came through the 2 mile in 9:58 and Baugh made a move to put some distance between himself and Spencer. Coming up the final hill of the course, just before the 4K mark, Spencer was starting to reel Baugh back in and by 4K (12:15 for Spencer 12:16 for Baugh), had taken the lead. Spencer used his miler speed to close out the win in a time of 15:19. Baugh hung on until about 200 to go but still turned in an impressive 15:25 time. Both good for top 30 5000m times in KY history (Spencer’s is 23rd and Baugh’s is 30th). Young took 3rd with a 15:40 and Nathan Riggs took 4th in 16:06. Levi Snedegar rounded out the top 5 with a time of 16:23. AAA #9 Lafayette took home first place in the team race with a score of 55. Fairfield (OH) used a pack of athletes around the 17:00 mark to take 2nd with 68 points and Tates Creek came in 3rd with 97 points thanks to freshman Alex Mortimor backing up Young’s performance with a 16:31 performance of his own.
This was one of the best racing environments I have been around in my several years of covering cross-country and many others competing in it. The course is exceptionally fast and very spectator friendly. With high school athletes being able to watch college races before running in their own, it really brings the idea of “Collegiate Running” down from the regions of “improbable” to the “attainable” and show young athletes what 4 years of hard work and commitment can give them. I look forward to watching this meet grow and come back next year.
PS – Shout out to Coach Hawboldt of Tates Creek for letting me ride shotgun in the pace car
PPS – Apologies to Sean Vandermosten and EKUs team for initially incorrectly reporting OSU over EKU.