Titan Cross Country Classic Recap
I woke up this morning and, like many others, made the drive down I-64 to Collins High School ready to watch the debut race of Gabby Karas’ season. Delaying the start of her season to peak during Nationals, it seemed an ideal time, given the fact that this was her home meet. Unfortunately, it was not to be, as Gabby was not able to finish the race and had to drop out just before the mile due to an ankle injury. It’s a tough break for a good kid and every fan of Cross Country in Kentucky should be rooting for this young lady to make a speedy recovery and be able to represent our state on a national level.
Gabby’s injury did not halt the day of racing, however, and there were many other great performances to speak of on the day. Another elite girl was able to lay down a strong performance on a tough course and on the guys side there was a duel that took 2.5 miles before either runner had an advantage.
The cold and overcast day got underway with Gabby taking the pace out fast in the first 400m. The #2 ranked runner in Class A, Karly Gawarecki of Holy Cross, was able to comfortable position herself between Gabby and the rest of the pack and feed off of Gabby’s fast opening pace. A couple seconds back from Karly a string of runners came around the bend. From the 400, it was clear that the team battle would be between Henry Clay and AA #3 Christian Academy, who was running without Hannah Herd this morning. Each team had 3 athletes square in the middle of that chase pack, but Henry Clay looked to have the stronger 4 and 5 early on.
As mentioned, just before the mile Gabby dropped out and Karly came through first in 5:44. At this point, the race was hers to lose as she already had a 20s lead on the next runner, Daria Ochenkowski of Henry Clay, who came through in 6:14 with Tabitha Martin of Spencer County and Clara Lynch of Christian Academy right behind in 6:15. By the 1.5 mark, Karly had opened her lead and cruised through the 2-mile in 12:11. Martin and Lynch had overtaken Ochenkowski by the 2-mile and came through in 12:52 (Martin) and 13:09 (Lynch). The last mile was mostly hidden from view, but Gawarecki didn’t let the pace up too much and finished first in a time of 19:09. Martin was never in any danger of losing 2nd and comfortably earned runner-up with a time of 20:25. Toward the finish, Lynch had to hold off somewhat of a late charge by Ochenkowski, but she was able to maintain her spot with 21:07 and Ochenkowski placed 4th with a 21:13. Alana Fielding of Collins rounded out the top 5 with a 21:31.
Henry Clay was able to come away with the team victory with 52 points over Christian Academy with 66. For the second time this week (that I know of, at least) the 6th runner makes the difference as Atherton edged out Collins despite their scores being tied at 85.
After the ladies had cleared the course, the boy’s race got underway. Whereas the girls race featured a run-away victory, the boys race saw Class AAA #7 Jackson Cooper of Central Hardin and Class A #2 Matt Bode of Collegiate go head-to-head for over two miles before one could pull away from the other.
When they came around a turn somewhere close to the 400 mark, Cooper was in the lead with Bode tucked in right behind him. By the time they made it over to the mile, Bode and Cooper were literally running side-by-side as they came through in about 5:05. Christian Wright of Central Hardin was several seconds back in 3rd and at that point, the team race was too close to call with no one really dominating. Central Hardin had a strong 1-2 and another runner or two in good position, but Dunbar, Lafayette, Butler, Henry Clay, and St. X, who was not running their top athletes, also had several runners moving through the field. The clear favorite between Cooper and Bode was still yet to be determined by the two-mile and they came through side-by-side again in 10:34. Wright was now comfortably in 3rd as he passed through in 10:44. One noticeable change in the team race at this point was that St. X’s runners had begun slowly working their way up the field and looked to be in the lead at the 2-mile. Again, it’s hard for me to be exactly sure what happened over the course of the final mile, but as I heard the crowd begin to cheer from around the corner, it was Jackson Cooper who made the turn first and sealed his victory with a 16:28. Matt Bode, though not coming away with a victory, still ran a very respectable 16:43 for runner-up. Christian Wright was 3rd with a 17:16. Marcus Grady of Atherton was able to edge out Austin Moran of Butler for 4th with a 17:22.05 to Moran’s 17:22.6. Patrick Schaefer of St. X finished in the same second as Grady and Moran, barely falling to 6th with a 17:22.9.
It was the pack of St. X that prevailed, finishing 1st overall with a score of 64 and sporting a 1-5 split of only 34s. Dunbar finished 2nd in the team division with 109 points and after them only 23 points separated 3rd from 6th with Butler coming in 3rd with 124, Central Hardin in 4th with 132, Henry Clay with 139, and Shelby County with 147.