The population of Union, Ky. - 7,416 will grow by about 20 percent on Saturday.
More than 1,500 athletes and their families will come to Boone County for the Ryle Invitational. Northern Kentucky's second major meet of the season will offer a wide-angle look at what the region has to offer the commonwealth this fall. Among the most exciting
For now, let's take a peek through the window.
Dream Mile leader
Four girls in this year's Ryle Invitational enter with sub-19 minute seed times.
Oldham County's Tula Fawbush, the runner-up in last year's Class 3A KHSAA State Cross Country Championship and current Kentucky Dream Mile record holder, opened her junior season with a third-place time at the Central Kentucky Run for the Gold in Elizabethtown. She ran 18:22.74, the second fastest time of her prep career and fastest time of any junior this season. Her seed time of 18:04.70 came at the Eastbay South Regional on Nov. 27.
Tula Fawbush was the 2022 Kentucky Dream Mile champion.
Ryle sophomore Allison Kopser, last year's meet champion, is next on the seed list (18:28.17). She had the second fastest time last weekend in the Moeller "Primetime" Invitational Sponsored by Buckeye Running Co. Kopser, who ran the course in 19:32.00, was the only Kentuckian who finished in the top 20 of that event's top division race. Her time in last year's edition of the race, 18:55.13, was the fourth fastest in course history and the fastest in nearly a decade.
Maddie Strong (Scott) ran sixth here last season as a sophomore and brings the third fastest seed time (18:40.88). This will be her third race in as many weekends, following top-20 showings in the Central Kentucky Run for the Gold (19:40.86, 16th) and Tiger Run (19:32.99, ninth).
Campbell County's Olivia Holbrook is also set to run a third straight weekend. After finishing first in the Panda Classic to open her sophomore season, Holbrook ran fourth in the Bourbon County Colonel Charge. Her Saturday time (19:11.31) was almost a full minute better than her time in the same meet in 2021. She comes in with the fourth fastest seed time (18:48.67).
Eight of the top 10 boys' finishers at last year's meet are scheduled to run it back in 2022.
Reigning champ Noah Miller, a junior out of Cooper, was 3.10 seconds faster than Campbell County's Jonathan Christopher, now a sophomore, in 2021 - 17:16.60 to 17:19.70. It's Christopher who comes in with the fastest seed time, however, at 16:09.82; Miller's seeded sixth with a 16:53.10. The two haven't met in cross since last October, during the KHSAA State Cross Country Championships.
At stake for Christopher is a third straight top-two finish in as many weeks. He won the Panda Classic - the region's first big meet - on Aug. 20 before running second (16:19.25) at the Bourbon County Colonel Charge on Saturday.
Miller ran 23d overall with a time of 17:13.50 in his season debut last weekend in the Moeller "Primetime" Invitational. There, he was outpaced by Ryle junior Tiger Bartlett, who finished first among Kentuckians and third overall with a PR time of 16:10.20 (second fastest among all juniors in the state). Bartlett is in the field for his home meet.
North Hardin senior Gabe Russell is the only top-25 entrant representing a school from outside Northern Kentucky. His 16:16.90 seed time came at the FSU Invitational last October in Tallahassee, Fla. Russell has posted top-20 finishes and sub-17 minute times in his first two races this season.
Malcolm Robertson (Highlands) and Dixon Ryan (St. Henry) round out the top five seeds with marks of 16:35.88 and 16:36.20, respectively. Dixon was not far off that pace at the Tiger Run last week, running 16:39.78 there. Robertson opened his season with a 17:36.80 in the Moeller "Primetime" Invitational on Saturday.
The girls' course record belongs to Molly Mearns (Highlands), who ran it in 18:36.90 during the Region 4 Class 2A meet (teammate Lauren Ossege was about four seconds slower in the same meet, the second fastest time on the course). Christine Frederick (Ursuline Academy, OH) set the meet record with an 18:45.00 in 2013.
The two fastest times on the course, and for the meet, were both set in 2014 - Villa Madonna's Eric Baugh outpaced Highlands' Ethan Shuley, 15:38.30 to 15:46.30. That was the last year a sub-16 minute time was posted on the course (they were joined that year by Cooper's Zach Stewart, who just made the cut at 15:59.50).
Gannon Parke (Beechwood, 11:01.50) and Luke Deegan (Campbell County Middle School, 11:05.10) have a significant edge in seeding over all other boys in the 3,000m. Alexandra Burg (11:17.40) and Abigail Carnes (11:26.50), both of Blessed Sacrament, have a similar advantage on the girls' side.