The varsity divisions of this year's Louisville XC Classic are thin on contenders from its namesake city.
Of the top 30 seed times in the boys' and girls' races, only two runners - Eli Oetken (Trinity), Dylan Ellis (Eastern), Savannah Stoutt (Sacred Heart Academy) and Haley Schoenegge (Kentucky Country Day) - hail from Louisville high schools. In each race, seven of the top 10 seeds aren't even from Kentucky, but elsewhere in the region. It'll be a great opportunity for some of our state's finest runners to see how they stack up against some of the best that other states have to offer.
This week, we'll take a look at the top five Kentuckians seeded in each of those races before a rundown of other notables who will compete this weekend at Tom Sawyer State Park.
(Ranking among all seeded runners in parentheses.)
Riku Sugie (2nd): The sophomore out of Thomas Nelson broke through for his first career 5K victory last weekend. He outpaced the Hillbilly Run field by about 15 seconds with a time of 15:57.93. His seed time, 15:17.20, came at the Trinity/Valkyrie Invitational on Sept. 17. That's the third fastest time in Kentucky this season.
Tiger Bartlett (3rd): Bartlett also PR'd at the Trinity/Valkyrie Invitational; his seed time of 15:30.40 was good for a ninth-place finish two weeks ago at Tom Sawyer State Park. A junior out of Ryle, Bartlett has won victory in 2022 (16:13.23 in the Ryle Invitational) and has placed in the top 10 in his last eight races within the state. He was seventh-place finisher (16:22.10) here last year, the highest among returning Kentuckians (Sugie was 10th).
Eli Oetken (10th): He's yet to place inside the top 10 this year, but Oetken's times on average are close to a minute faster than a year ago. The Trinity junior last weekend raced out of state, at the Wingfoot XC Classic in Cartersville, Ga., but the week before set a PR (15:54.60) in the Trinity/Valkyrie Invitational.
Peyton Nash (11th): In four of his six races this season, Nash has near a sub-16 minute time. The closest bid was the Grayson County senior's PR (16:00.49) to win the CHHS Fairgrounds Frenzy on Sept. 10. He'll race Saturday after a two-week competition break.
Cates Duncan (14th): His PR (16:12.96) came in his first race this season, the Central Kentucky Run for the Gold on Aug. 20. Duncan, a senior at Greenwood, has only ran twice since, finishing first at the Gatorland (16:51.30) and third (16:19.53) at the Hillbilly Run.
Ella Johnson (4th): After never doing so in her 5K career, Johnson each of her last trips out has finished with a time below 18 minutes. Her effort last Saturday, a PR of 17:56.57, got her a victory in the Hillbilly Run. That was her first victory of the season following three consecutive top-three marks to open 2022. The senior out of Elizabethtown is making her debut at the Louisville XC Classic.
Chesney McPherson (5th): The Barren County junior hasn't had a finish outside of the top five in four races this year, and opened it with two victories. She set her PR (18:12.97) in the latter, the Owensboro Invitational. McPherson was the nearest runner to Johnson at the Hillbilly Run with a time of 18:17.69 last weekend.
Abigail Crask (10th): Since setting her PR (18:38.32) in a KHSAA regional last year, Crask hasn't finished below 19 minutes. That was the only time the South Oldham sophomore has done that in a competition to date. She entered into the regular varsity race at the Trinity/Valkyrie Invitational and won with a 19:30.58, which would have been the 26th fastest time in the elite varsity race. Her fastest time in 2022 was a 19:17.66, put up last week in the Border Battle.
Maddie Strong (11th): A junior at Scott, Strong last weekend won the South Dearborn Invitational with a mark of 19:11.50, her fastest time since setting her PR (18.40.88) in 2019. That's a top-30 time in the state this season. She's won back-to-back races and has performed well in Louisville once before this fall, finishing ninth (19:32.99) in the Tiger Run on Aug. 27.
Abby Overbay (13th): Overbay has yet to crack the 19-minute threshold this fall after doing so twice in 2021, but her times in her last three trips have been about 20 seconds faster, on average, than when the year started. She ran eighth in the Hillbilly Run (19:15.47) and has a win under her belt this season (19:06.78 in the CHHS Fairgrounds Frenzy). The South Warren junior is seeded with an 18:46.20.
Brayden Marshall of Winfield (W.Va.) is the only runner in front of Sugie on the boys' seed list. He PR'd to open 2022 (14:57.10 in the Dutch Miller Invitational, the second fastest time at that meet) and has followed that up with a victory (16:12.00, St. Mary's Medial Center XC Festival) and another second-place finish (15:49.00, Covered Bridge Invitational).
Three out-of-state girls top that seed list. Jaynie Halterman (Independence High School, Tenn.) ran 17:33.56 two weekends ago in Huntsville, Tenn. Going back to last season, that was the third straight race in which she PR'd.