Letcher Central Boys and Harlan County Girls Take Region 7 Class AA Titles
By Carlton Hughes
It was a case of “déjà vu all over again” at the Region 7 Class AA meet as the Letcher County Central boys and the Harlan County girls took the titles in their respective divisions, while the teams reversed those results in the runner-up spots. Teams from those schools finished the same way at the Area 9 meet on the same course at Harlan County three weeks ago.
“Everybody on our team had a goal to move a mountain today, whether it was a time to beat, a personal record, whatever” said LCC Cougar assistant coach Sallie Hubbard. “When everyone works together, we do well.
“Our team member Chase Cates, who placed second today, said it well: ‘Hard work wins over talent when talent refuses to work hard.’ Our team did that today, with five runners under 19 minutes,” added Hubbard.
Mark Ventura of Powell County took the boys’ individual title with a course record of 17:21, followed by Cates at 17:33. Letcher’s Austin Bolling placed third at 18:01, with Perry Central’s Christopher Caudill in fourth at 18:16. The Cougars had the next five finishers: Nick Boggs (fifth, 18:28), Dylan Burton (sixth, 18:58.31), Trevor Wayne (seventh, 18:58.62), and Anthony Banks (eighth, 19:09). Brandon Baker of Powell County placed ninth at 19:11, while Steven Engle of the host Black Bears rounded out the top ten with a time of 19:26.
Additional individual state qualifiers were Austin Nichols and Brandon Thorpe of Breathitt County, Taylor Damron and Sean Curtis of Johnson Central, and Christopher Mason of East Ridge.
Letcher Central finished with 23 points for first place as a team, with Harlan County second with 72. Perry Central in third (92 points) and Powell County in fourth (96 points) will also advance to the state meet in Lexington next weekend.
Harlan County Lady Bear Kassie Rouse placed first on the girls’ side with a time of 22:43.
“I'm very happy for Kassie in her individual win—she's a great example of what hard work and dedication can do,” said Ryan Vitatoe, Harlan County head coach.
Rouse was trailed in the girls’ standings by a pair of Letcher Lady Cougars, Ally Damron (second place, 22:56) and Keisha Balthis (third place, 23:13). Harlan County’s Cassidy Ball took fourth place at 23:32, and Brooke Moree of Powell County placed fifth with a 23:40 time. Lady Bear Jennifer Graham finished sixth at 23:51, followed by Lady Cougar Leanna Bryant at 23:59. Harlan County runners Breezy Epperson (24:22) and Lacey Stevens (24:31) finished eighth and tenth, sandwiching Johnson Central’s Kaitlyn Wright (ninth place, 24:25).
Individual state qualifiers for the girls were Moree of Powell County and her teammate Victoria Spencer, Tabitha Potter of East Ridge, Kayla Everidge of Perry Central, and Paige Slone of Knott Central.
The Lady Bears earned the team crown with 26 points, with Letcher Central second with 40. Johnson Central qualified for the state meet in third with 68 points.
The top seven runners in each division comprised the first-team all-region team.
“I'm very proud of my teams and their performance,” said Vitatoe. “These girls came into the meet focused on completing their job of winning the region, and it showed. The boys are light years ahead of where they were when the season started, and they achieved a mighty task today.”
Breathitt County coach John Baker was also pleased with his team’s results.
“I’m especially proud of our two runners who are advancing to state,” he said. “Our team members gave it all they had today, and we’ll be back next year.”
KHSAA official Ron Wilson thought the event went well.
“This regional meet ran very smoothly, with no situations or problems. The course, set-up, and facilities at Harlan County are beautiful, and we couldn’t have asked for a better day,” he said.