Grant Co. Invitational Recap
As I was walking out of my dorm at 7:50 to head north to the Grant County Invitational, I was not anticipating a particularly pleasant day out on the course for myself, or any of the athletes, coaches, or spectators, for that matter. The rain was coming down at a steady pace and by the looks of the puddles forming on the road, had been raining for several hours. At one point, I almost had to pull over on I-75 because the rain was making it too difficult to see. However, after slight delays, which unfortunately caused me to miss the leaders coming through for the girls varsity race, I had made my way to Grant Co. only then to be blessed with perfect weather and a sunny rest of the morning.
As I mentioned, the girls varsity eluded me, but the results still paint a decent picture of what the morning was like for the ladies out on the course. First, looking at the meet comparison, this meet was a bit slower overall. The most obvious factor behind this is the muddy conditions. The Grant Co course is a very fair course, but has many turns, which under the feet of hundreds of runners, with a little help from the rain can become extremely slippery. Nevertheless, Jensen Bales still dropped well below the 20-minute mark winning in a 19:36. Coming into the preview, Lauren Ossege was the pre-race favorite despite having sit out the previous week. Today was not her day, however as she took second in a still very respectable 20:07. I fully expect both of these athletes to continue to battle it out in Northern Kentucky for the rest of the season Right behind her was her teammate Molly Merns, coming in 3rd with a 20:17, Amber Victor of Ludlow coming in 4th with a 20:30, and Sarah Duncan rounding out the top 5 with a 20:34. From the team aspect, Highlands took the victory with 43 points, followed by Ryle with 73, just nipping Bishop Brossart who finished with 74 points. The biggest question team wise was could Highland’s front-heavy roster defeat the pack of Ryle. By the time the dust (or, more appropriately, the mud) had cleared, Highlands top five had gone 2-3-5-8-25, to Ryle’s 1-13-15-18-26. Highlands had made a statement during the race that they have the depth to compete with the best of them and with their front pack putting down good times, they can definitely make a run at the current South Oldham dynasty in AA. Ryle, not to discredit them, ran without Emily Gonzales, a major contributor to their team. I would not count this race a negative for them in any way, and tend to think that they will be there in the end when it counts. This all goes without mentioning Bishop Brossart, who put on a great performance just barely missing out on second place. The most impressive aspect of their performance was their 40s 1-5 split (20:31-21:11) with their 6th coming in right behind at 21:15.
On the guys side, I actually got to enjoy watching this race despite the slipping that I did just running from mile marker to mile marker. Through the first mile, a pack of about 7 or 8 came through within a second of each other at 5:14. Within that pack was Nicholas Laureano of Lexington Catholic, Nolan Gerlach of Conner, and Brady Baker of Cooper. Within the second mile Laureano, Gerlach, and Baker had broken away and formed a pack of their own, coming through the 2 mile in what I would guess to be 10:15ish (I didn’t physically see them cross the 2 mile). The last mile Laureano really pushed the pace, especially on the hills, and begin to slowly slip away from Baker and Gerlach. Laureano cruised through the finish in what didn’t seem like a terribly taxing 16:27, Gerlach came in second with a 16:43, followed by Baker in 16:55. Rounding out the top 5 was Michael Caldwell of Bishop Brossary (17:01) and Hunter Trenary (17:02). As a team, it was very clear to see that Cooper had won the meet just based off the strength of their top 4 (3-6-10-11) and with their fifth coming in a respectable 26th, gave them enough strength to take the meet. The sleeper team of Lexington Catholic took second behind Laureano’s first place finish and a strong 2-4 showing, with a final score of 104. With today’s performance, they may have earned themselves serious consideration for a higher rank in the AA polls and with improvement could find themselves in a race for a podium spot. It certain gets easier when you basically score 4 runners. Ryle, barely missing out on a runner-up place with 106 points, got their strength from their pack of 1-4 coming in between 17:50-18:01. Max McGee of Dixie Heights did not compete in the race today and their team looked slightly depleted. Regardless of today, they are still a threat in the NKY with McGee up from and a solid pack behind him in the mid-17 and low-18 range.
In the girls JV race was an exciting race with Ryle and Brossart running a close race with Ryle taking the victory 32-33. Brossart’s string of 3-6 place finishes gave them the advantage over Ryle, who claimed the top two spots. Sophie Kisker won with a 22:27. Many of Ryle’s athletes on their JV squad are underclassmen and look to have many great years of running ahead of them, however. The guys JV race was very similar with two teams battling it out for the top spot. This time is was between Ryle and Cooper. Ryle took the victory 26-34 with their top five finishing 3-4-5-6-8. Cooper, took the top 2 spots with Ethan Brennan winning in a 18:33 and their remaining contingent placing in the top 15. Both Cooper and Ryle’s squads are loaded with underclassmen look to have a promising future for their programs.