Hillbilly Run Recap: South Oldham and St. X Steal Show
In my opinion, the cross country season really isn’t in full swing until the ground crunches under your feet as you walk to your car on your way to the meet. For me, that day came today, as I left my house in Louisville to an outside temperature of about 38 degrees heading to the Hillbilly Run in Bardstown. The Hillbilly Run has always interested me both as an athlete and a spectator. It isn’t your typical cross country meet, to say the least. The race is started, not by a measly cap gun, but by a cannon. When I say cannon, I really mean artillery battery set up in the middle of the field. The lead vehicle is not a gator, but a 4-wheeler driven by a man with a long beard and overalls screaming “YEE-HAW” at spectators and coaches alike (see “Hillbilly” in Websters dictionary for more details). Needless to say, it is a very exciting and fun race to both be a part of and attend and is usually provides very fast times and exciting competition. This year’s addition certainly did not disappoint.
Starting the day off were the JV races, and the girls race saw a team battle between Mercy and South Oldham go down to the wire. South had two runners pretty much lead the entire race to take 1-2 in Jessika Riley (22:00) and McKenna Webb (22:06), but Mercy had 4 runners in before South’s fourth. In the end, South took the victory with a team score of 31 (1-2-6-9-13) against Mercy’s 37 (3-5-7-8-14). This race was ended up being a clear foreshadowing of what was to come in the varsity race. On the boys side, this is what I will unofficial dub the “pace race.” Ignoring the fast pace set by the leaders early on, Brennan Wheatley of St. X was content to slowly move up through the field and took the lead with only about half a mile to go. Likewise, his teammate Tyler Just implored a similar strategy as he also moved up in the field behind Wheatley. The race eventually came down to a foot race between the two, with Just edging out Wheatley about 20m before the finish line. Both athletes ran incredibly smart races and put on a display in pace and tactical running. Of course, none of this is surprising for athletes under the St. X program. St. X won the guys JV race with 24 points (1-2-6-7-8).
The ladies led off varsity competition and the team battle once again came down to AA regional foes South Oldham and Mercy. Brianna Wolken of Mercy took the race out fast from the gun, um… excuse me, cannon, and never looked back. She came through the mile in 6:01 followed closely by Alyssa Shifflett of Bullitt Central in 6:02, and Nikki Coffey of Boyle Co. in 6:03. South Oldham’s trio of Dudgeon, Wilson, and Whitworth each had very different races on this day. Wilson came through the mile close behind Coffey, but Whitworth and Dudgeon sat back in a pack of about 5 athletes behind the leading four. Over the course of the second mile Dudgeon began to pull away from Whitworth, who appeared to be battling some sort of sickness before the race, and caught up to Wilson. Through the second mile, it was still Wolken who held the lead with 11:56, followed by Shifflett in a 12:04, Sierra Poppell of Bullitt East, who also moved up nicely over the second mile, in 12:14 and the trio of South all close to the 12:15. In the final mile, Wolken punched home the victory in a time of 19:21, followed by Dudgeon who finished strong to take second in 19:32. Rounding out the top 5 was Shifflett in 19:39, Poppell in 19:41, and Wilson in 19:45. The team title went to South Oldham, who scored a 36 (2-5-6-8-15) and runner up went to Manual (without many of their top runners) with 91 (11-18-19-20-23). An interesting point to be made is that one of Mercy’s runners was DQ’d after the race. Had her score been counted, their team total would have been lowered to 76, making the girls race in AA Region 3 rather exciting (when isn’t it, really?).
From even before the meet, the boys varsity race had the makings to be the most exciting race of the day. Coming out of the gate, Austin Snider and Jacob Shpilberg of Manual took the pace out fast, coming through the mile in 5:05 and 5:07 with Brandon Price of Bardstown behind them in 5:09. Behind those three out front was a large pack, which came through the mile in about 5:11. Within that pack were the brothers Dowdy of South Oldham and Spencer Hayden and Ben Glover of St. X. During the second mile, those aforementioned pack of four moved their way up through the field and by the second mile, those four came through from 10:18-10:19 (a negative split) and were well in front of 5th place. The rest of the race was an exciting back-and-forth battle between the St. X. runners and the Dowdy’s. In the last 1200m, the Dowdy’s and Glover had put the slightest of distance between themselves and Hayden. The tight race finally saw Tanner Dowdy pull ahead of his brother and Glover to take the victory in 16:33, with Cole Dowdy finishing in 16:38, Glover in 16:41, Hayden in 16:48, and Price rounding out the top 5 with a 17:01. It was a great race throughout and really gets me excited thinking about the future, as both the Dowdy’s and Spencer Hayden are freshmen and Ben Glover only being a sophomore. On the team aspect, St. X. did what St. X does and wins in a commanding fashion even without any of their top runners with an overall score of 34 (3-4-8-9-10). North Laurel took second with 65 points (6-7-12-13-27).