‘Oh so close’ is just ‘oh-no’ for Bullitt East boys

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By Mike Farner

 LOUISVILLE – There was more than a little disappointment after the boys’ race in the Class AAA, Region 3 Cross-Country Championships for the Bullitt East Chargers.

Amazingly, the Bullitt East boys’ team didn’t come up a point short of qualifying for this week’s Kentucky State Cross-Country Championships. The Chargers came up zero points short.

Going into the race at the site of the old River Road Country Club, Bullitt East head coach Lenny Raley knew that this team would have to have a strong day to finish in the top four spots and earn that team bid to the state finals. Raley knew his team couldn’t compete with St. Xavier and the Tigers took no prisoners as they won the boys’ race with 20 points as they had seven of the top eight finishers. Meade County then finished second with 67 points.

Then it got close. Butler eventually finished third with 103 points and were then followed by Manual and Bullitt East with both teams collecting 104 points. The tie-breaker, the number six finisher, went to Manual as their runner was 40th while Bullitt East’s number six runner was 44th.

Still, Bullitt East did qualifier three individuals for the State Championships with Zach Napier, Isaac Shelton and Cole Green all advancing.

“Going into the race, previous times showed that it was going to be a battle to the finish line to sort out who would qualify,” Raley said. “With only eight teams entering a full team (if ten full teams had participated then the top five teams would have advanced), we knew we would have to run a great race and someone in front of us would probably need to run less than their best. We had targeted Manual and Butler as the ones we could possibly finish in front of as a team.

“I thought we competed fairly well, but throughout the race I did not see our middle guys in the position that I would have preferred,” the veteran coach added. “I know the guys gave it a good solid effort, but that would not be enough.”

In a points race this close, it comes down to seconds for each runner.

“What stings even more is that four of our top five guys were within three seconds of finishing one place higher,” Raley explained.

Patrick Gregory of Butler won the race on Saturday with a time of 15:50.55, beating the seven St. X runners to the line.

Napier, a senior, then finished 11th in 17:02.00, just ahead of Shelton as the sophomore ran a 17:02.44. Green, a junior, was 19th in 17:27.53. After that, Bullitt East’s Michael Montgomery, a junior, was 26th in 17:55.14 while senior Zac Masden was 36th in 18:35.94. The other two Bullitt East finishers were junior Tate Hatfield in 44th in 19:21.67 while junior Josh Diersen was 49th in 20:38.50.

Bullitt Central did field a full team of seven runners and the Cougars did finish seventh with 195 points.

The first Bullitt Central runner back to the line was sophomore Isaac Mitchell (18:18.12) and he was followed by junior Kasey Cottier in 37th (18:36.38) and junior Bradley Mahaffey who was 38th (18:40.12). Also running for the Cougars was senior Jonathan Rogers who was 43rd (19:18.12) and freshman Michael Hill who was 46th (20:07.20). The other two Cougar runners were junior Jordan Hawkins (21:18.53) and senior Mark Saunders (21:52.90).

North Bullitt also fielded a full team for this event with six runners and they finished eighth overall with 257 points.

Leading the way back to the finish line for the Eagles was senior Jordan Morris in 47th with a time of 20:23.74. Also scoring team points for the Eagles were sophomore Jayce Johnson (22:47.85), freshman Jarred James (23:54.70), freshman Hunter Ashmore (24:22.39) and junior Colton Johnston (25:13.72. The sixth runner for the Eagles was freshman Travis Mills (27:03.26).