All-for-one for Charger squad

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By Mike Farner

LOUISVILLE - The Bullitt East Chargers needed a nearly flawless performance on Saturday in the Class 2-A, Region 3 Cross-Country Championships at McNeely Lake Park in southern Jefferson County.

They got it.

For the second straight year, Charger head coach Lenny Raley had to throw all his plans out the window when he arrived at the meet to find out that North Bullitt would not be fielding a full team on Saturday. Raley had been counting on ten teams starting the race, meaning that five squads would advance to state along with the top five individuals not on those top five teams.

But when North Bullitt came up a runner short, that meant only nine full teams started the race, dropping the qualifying standards to four teams and the top five individuals. That is a much harder task in one of the toughest regions in the state which includes three of the top five teams in the state.

The same thing happened to the Chargers last season and they came up short. This year, the red and gold rose to the occasion and put together their best effort of the season. In all, the five Bullitt East runners were all within 55 seconds of each other.

“I told the guys the situation right before the race and expressed to them that we wee ready to finish fourth and knock Spencer County out of their spot and move them down to the fifth spot,” Raley said earlier this week. “I told them we were going to qualify as a team. Only one other Bullitt East team had qualified previously in school history and the kids were ready to get the job done.”

While South Oldham, North Oldham and Christian Academy easily qualified in the team chase that left a big battle for the fourth and final team spot. With the big finish, Bullitt East collected 133 points to beat Central with 152 and Spencer County with 133.

“The togetherness was probably the difference in us making it versus not qualifying,” Raley said early this week of his top five runners being so close in times.

This year’s team is only the second Bullitt East team to qualify for the state championships. That earlier team was coached by Danny Clemons who is now an assistant principal at Bullitt East.

The top Bullitt East finisher was sophomore Brett Hatfield in 21st in 18:54.59 as he just barely edged teammate Brandon Wiseheart, a freshman, who was 25th in 19:05.79. The other Charger runners scoring team points included freshman Scotty McIntyre in 27th in 19:17.70 along with sophomore Jacob Duvall in 34th in 20:36.49 who was just in front of teammate Christian Bailey, a junior, who was 35th in 20:43.67.

Bullitt East had a full complement of seven runners. The other two who will also advance to the state meet were sophomore Alex Cooke who was 41st in 21:40.13 while freshman Alex Terry was 50th in 23:12.91.

In all, 73 runners took part in the boys’ regional championships.

Wiseheart advanced to the state championships last season, but this will be a new experience for the rest of the team members when they take to the new course at the Kentucky Horse Park at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday.

North Bullitt did have four runners on Saturday. The top Eagle finisher was sophomore Michael Dowell in 24th in 19:04.99. The green and gold also had a 38th spot finish from junior Niko Harris and a 42nd from sophomore River Mills. Sophomore Adrian Wethington was 52nd in 23:43.22.

Girls’ Regional

The same situation played out in the girls’ race when Central could not field a full team, dropping the number of full teams to nine. While that didn’t affect the team chase for the two local teams, it did cut the number of individual qualifying spots and that kept any of the Bullitt County girls from advancing to Lexington.

Nine teams started the race with Bullitt East finished seventh with 210 points while North Bullitt was eighth with 237 points.

Bullitt East’s top runner this season has been freshman Emily Marksbury, but she has been sick over the last part of the season. She ran on Saturday, but could not get a high finish. She finished 31st in 23:15.15.

The other Bullitt East finishers included eighth-grader Jessica Prell in 36th with a time of 23:35.01 along with sophomore Ashley Duvall in 46th in 25:23.48. Seventh-grader Mickalla Purvis was 52nd in 28:15.54 while seventh-grader Cory Gollar was 66th in 33:51.51.

North Bullitt did run seven girls on Saturday, the first time that program may ever have accomplished that feat. The top Lady Eagle runner was freshman Natascha Harris who was 40th in 24:19.72.

The Lady Eagles also got a 49th place finish from junior Gentry Collins in 27:02.27 along with sophomore Alexa Hughes in 53rd and junior Casie Johnson in 28:39.62 and 29:02.26, respectively. The other runner scoring points was junior Meri Brian in 61st in 32:07.42.

The other two North Bullitt runners were sophomore Jade Amburgey and sophomore Rebekah McAuliffe.