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LOUISVILLE – The Bullitt East Lady Chargers introduced themselves to Class AAA with a bang on Saturday, winning the Region 3 title with a powerful performance against some of the top teams in the area.
Led by sophomore Sierra Poppell, who finished second, the Lady Chargers had four of the top nine runners to finish with 35 points. Defending champion Manual was second 49 points while Male was third with 91 points with Butler was fourth with 93 points.
Bullitt Central and North Bullitt also participated in the meet with the Lady Cougars in sixth and the Lady Eagles in seventh. This is also the first season in Class AAA for North Bullitt.
Overall, ten runners from the three Bullitt County schools advanced to Saturday’s Kentucky State Cross-Country Championships at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
This was the first regional title for Bullitt East in cross-country in any class.
“Going into the meet we felt that we were capable of competing for our first regional title,” veteran Bullitt East coach Lenny Raley said. “Manual’s runners had personal bests that were very close to ours and we knew that it would take a very strong effort to earn the title. Plus, with it being our first year in AAA, we wanted to prove that we do deserve to be mentioned as one of the top teams in the state.”
Bullitt East has been ranked among the top eight teams in Class AAA all season. A year ago, the Lady Chargers finished fourth in the state finals in Class AA, but that team did not win its regional title.
Poppell has had a strong last month of the season and already holds the school record for a 5K run, having wrestled it back away from eighth-grader Julia Poole who had set it early in the season. Poppell got off well over the course set up over the old golf course of the River Road Country Club. By the midway point, Male eighth-grader Kaitlyn Lacy had taken the lead and Poppell just could not over take her.
Lacy won the race in 19:22.84 while Poppell was next in 19:34.15.
Bullitt East also had freshman Caroline Collins finish fourth (19:52.85) while Poole was seventh (20:11.50), senior Abby Shelton ninth (20:15.28) and freshman Abby Reburn was 13th (20:35.17).
The Lady Chargers’ other two runners were sophomore Olivia Napier in 28th (21:30.33) and freshman Brianna Poole was 31st (21:47.35).
Julia Poole and Lacy had run against each other the previous weekend in the Kentucky State Middle School Championships in Lexington. Lacy, who was running for Barrett Middle School, finished third in the 4K event while Poole, competing for Eastside Middle School, was 11th.
Joining those three in Lexington on Saturday will be two runners from Bullitt Central along with North Bullitt senior Chelsey Slayton.
Bullitt Central, which is going through a rebuilding season after qualifying as a team for three straight seasons up until last year, did field a full team of seven runners. North Bullitt ran with just five runners, the minimum for a team score.
After the top four teams had qualified for the state meet, the next five runners not on those four teams advanced to Lexington.
One of those advancing was Slayton who finished 18th overall with a time of 20:45.50. Slayton is one of the state’s top middle distance runners in the state during the spring track season, having twice won state championships at 800-meters. She competes in cross-country to prepare for the track season.
"Chelsey has had a resurgence of sorts lately," North Bullitt coach Mike Whitfill said. "About three weeks ago she just started running really well. She always practices well but it finally translated to the races. I think she is just in a better mental state for cross-country right now that she hasn't been in for a few years. She has run two of her three fastest times ever in the last two weeks. The other was her freshman year."
Finishing 21st and advancing to the state finals for the third consecutive year was Bullitt Central junior Lauren Redding who ran a 20:57.85. That was one spot ahead of teammate Kelsey Phillips, a sophomore, who was 22nd in 20:59.15.
“Redding and Phillips have been within a few seconds of one another in every race this season,” Bullitt Central coach Martin Tallent said. “They have been trading places as the number one woman for BCHS depending on the course, and they are expected to continue their close competition with each other this Saturday in Lexington.”
Bullitt Central also had senior Elexia Campbell finish 35th (22:13.13) with junior Chasity Wilson in 37th (23:07.64) and senior Bridget Shelton in 39th (24:33.76). The other two Lady Cougar runners on Saturday were sophomore Sydney Shepherd in 41st and junior Jessika Hutchinson one spot behind (25:04.22).
North Bullitt’s other runners behind Slayton were sophomore Hannah Thompson in 43rd (26:20.39) while freshman Kaitlyn Sohl had a time of 30:30.64, senior Natalie Hoover a 30:31.48 and junior Jenna Keith a 34:54.37.