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Local teams learn a lot from state meet

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2009 Kentucky State Cross-Country Championships

By Mike Farner

LEXINGTON - Both Bullitt Central girls’ coach Martin Tallent and Bullitt East boys’ coach Lenny Raley knew when the day began that their teams would not be challenging for even a top-10 finish in Saturday’s Kentucky State Cross-Country Championships on the new course at the Kentucky Horse Park.

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Still, without a senior in sight, this was a great learning experience for two very young teams. This was only the second Bullitt East boys’ team to reach the state championships and the first Bullitt Central girls’ team to reach this level in at least 30 years.

So, it is not hard to see why both coaches were smiling on Saturday despite some relatively high numbers.

Class 3-A Girls

BC Lady Cougars

When the season began, Tallent was just happy to have enough girls to field a full team. Reaching the state meet was the furthest thing from his mind. In fact, that was still pretty much the mindset heading into the regional finals.

Just getting to Lexington was a big piece of cake. The final race of the season was just icing on the cake.

What was a sure thing when the season began was that barring an injury that sophomore Rachel Thacker would be competing in her second straight state meet. She ran her fastest time ever on Saturday over a difficult course, finishing 38th out of 221 runners in a time of 20:36.62. Just a week earlier she had turned in a 21:06 on a relatively easy course in Louisville.

“The course was a lot more like McNeely Lake than the one at River Road,” Tallent said earlier this week. “We went out there Friday and I wasn’t thinking anyone could have a personal best, but our top three girls did that. It was a tough course.

“We were very, very happy with the results,” the coach added.

With 221 runners, the state of the state championship meet is unlike any other meet that the Lady Cougars run in during the season. Tallent said that it was almost a mile into the event before Thacker was running without traffic around her.

“I just told her to run hard up the hills and harder down the hills,” the coach said. “It was hilly.”

Bullitt Central freshmen Alyssa Shifflett finished 102nd in a time of 21:53.58 and teammate Cindy Kiefer, a sophomore, was 104th in 21:58.11.

The other two finishers for Bullitt Central were Samantha Fox in 25:54.23 and Morgan Hoover in 29:08.11. Fox is a junior while Hoover is a sophomore.

Those five finishers gave Bullitt Central 573 team points which was good for 24th out of 27 teams. The Lady Cougars finished just three points behind Pleasure Ridge Park, a team that had beaten them by quite a bit more in the regional final a week earlier.

Class 2-A Boys

Bullitt East Chargers

It was good to be there and the Bullitt East Chargers picked up a lot of experience reaching the state meet for the first time since 2005.

“It was a very fun and learning experience from beginning to end,” Raley said after returning to Mount Washington. I had talked a lot about what it was going to be like on race day, but there is nothing like race day experience to validate those words.”

Raley thought his runners competed well, but they didn’t exceed any of their previous performances.

“I thought my two top runners went out pretty well with the others somewhat conservative,” the coach recalled. “Throughout the race, it seemed that we were running to our potential, but not exceeding it. We ran our average times for the year, but not faster as I was anticipating.”

The first Bullitt East runner back to the finish line was freshman Brandon Wiseheart in 93rd with a time of 18:57.88. Teammate Brett Hatfield was not far behind with a time of 18:59.03 for the 96th spot.

Bullitt East’s other finishers that scored team points included freshman Scotty McIntyre in 155th in 20:08.22 while junior Christian Bailey was 163rd in 20:28.96 with sophomore Jacob Duvall in 171st in 20:34.37.

The other two Charger runners on Saturday were sophomore Alex Cooke in 20:54.49 and freshman Alex Terry in 22:07.05.

The team points added up to 557 for Bullitt East which was good for 24th out of 28 teams. Bullitt East’s region was well represented as South Oldham won the state title with North Oldham finishing third and Christian Academy ninth.

“I am very proud of the fact that we made it out of our very competitive region,” Raley concluded. “I guess a coach always wants better results unless you are the champions. I thought our kids ran the best they could. We will learn from this and look to improve our position next year.”