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LOUISVILLE - Just about every emotion imaginable was in play on Saturday from jubilation to frustration as local cross-country programs took part in regional meets at two different locations in Jefferson County.
At the Class AAA meet at the old River Road Country Club, Bullitt Central had good news as freshman Rachel Thacker ran her best time of the season to become the first runner from the school to advance to the Kentucky State Championships in at least 15 years.
Three hours later, there was more emotion at the Class AA Championships at McNeely Lake Park. Bullitt East did get a pair of runners advanced to the State Championships on Saturday in Lexington at the Kentucky Horse Park, but head coach Lenny Raley was seething at the awards ceremony when it was learned that the Chargers’ boys’ team had not qualified for the state meet when Henry County failed to start a full team on Saturday.
Bullitt Central has never been a cross-country power, but even with that, there has not been an individual state qualifier in a very long time. It was the performance of freshman Rachel Thacker that put a smile on the face of Major Martin Tallent, the girls’ team coach, after Thacker finished 14th and easily grabbed one of the five spots for runners not on the first three teams.
“She did good...real good,” the coach said after the run. “It’s about what I expected really. This course is flat and we’ve been on hilly courses.”
This is Thacker’s first season of competitive running. It is really her first season. She has a soccer background, but had never competed in cross country or track before this fall.
“I was looking to get in the 21s,” Thacker said of setting a time. “That would be a personal best for me.”
Thacker finished in a time of 21:47.80 which was good for 14th. That was the second best time by a runner not on the three qualifying teams.
“I’ve been playing soccer forever so I wanted to do something different,” Thacker said on Saturday. “Dad says I have a good stride so I thought I’d try this.”
Thacker will now run in the Class AAA State Championships at 2:15 p.m. on Saturday.
The other Bullitt Central girl to compete on Saturday was sophomore Katie Miller and she finished 44th in 31:21.
Bullitt Central had three boys start the race but only two completed the 5K race. Sophomore Dylan Fowler was 41st in 19:39.60 while freshman Eric Simon was 47th in 22:00.00.
At McNeely Lake Park, Raley thought his boys’ team had done just what it needed to do to qualify for the state championships in the highly competitive Region 3 Meet.
The Chargers finished with 159 points for fifth place, narrowly edging out Moore (161) and Spencer County (173). Raley assumed that the fifth place team advanced after ten full teams had signed up for the race.
(The number of advancing teams is based on the number of full teams in the race.)
Unfortunately, Henry County did not start a full team, dropping the team count below the ten necessary for the top five schools to advance. The Henry County coach later told Raley that some of his runners just failed to show up when the bus left New Castle for the race.
That was a bitter disappointment.
Instead, only eighth-grader Brandon Wiseheart finished strong enough to grab one of the five spots for runners not on a qualifying team. He is just the second Bullitt County middle schooler to advance on the boys’ side, matching the feat of present teammate Bradley Foster. Wiseheart was 20th on Saturday in a time of 18:39.12. Foster was 32nd in a time of 19:14.20.
The other Bullitt East runners were freshman Jacob Duvall in 34th in 19:28.01 along with felling freshman Brett Hatfield in 36th (19:35.42) and sophomore Christian Bailey in 37th (19:35.89). The team also had freshman Alex Cooke in 55th (22:22.87).
The North Bullitt boys’ team had senior Kenniniah Taft in 56th and sophomore Chase Brauner in 57th. Senior Danny Durbin finished 62nd.
The Bullitt East girls started a full team, but when Alexis Carey, the team’s most experienced runner, could not finish the race, the Lady Chargers had only four finishers.
The top Lady Charger runner was seventh-grader Jessica Ashworth who advanced to the State Championships with a 17th place finish (21:50). That makes her the youngest Bullitt County girl to ever qualify for the big meet in Lexington.
Bullitt East also got a 39th from 7th grader Jessica Prell (23:29); a 41st from 7th grader Ashley Cooke (24:01) and a 49th from freshman Ashley Duvall (25:14).
Wiseheart will now compete at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday at the Lexington Horse Park while Ashworth will hit the course at 12:15 p.m.