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Friday, November 2, 2018

State Cross Country Meet Preview

Bluebirds Ready for Another Strong Showing on Grand Stage

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. The Highlands cross country teams run in the state meet Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. at Kentucky Horse Park.
The Kentucky Horse Park located just north of Lexington has become like a second home for the Highlands Cross Country teams.

They make their annual trip there Saturday for the Class AA state championships. The Bluebirds boys run at 11:30 a.m. and the girls run at 12:15 p.m.

The Highlands girls have won 11 overall and five of the last six Class AA state titles. They won a school record four in a row between 2012 and 2015 before the Christian Academy of Louisville won it in 2016. That ranks second for most state championships in Kentucky history behind St. Henry's 19.

The Bluebirds won the Class 2A, Region 4 meet with 49 points. Bourbon County and Scott finished tied for second with 55 points each. Highlands Head Coach Brian Alessandro lists those two as contenders along with CAL.

Of the seven that ran at the region meet, five were middle schoolers. Sophomore Maggie Schroeder is among the favorites to win the individual race after winning the region meet in 19 minutes, 14 seconds. That time is three second faster than last year's individual runner-up finish at state.

The only other runner in high school to run at the state meet last year was junior Alissa Campbell. She took 12th in 20:52.8.

"We're really just trying to make sure that they run their best and try as hard as they can," Campbell said. "Really, winning isn't the most important thing. It's that they do their best and push themselves as hard as they can."

Junior Maria Broering finished ninth in the state meet last year running a 19:53.07. But Broering is playing for a state soccer championship at 6 p.m. Saturday down the road at Lexington Frederick Douglass High School so she won't be available Saturday. Alessandro can pick from 10 gals on the roster to run at the state meet and Broering was on that list.

"We were able to win the regional championship without our soccer players," Alessandro said. "I have had the mindset since conference that we can not count on soccer players for meets late in the season this year because the (Kentucky High School Athletic Association) scheduled these games on the same day as the regional and state cross country meets. I wish the soccer team the best of luck. It's hard to not miss a girl who ran fast last year at state and helped us win a state title."

Eighth grader Alyssa Harris took fourth in 20:10.4 at the regional meet. The other two Highlands scorers were eighth grader Ruby Smith in 15th in 21:10.8 and seventh grader Laney Smith in 17th in 21:34.7.

The other two runners that ran in the region meet were eighth grader Eden Brumer and seventh grader Lilli Hoffmeister. Brumer took 19th in 21:35 and Hoffmeister took 22nd in 22:08.6 out of 44 runners.

The Highlands boys finished runner-up in the Class 2A, Region 4 meet with 62 points. Lexington Catholic won it with 31 points placing the five scorers in the top 10 out of 52 runners. Alessandro said Boyd County, Webster County and Scott are a few teams Highlands has to battle for a top finish.

"The boys finished fourth last year," Alessandro said. "That was a huge improvement from the last year. We feel like we can be in the top three Saturday with the team we have, but top four and bringing team hardware back to Fort Thomas is always the goal."

Eighth grader Sam Hopper and sophomore Will Griffith have consistently led the Bluebirds all season. Hopper finished fourth in the region meet in 17:29.9 to lead Highlands and Griffith took sixth in 17:44.7. Western Hills sophomore Griffin Staude won the race in 16:36.9.

Sophomore Peter Laskey took 13th in 18:11.9. Junior Grant Uhlenbrock took 19th in 18:37.8 and senior Ethan Myers rounded out the scoring in 18:41 taking 20th. The Bluebirds ran at Kentucky Horse Park on Oct. 6 in the Lexington Catholic Invitational.

"From my experience, it was very hot then so times were slower. It is relatively flat," Myers said. "There are a lot of really steep up and downs. I would hope to see some (personal records) for the team coming up but there's no guarantee. But I definitely think we will try our best no matter the circumstances."

Freshman Will White and senior Donovan Staab were the other two runners in the region meet. White took 24th in 19:05.6 with Staab taking 34th in 19:30.7.

Highlands said the training has not changed for several years. The Bluebirds have tapered off the runs at this point in the season in the past.

"Although I write the workouts, our group is committed to running well at the end of the season," Alessandro said. "Both teams had a strong workout on Monday, which is their last significant workout before state. From here, it's maintaining fitness and staying healthy."

The Highlands boys last won the 2A state championship in 1985. Highlands won the other two state championships in 1979 and 1983.

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