|Bluebirds in Running for 2A State Championships|
|PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. The Highlands Cross Country teams run in the Class 2A State Meet on Friday in Paris. The boys run at 4 p.m. and the girls runs at 5 p.m.|
The state cross country meet takes place at a different location this year.
After years of taking place at the Kentucky Horse Park just off Interstate-75 between Georgetown and Lexington, the meet moves to the Bourbon County Cross Country Course located at 1054 Millersburg Road in Paris.
After finishing second in the Class 2A, Region 4 meet at the Mason County Athletic Complex in Maysville last weekend, both the Highlands boys and girls cross country teams will run in the first of three waves that have come as a result of Coronavirus 2019 precautions. The Highlands boys run at 4 p.m. Friday and the girls start at 5 p.m.
Highlands ran in Paris in the Class 2A Meet of Champions on Sept. 26. The trip is essentially a straight shot down US Highway 27.
"It's been trending the meet was not going to be there much longer anyway," said Brian Alessandro, Highlands Head Coach. "I think that had part to do with it. But the Bourbon County course is excellent. I like that it's there. I hope it continues to be there. It's rolling hills but not too hard. We've already seen it a couple times. I think they're going to be ready for it. It's a nice course."
The Highlands girls hoped to earn a 12th state championship Friday. But Alessandro indicated the team may not be at full strength, which could hurt those chances. Senior Maggie Schroeder could win a second individual state championship. She won the meet as a sophomore in 2018 but was not at full strength last year. Schroeder won the region meet in 18 minutes, 51:08 seconds on Saturday.
The other scorers for Highlands in the race were eighth grader Adrienne Harris (eighth in 20:42.7), senior Kayma Wolfinbarger (ninth in 20:44.35), sophomore Eden Brumer (12th in 21:04.08) and sophomore Ruby Smith in 20th (19 points) in 21:37.76 out of 44 runners.
Seventh grader Isabella Neufarth and eighth grader Sarah Jones also ran for Highlands. Neufarth took 31st in 22:54.68 and Jones took 33rd in 23:13.53.
Highlands welcomes in senior Greta Noble and sophomore Alyssa Harris for the race. The two played soccer Saturday and would have been able to run Friday because the state championship game was not scheduled until this upcoming Saturday. But the Bluebirds lost 1-0 (4-3 on penalty kicks) in the first round of the state tournament at Tower Park on Saturday.
"Obviously, it's been a long road," Noble said. "We've all been running a long time and it's something that we all enjoy. This last week is crucial. You can't work too hard. You can't make people sore. But you really have to make sure you're focused and ready for the race to come."
Alessandro said Highlands is one of four teams that could win it on both sides. Two-time defending Class 2A state champion Scott edged the Highlands girls, 48-49 in the region meet on Saturday. The Lexington Catholic boys region meet with 36 points by 11 over the Bluebirds with 49.
Senior Peter Laskey led Highlands finishing fifth in 17:15.57 out of 55 runners in the region meet. Senior Will Griffith took eighth in 17:19.55. The other three scorers placed in the top 13. Freshman Malcolm Robertson took 11th in 17:35.66 with junior Sam Jones taking 12th in 17:40.91 and sophomore Sam Hopper taking 13th in 17:54.86.
Hopper ran for the first time in the region meet. He led the Bluebirds at state last year.
"Every single person that's on our team has either ran at state or been to the meet," Hopper said. "Everyone knows what's going to happen. I'm actually very excited for Friday. Our lineup is very good. We have a lot of experience with what the other teams look like. I believe we can compete very well on Friday."
Similar to Schroeder last year in the state meet, Alessandro talked Hopper into running at the meet. Alessandro admitted runners sometimes do not feel great about competing if they're not running up to their potential.
"I just them that it's about the team as a whole," Alessandro said. "If you can help the team, you're team is better off. It's above more than individual accomplishments if you're coming back from an injury. I use the workouts to gage if they're ready or not. It's based on that evidence alone."
Junior Thomas Gray-Torsell finished 17th for Highlands in 18:09.92 in the region meet. Sophomore John Laskey also ran for the Bluebirds taking 19th in 18:17.06.
Alessandro said the workouts leading up to the state meet will change this year. Every year is different.
"This year, we're doing some longer intervals than I would normally do the week of state," Alessandro said. "But I have some kids that played soccer and battled through injuries that need a little bit more strength base. We'll see what happens. We may not be at full strength with the girls. But there are four teams that can win it and we're included in that mix."
The Highlands boys own three Class 2A state championships in school history. They came in 1979, 1983 and 1985.