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Friday, October 29, 2021

Highlands Cross Country Teams Prepare for State Meet

Highlands Boys Aim For Elusive Fourth State Crown

Contributed Photo. The Highlands Boys Cross County Team heads to state after winning its first region crown since 2015.

Contributed Photo. The Highlands Girls Cross Country Team runs in state at 4 p.m. on Friday.

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The Highlands Bluebirds boys cross country team has not been in the serious conversation for a Class 2A state championship since 2015.

That marked the last time the Bluebirds won their first Class 2A, Region 4 crown since then on Saturday at Falling Springs Park in Versailles. Lexington Catholic had won the previous five region crowns.

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The Highlands girls run at 4 p.m. Friday and the boys follow at 5 p.m. The site for the state meet is the Bourbon Cross Country Course located at 1054 Millersburg Road in Paris, Kentucky.

The Bluebirds won the eight-team race with 31 points placing the five scorers in the top 10 out of 57 racers. The top runner and fifth runner finished within 12 seconds of each other. Bourbon County took second with 81 points.

Highlands Head Coach Brian Alessandro said North Oldham has a strong team. The Mustangs edged out the Bluebirds, 61-71 in the 2015 Class 2A state meet in 2015.

"But that doesn't mean things can't happen," Alessandro said. "People can be sick, quarantined or anything else. At this time, we have a really good shot of finishing in the top four and bringing home some hardware, which we haven't done in a few years."

The Highlands pack finished within 12 seconds of each other dominating the region meet. Junior Sam Hopper led the way finishing fourth in 18 minutes, 1.57 seconds and senior Sam Jones took fifth in under a second at 18:02.52. Sophomores Malcolm Robertson and Owen McCain finished sixth and seventh in 18:04.88 and 18:07.95 respectively. The team's average time was 18:06.08.

Senior Thomas Gray-Torsell finished off the Highlands scoring in ninth in 18:13.48. Lexington Catholic senior David Reinhart won the race in 16:37.23.

Junior Cameron Myers and senior Will White also ran for Highlands. Myers took 12th in 18:31.19 and White finished 19:09.52.

"I think it's going to give us good confidence going in," Myers said. "I think we're all going to have a good meet. It definitely means a lot. I think we're really excited to show how good we are."

The Highlands girls finished fourth out of six teams still qualifying for state with 99 points in what Alessandro called a rebuilding year. Scott won it with 36. 

Highlands finished state runner-up last year. But two-time individual state champion Maggie Schroeder took her talents to Northern Kentucky University and a few key runners are not able to run this year because of injuries.

Junior Eden Brumer had led Highlands most of the way. But seventh grader Ella Taylor led Highlands at the region meet finishign 12th in 21:34.85. Brumer took 14th in 21:39.07. Freshman Adrienne Harris took 20th in 22:38.93 scoring 19 team points.

Eighth grader Sydney Houlihan took 27th in 23:21.15 scoring 26 points and eighth grader Rosalyn Brown took 29th scoring 28 points in 23:46.33. Seventh grader Sophie Taylor finished 30th in 23:48.11 and freshman Sarah Jones took 36th in 25:18.82 out of 43 runners.

"We have so many young girls. I was tasked to find a team that could compete and bring up some younger girls. They've worked and done well," Alessandro said. "Most of them (ran personal records) on Saturday. If we continue to improve, I'd say we can get top 10. Our goal is top six. If we get top 10, I'll be happy."

Brumer, Harris and Jones ran in the state meet last year. This marks the second year the state meet is taking place in Paris after taking place at Kentucky Horse Park for a number of years.

"The course is very wide. When you're running, there are back sections that are open fields," Harris said. "The first one is really flat and the second one is very hilly. It's not really expected because you can't see it from the beginning of the course. So it's definitely a struggle back there. You have to keep yourself motivated as well because not a lot of coaches and adults go back that far."

The Highlands boys are searching for that elusive fourth Class 2A state crown. The other ones came in 1979, 1983 and 1985. The Highlands girls own 11 state championships in school history. The last one came in 2017.

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