There is expected to be a host of local runners at the top of their respective classes at Saturday’s cross country regional meets in Bowling Green.
LaRue County sophomore Isabella Day is the top ranked girl in Class 2A and enters the race off her dominating performance in the Mid-Kentucky Conference race. She captured her second straight title in the event with a time of 18:31.54 and has won a number of races this year.
Brendan Nagle hopes to finish his high school career with a region title and the John Hardin senior would be a favorite in most regions. However, he will have to beat the defending state champion Riku Sugie to win the Region 2 Class 2A championship. Nagle has been in top form this year, including setting a new meet record by winning the Lincoln Trail Heartland Conference race in 15:43.24. He’ll need to run faster in Bowling Green to beat Thomas Nelson’s Sugie, who won the Trinity/Valkyrie Invitation with a time of 14:51.92.
Mikie Carnell is the top area runner competing in the Class 3A race. He is closing in on a new school record at Meade County with the personal best of 15:32 he ran earlier this year. That’s just two seconds off of Mark McMahan’s record time. Carnell won one race and finished second in two others during the 2023 season.
The top five teams and the top five individuals not on a qualifying team will advance to the state meet in Lexington.
Meade County hopes to successfully defend its boys’ regional title and coach Larry Garner has the runners to do it. Fidel Garcia and Lance Garner provide solid backup to Carnell and the Green Wave will be a solid contender.
Garner is hoping his girls can eke out one of the final spots to qualify as a team. Lily Helton and Annie Archibald will be key to those efforts.
Junior Jared Fairbanks is Central Hardin’s runner with the best chance of qualifying for a spot as an individual.
“Our focus has been on getting both the boys’ and girls’ squads to state this year,” coach Tim Pennington said. “It takes all seven who step on the line Saturday to perform at their top level and hopefully a few who end up with new season personal records.”
North Hardin coach Antonio Jackson is high on his three top runners and hopes senior Justin Bynum, sophomore Jesse Brewer and eighth grader Caleb Burjaski will qualify for the state meet. Bynum had the best time of the season with a 16:47.
“Our goal is to be in the top five at the region,” Jackson said.
LaRue County not only has Isabella Day but they also have a solid core of outstanding runners who hope to claim the school’s first ever regional championship. The Hawks captured the Mid-Kentucky Conference title for the third year in a row and head into Saturday as the top team in the region.
“Ella Tucker was in third place and Mia Dennis was fourth in the conference race,” coach Jamie Hardin said. “We had PRs from Isabella, Gabbie Kresel, Payton Ditto, Bridget Faulkner, Brooklynn Skaggs and Clara Ziemen.”
Hardin wants to close the gap between her runners to improve their team score, but still feels like her team is ready for Saturday.
“We had a tough workout on Monday and based on the outcome, it showed me that some of my runners have not tapped into their potential,” she said. “If that clicks this weekend, watch out for these ladies.”’
Hawks’ boys coach Tim Gross says his team is peaking at just the right time.
“We have a solid chance to make it out of regions as a team,” he said. “Everyone is dialing in on what they need to run.”
Senior Nate Faulkner (high 17 minutes) and Brock Gross (low 18 minutes) are the top runners and the key to the team’s success.
Nagle’s high finish will give John Hardin an opportunity to qualify as a team. Coach Josh Vogel will need big races from brothers Darian Gibson (sophomore) and freshman Jordan Gibson (freshman). They have been running races in just over 17 minutes.
“Darian has had a tough ending to this season dealing with a knee injury so he has been limited in practice so his brother’s emergence has made him push even harder,” Vogel said. “Senior Lucas Keown has had a fantastic season and ran a 18:15, which is much better than last year where his season was 19:30.
It’s been a different type of season at Elizabethtown as Jason Hayes has moved from the track coach to cross country.
“We’ve had a solid season with many athletes showing great improvement but it has been different without many of the athletes that have been on the team for five or six years,” he said.
He thinks his team can be in the mix for the final spots to qualify for the state meet. If they don’t, eighth graders Anna Johnson and Leah Cox could earn individual berths.
The Panthers also have a young boys’ squad. Freshman Harris Springsteen has had a solid season and is the team’s best bet to advance to the state.
“Senior Cameron McCullough has been running well, and is right in the mix for one of the next five (individual) spots also,” Hayes said.
North Hardin Classical freshman Jack Staderman has the best chance among the runners from his school and Fort Knox to advance to the state meet. He was 24th last year with a time of 19:54 but has lowered personal best to 17:55 this season. That improved time would have ranked sixth in last year’s race.
Both teams from Fort Knox are extremely young. The boys have senior Brennan Campbell and juniors Alex Kynshev and Jackson Boswell to go with a host of youngsters. The girls’ roster has four freshmen as the leaders.