By MICHAEL CHILDERS, CJ Correspondent
Although it wasn’t their home course, the Pulaski County Maroons boys cross country team made themselves feel right at home in the Pulaski County Invitational on Saturday morning at Wayne County’s Cave Lake Park.
Dave Evans’ Maroons outlasted an opponent in the boys varsity race that they have been very familiar with all-season long – Covington Catholic. The Maroons, who lost to Covington Catholic by 63 points earlier in the year, defeated that same opponent by 16 points at this weekend’s meet, allowing them to grab first place by a score of 51 to 35.
The Pulaski County boys coach has been really pleased with his team’s performance all-year long, but he and the rest of the team know that they still have a lot of work left to do.
“I am really proud of the progress we have made and I want our boys to realize our hard work is paying off, but it’s not over yet we have to keep working,” told Evans. “Our region meet is on the same course (at Cave Lake) in a few weeks and we will need a repeat performance of Saturday to come away with the 1st place team trophy.”
Maroon senior Mason Blevins cruised around the 3.1-mile course in a time of 16:36, which was more than good enough to claim the top position in the race. Pulaski County placed two more runners inside the top seven spots – Morgan Stevens (fourth place, 16:58) and Austin Hyden (seventh place, 17:05).
Jordan Carrington, who has been Southwestern’s top runner in 2013, came home in the ninth position with a time of 17:12. Brennan Perkins, a freshman for the Maroons, rounded out the top ten, while Sam Smith, another Pulaski freshman, rounded out the top 15.
“Mason Blevins again showed that he is one of the best distance runners in the state, and it was a very impressive win for him,” praised Evans. “When Morgan Stevens and Austin Hyden run like they did on Saturday they make our team scary good, and we need them to continue to step up for us the next couple of weeks and stay focused and ready. Brennan Perkins had his best overall race of the season and we are proud of him, Brennan is a very talented runner and it was good to see him excited about running again. Sam Smith had another good race and other than Mason Blevins is our most consistent runner, he got boxed in a little bit early in the race but he didn’t quit and he made his way back up the field to finish 15th which help our 1-5 man time gap (58 seconds) which is where we need it to be.”
Ryle had a dominant performance in the varsity girls race, as they placed all seven of their runners in the first 11 spots. Ryle, who would take first place with a race-low 30 points, was paced the first place performance of Katelyn Nicholas 20:04 3.1-mile time.
Pulaski County finished fourth in the team standings with 99 points. Even though they didn’t bring home the first place trophy, Lady Maroon head coach Nancy New hopes that Saturday can be a learning tool for next month’s Class AAA Region 7 Championships, which will also be held at Cave Lake Park.
“Region seven is strong, and we cannot overlook anyone as we face these final weeks of practice and races,” told New. “Pulaski has worked hard in past seasons, and the diligent work has paid off at the region championship. We’ve been able to bring home several region and region runner-up trophies. In order to compete at the state championship in November, we must focus on our competition and work hard to reach our goal. We still have a large gap that we must reduce if we want to be competitive.”
Sadie Martin, of Wayne County, grabbed the runner-up spot with a time of 20:45. The top local finisher in the race was Lady Maroon freshman Alyssa Hyden, who finished third with a time of 20:55.
New is hoping feels that everyone hasn’t seen the best of Hyden yet.
“Alyssa Hyden crossed the line in third place with a time of 20:55,” New said. “There are thousands of runners that would like to bring that time each Saturday. As our front runner, we would like for Alyssa to break into nineteen minutes next week at Lexington Catholic. She can do it.”
Sophomore Ashley Phelps was Southwestern’s top runner, as she came home in 14th place with a time of 22:58. Sydney New, a sophomore for the Lady Maroons, rounded out the top 15 with a clocking of 23:12.
Somerset’s Hannah Smith, a sophomore, was the top local finisher in the JV girls race, as she finished 13th. Dylan Wilson, a sophomore for Pulaski County, came home in the fourth spot in the JV boys race.
In the middle school boys race, the Maroons came home with a first place finish in the team standings, as they defeated South Laurel by 13 points at 25 to 38.
Southwestern eighth-grader Matthew Jones took the first spot in the race, finishing first with a clocking of 14:55. The Maroons’ Riley Crawford finished second, while Southwestern’s Andrew Stringer crossed the finish line in the fourth position.
Pulaski County (54 points) finished third in the middle school girls race behind North Laurel (42 points) and Foley (45 points). Devin Mayfield, who normally runs on the varsity squad, won the race in a time of 16:16.
Lady Maroon runner Sarah Burton rounded out the top five with a time of 18:33, while Somerset Christian’s Cara Acey came home in the 10th spot with a clocking of 19:11.
Wayne County dominated the boys elementary race, finishing first with a perfect 15 points. The Cardinals placed six runners in the first six positions. Pulaski County finished second, while the Warriors came home in third.
Southwestern runner Andrew Stringer, who crossed the line in seventh, was the top local finisher in the race. Somerset’s Ross Shumard finished ninth, while the Warriors’ Carson Albright rounded out the top ten.
Rockcastle County grabbed first place in the elementary girls race with 30 points. Pulaski County finished second, Somerset Christian finished third, Southwestern finished sixth, and Somerset came home in seventh.
The Lady Maroons’ Lauren Smith crossed the finish line in the third position with a time of 6:51. Somerset Christian’s Bethany Basile finished sixth, while Pulaski County’s Morgan Bruin came home in seventh.
Paige Ingram, a former standout at Pulaski County, won the women’s open race with a time of 22:27. Tom Arnold, age 30, was the top male finisher in the race, grabbing first place with a clocking of 18:21.
Follow Michael Childers on Twitter: @GetChili22