Story Matters

Story Matters

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

How did the Highlands Cross Country teams make history in the state meet?

G. Michael Graham Photo. The Highlands Ladybirds cross country team three-peated for the third time in school history winning the Class AA state championship on Saturday at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

LEXINGTON – They hoped to bring home both crowns this year.

The Highlands Ladybirds cross country team three-peated as Class AA state champions. But the Bluebirds finished third for the second straight year at the Kentucky Horse Park.

The biggest news of the day belonged to Highlands junior Ethan Shuley. He became the first-ever individual state champion in school history. Shuley won the race in 15 minutes and 58.14 seconds. That was 21 seconds faster than the runner-up in North Oldham junior Trenton Fryman.

“I had a great first mile that separated me from the field,” Shuley said. “I just went on from that and had a great race.”

The Ladybirds placed all seven runners in the top 52 taking home the crown with 107 points. Runner-up Christian Academy of Louisville took second with 140 points. The Lady Centurions placed their top four runners slightly ahead of Highlands’ top four, but their fifth runner took 75th. The top five runners on each team round up the scoring.

“Our girls ran really well,” said Brian Alessandro, Highlands Head Coach. “It’s good to have that third championship. We have other strong runners so it will be interesting to see how things shift around with the top seven or top 10.”

Highlands brought home the ninth state championship in school history. The Ladybirds also three-peated as state champions between 1978 and 1980 and 2002 and 2004. They passed Pulaski County for the second-most titles in school history. Only St. Henry has more with 17.

Sophomore Chloe Gastright led Highlands taking 10th in 19:46.76. Junior Lauren Ossege followed in 17th in 20:17.29 and junior Molly Mearns took 21st in 20:30.61 with sophomore Sydney Ossege placing 31st in 20:55.9. The Ladybirds try to stay close to each other.

“We’re all like a family and we just really enjoy each other’s company so I really think we run in a pack,” Lauren Ossege said. “We want to make sure the person who is slacking stays up with us or if someone is doing well, we want to stay up with them.”

Highlands seventh-grader Adriana Muntaner passed a few runners at the finish line to take 41st in 21:25.73. That was half a second faster than Mason County sophomore Rheagan Sizemore.

“I didn’t exactly do my best so I was trying to redeem myself,” Muntaner said. “So I passed a couple runners and finished strong. I’m really proud of the season and hope we keep getting better through the years.”

The final two Highlands runners finished within 10 seconds of each other. Freshman Brianna Collins took 48th in 21:39.29 and classmate Karsen Hunter took 52nd in 21:48.88.

“The sports at Highlands are a really big part of the school so being part of a state championship team is really cool just because the football is a big part of it,” Collins said. “When the cross country team starts to win, it’s pretty neat.”

North Oldham won the AA boys race with 49 points and Webster County took second with 96. The Bluebirds finished third with 110 points.

After Shuley, North Oldham had two runners score before junior Geoffrey Mearns finished ninth in 17:04.15. But three more North Oldham runners crossed the line before Highlands junior Matthew Gray took 27th in 17:36.53.

“We ran close for the first mile and a half,” Alessandro said. “North (Oldham) ran really well (Saturday). We kind of faltered and didn’t run up to our ability. It’s one of those things where you have to perform when you come into a state meet. But I’m proud of those guys. They had a great season.”

Junior Will Backsheider crossed the line in 30th at 17:38.28 and junior Jackson Paul finished 59th in 18:10.02. The other two Highlands runners were sophomore Colt Parris at 103rd in 18:43.26 and eighth-grader Jake Ryan in 165th in 19:58.29.

The Bluebirds hoped to win their first title since 1985. They have three state championships in school history. The other two came in 1979 and 1983.

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