Meagan Smith found the perfect way to cap her first season of high school cross country.
The Danville junior won the girls' Class A race as titles were awarded in three divisions Saturday at the Kentucky Horse Park.
On an unusually warm day — nearly 70 degrees by the time the last race began — the course record was shattered by 2A winner Gabriella Karas of Collins, while St. Henry (A) and Assumption (3A) continued to dominate team results.
Soccer was Smith's sport of choice until this season.
She had competed in non-school 5,000-meter runs, though. When she talked with Coach Chris Verhoven, he noted that her time was fast enough to be among the top 10 in the state.
"And I was like, 'Wow, I could be in the top 10 this year.' But never in a million years would I imagine that I would actually win," Smith said. "I just never thought it would be possible."
Smith passed the mile in about 5:50, the two-mile in 12:15.
She finished in 19:16.39, well ahead of Louisville Holy Cross' Karly Gawarecki in 19:37.44.
Third went to Sayre sophomore Maddox Patterson, the three-time defending champion, in 19:53.13.
That was no easy accomplishment, as Patterson missed most of the season and still has not fully recovered from mononucleosis.
"Mono just takes a lot out of you, so I'm happy that I was able to compete in regionals and State," Patterson said. "Not what my goal was at the beginning of the season, but I'm just happy that I finished."
St. Henry repeated as team champion, winning its fifth title in six years, with 62 points. Green County followed with 105.
Smith, meanwhile, was ready to celebrate.
"Words can't express how happy I am," she said. "I still can't even really process it right now."
Gabriella Karas, an eighth-grader, repeated as champion.
Her time of 17:44.18 broke the meet record since the course was relocated several years ago from the Horse Park campgrounds to its "paddock" course.
The old record of 18:11.92 was set two years ago by her sister Caterina, who now runs for Xavier University.
Gabriella, timed in 18:30.31 last year, won Saturday's race by a minute-and-a-half over Paducah Tilghman's Aleja Grant.
"My first goal was to win and my second goal was to get Caterina's record. So I accomplished both!" Karas said. "My first mile, I wanted to take it 5:30. And then my second mile, 11:20. And then my last mile, just give it all I had left coming down the hill."
Highlands, paced by 4-5 finishers Sydney Ossege and Molly Mearns, took team honors with 65 points. Defending champion South Oldham dropped a place with 96.
Getting a 1-3-4 finish by Bailey Davis, Emily Bean and Katherine Receveur, Assumption bagged its third consecutive team title and fifth in six years.
The Rockets wound up with 31 points, followed by Bowling Green with 78.
Davis, a junior, ran the third-fastest-ever State Meet time on the course, 18:12.72. Daviess County's Whitney O'Bryan was next in 18:36.37.
"In the beginning, I actually wanted to break away from the pack, but we ran together," said Davis, who was in a crowded pack through a 5:46 mile. "But after about halfway, a mile-and-a-half, we sort of broke up and I ran alone for a little bit, then in."
Davis, who placed second last year, passed the two-mile marker in 11:52.
"Being ranked No. 1, it was like a whole lot of pressure," she said. "I really didn't like it. But I guess it was good motivation to run as fast as I could."
Defending champion Cassidy Hale of Manual placed eighth in 19:09.48.
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @markmaloneyhl. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com