Masterson Station Park isn't exactly the wilderness, but Lafayette played by the call of the wild Tuesday to run away with the boys' team title in the Fayette County Public School Cross Country Championships.
"We've been working hard on pack running, which was great to see today," Coach Sean McNulty said. "I've been trying to kind of instill that in everyone and, last meet, I really tried to get them to run as a pack through the mile and through the two-mile. And today I actually got to see that all the way through the line, so that was absolutely awesome to see our 2-3-4-5-6, all of them right up there."
Tates Creek's Ben Young took individual honors, timed in 16 minutes, 24.5 seconds over a 5,000-meter course with rolling hills. (5,000 meters is a little more than three miles.)
Defending champion John Spencer led Lafayette's charge in second, and five more Generals cracked the top nine. Lafayette scored 26 points, while Dunbar edged defending champion Tates Creek for second place, 59-62.
Tates Creek repeated as girls' team champion with 32 points, followed by Henry Clay with 60.
Lafayette freshman Emma Vaille was the lone individual to break 20 minutes, in 19:57.
In the boys' race, Young had a simple strategy: "Just stay right with Spencer, and to pass him at the end."
The pair battled, often side by side, for more than two miles. But as they approached a hill near the 2½ -mile mark, Spencer's calf cramped and he quickly fell off the pace.
"Once he dropped off, I knew I could hold it," Young said.
Spencer gamely held on for second, finishing just ahead of Dunbar's Malik Mahmud. Then came the rest of Lafayette's pack, led by 4-5 finishers Kadesh and Zach Murphy. Also scoring for the Generals were Caleb Joy in seventh and Scott Kaiser in eighth, trailed closely by Mitchell Kilgore in ninth.
The Tates Creek girls were impressive in their own right, placing 3-4-6-8-11.
"Our girls are strong," Coach Chris Hawboldt said. "They run well. We're senior-laden; I have three seniors in our top five.
"They're really good. But what they have to do is they have to improve. Because today is a good race, but region and state is what we're going for."
Maddie Covey and Emma Anderson led the Lady Commodores, finishing 3-4. Completing Creek's top five were Kara Weaver in sixth, Lorren Sales in eighth and Kylie Russ in 11th.
Lafayette's Vaille seized control of the race in the first mile and never let up.
The freshman said her plan simply was "to do my best."
She did, beating Bryan Station's Emma Guilfoile by 37 seconds.
"She's an absolute animal in training," McNulty said of Vaille. "She works hard every single day. She loves training with the boys. She's doing all the little things — getting the rest, doing the Sunday long runs, all that stuff. So she's been a coach's dream."
Girls' teams—Tates Creek 32; Henry Clay 60; Paul Laurence Dunbar 91; Lafayette 92; Bryan Station 95.
Girls' individuals—Emma Vaille (L) 19:57.0; Emma Guilfoil (BS) 20:34.1; Maddie Covey (TC) 20:41.8; Emma Anderson (TC) 20:55.8; Eliza Jane Schaeffer (HC) 21:01.9; Kara Weaver (TC) 21:33.9; Jennie Clark (HC) 21:39.5; Lorren Sales (TC) 21:46.1; Daria Ochenkowski (HC) 21:57.2; Ann Louise Cooper (PLD) 22:03.9.
Boys' teams—Lafayette 26; Paul Laurence Dunbar 59; Tates Creek 62; Henry Clay 100; Bryan Station 138.
Boys' individuals—Ben Young (TC) 16:24.5; John Spencer (L) 17:13.0; Malik Mahmud (PLD) 17:13.5; Kadesh Murphy (L) 17:15.1; Zach Murphy (L) 17:16.6; Alex Mortimer (TC) 17:25.4; Caleb Joy (L) 17:27.9; Scott Kaiser (L) 17:41.4; Mitchell Kilgore (L) 17:42.9; Will Atkins (HC) 17:48.0.
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @markmaloneyhl. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.