Nobody came into Saturday's KHSAA Cross Country Championships better prepared or more confident than top-ranked Patrick Gregory.
The Butler senior saw a weather forecast that predicted 17-mph winds at the Kentucky Horse Park, so he did research on the Internet about how strong gusts could affect his performance.
Gregory, who finished second in Class 3A last year and fourth in 2011, was looking for any and all ways to prime himself for victory.
It paid off. Gregory won the state title, covering the 5,000 meters in 15:55.18
"There's pressure to run well when you're supposed to win," he said. "But I've come to embrace the pressure and enjoy every minute of it. I knew I was going to win. No way was I going to let myself lose this race."
The same could be said for North Oldham, which won its fourth consecutive 2A title, and St. Xavier, which three-peated in 3A.
Matt Bode was slowed by an Achilles tendon injury earlier this season and was anything but confident coming into the state meet.
"I'd only run two races at full speed this year, so this is actually a huge surprise," the Louisville Collegiate junior said after winning in 16:15.46, 12 seconds ahead of Sayre senior Nicholas Waltman.
Waltman used a strong late kick to get runner-up for the second year in a row.
"I thought before the race there were a bunch of contenders, and I thought I was one of them," Waltman said. "I felt pretty good, and got a second wind in the second mile, but Matt raced a great race. He looked like he was pretty unstoppable today."
Bishop Brossart ended St. Henry's 11-year run as Class A team champion. Brossart was led by Michael Caldwell's fourth-place finish.
Collins junior Jay Solinger had a simple strategy. He wanted to break away from the pack early "and look strong so they didn't think they could catch me."
He did just that. About a mile and a half into the race, up the first hill, he opened a lead he never relinquished.
Solinger crossed the finish line in 16:24.6, nine seconds ahead Ethan Shuley of Highlands. Iszack Whitsell of Webster County was third, one spot better than last year.
Solinger improved his time by more than a minute from last November when he finished 14th. "I tried a lot harder this year," he said. "I wanted it more. I thought for sure I was one of the favorites today."
Trent Fryman's eighth-place finish led North Oldham to its fourth consecutive team title.
Daviess County's Daniel Southard went out fast and took a 50-meter lead on Gregory in the first mile.
But Gregory didn't panic. "I knew running out and alone on a day like today, with the wind the way it was, it would take its toll on anybody," he said. "I knew he'd come back to me. I stayed relaxed and calm."
Gregory said "(I) threw in my good move two miles in, and once I had a comfortable lead, about six seconds, I knew I could hold it."
Southard wound up third, behind Chris Striegel of St. Xavier. Ben Young of Tates Creek, who finished 30th last year, ran a strong and steady race to get fourth place.
"I stayed with (the leaders) as long as I could," Young said. "I just wanted to come out and compete. I feel good about my time (16:12.69) for this course."
St. Xavier beat out arch-rival Trinity to win its third title in a row, and 20th overall.
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337.Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes.Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com