Chalk one up for the little guys.
While a 1-2 finish by Connor Sheryak and Sam Lewis propelled St. Xavier to a record-tying 18th KHSAA cross country state title Saturday in Class 3A, it was Jacob Thomson in Class A who had the fastest time of the day.
Thomson, a junior from Louisville Holy Cross, completed the 5,000-meter course at the Kentucky Horse Park in 15 minutes, 55.83 seconds. The small-school champion was the only runner to break 16 minutes on a sunny but wind-swept Saturday.
Class A: As St. Henry waltzed off with a 10th consecutive team title, Thomson and Sayre's Nicholas Waltman took less than a mile to make this a two-man race.
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They hit the mile marker in 4:50 — 15 seconds ahead of Somerset's Austin Adams, who would finish fifth.
Thomson opened a small gap near the halfway point. He passed two miles in 10:02, Waltman in 10:07 — 29 seconds ahead of the pursuers.
Thomson's winning time was nearly 27 seconds faster than he ran last year, when he placed second to teammate Dominic Perronie, who graduated last spring.
"It was definitely hard running straight into the wind," Thomson said. "A big headwind slows you down, but you've got to deal with it. It's cross country."
Waltman finished a solid second in 16:18.77. Portland Christian sophomore Jonathan Taylor closed strong to edge St. Henry's Daniel Wolfer by less than half a second for third place in 16:48.42.
"I was just trying to stay with (Thomson) for as long as I could," said Waltman, who placed sixth as a freshman last year. "He's a great runner, but it was nice being able to run with him."
Led by Wolfer, St. Henry placed five runners in the top 31 and finished with 82 points. Collegiate scored 115.
Class 2A: North Oldham senior Taylor Sanders held off Lexington Catholic's Nicholas Laureano, helping the Mustangs to a second straight title and third in four years.
Sanders, runner-up last year, had mile splits of 4:57 and 5:14. He finished in 16:20.40, followed by Laureano in 16:33.56. Bell County's James Brown took third, passed by Sanders with about 800 meters left.
"I knew if I passed through the gate (to the finish-area paddock) and was about two or three seconds behind him, it was game on," Sanders said.
Hearing pre-race chatter that he would be battling for third or fourth place, Sanders said, "it was all Brown's race to win. I just told myself he's got everything to lose; he's the favorite. Nobody's counting on me to win, but I knew I could win. So I just told myself 'when the time comes, you've got to go. No regrets.' And I did it today."
Laureano, who also passed Brown in the late stages, said he felt "nervous."
"But the legs felt good, chest felt good. I was sick this time last year and I got sick about two weeks ago. But I fought it off, was smart about it, got a little lucky and felt good today."
Paced by Sanders and fourth-place finisher Tyler Thompson, North Oldham won with 63 points, followed by Collins with 150.
Class 3A: Sheryak and Lewis helped St. X atone for last year's runner-up finish, when Trinity won title No. 18.
Sheryak finished in 16:00.21, fellow junior Lewis in 16:23.22. Eastern's Kyle Covert took third in 16:25.73.
St. X won with 31 points. Trinity edged Eastern for second, 120-123.
"I'm so excited for the team," Sheryak said. "It's been our goal all year and I couldn't be more happy. I ran for the team today, totally."
The Tigers thought they would win last year, too, but wound up with a bitter defeat.
Lacking a water cooler to empty on his coach after Saturday's win, Sheryak settled for tossing a cup of water in Chuck Medley's face. The coach didn't miss a beat.
"Wow! Not in my wildest dreams!" he said.
"I knew we would have a very strong finish, but five (individuals) in the top 12 was beyond my imagination."