Inspired by a second-place finish a year ago, Nicholas Laureano of Lexington Catholic became a state champion Saturday.
His triumph in the Class 2A race was among several highlights of the State Cross Country Championships at the Kentucky Horse Park.
Others included Jacob Thomson of Louisville Holy Cross winning in meet-record time, a race that saw St. Henry snare its 11th Class A team title in a row.
Then there was St. Xavier, matching the meet record for points scored, and setting a mark for titles won.
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Laureano pulled away from Logan County's Sye Head over the last half-mile, covering 5,000 meters in 16:41.98 to Head's 16:53.58.
"Last year on the podium Taylor Sanders, who was a senior at North Oldham — he won it — he just told me 'remember what this feels like; don't ever forget this. Just use this as motivation for this next year and I know you'll win it next year.'" Laureano said. "He's a good friend of mine. ... He definitely helped motivate me, kicking my butt last year, to come out and win this thing."
Laureano and Head passed the first two mile markers in 5:10 and 10:45.
"I guess the game plan coming in was kind of chill out for the first mile, assess where I was. I think the first mile was kind of slow — about 5:10 — and I wasn't feeling great," Laureano said. "The plan was, if I was feeling good, then once I crossed onto the backside, going down the downhill, just try and run away with it there."
North Oldham, led by Luke Tarvestad in 11th place, scored 110 for its third team title in a row.
Thomson dominated wire-to-wire in 15:21.40. Runner-up Nick Waltman of Sayre was more than a minute back in 16:22.94.
Although Greenwood's Michael Eaton ran 15:05.89 on the old campgrounds course, Thomson shattered the 15:33.24 "paddock" course mark, set by Daviess County's Evan Ehrenheim in 2010.
"Not at the top (of career achievements), but it's pretty cool," Thomson said. "I think I set a state record by like 12 seconds. But I wanted to put it a little bit farther down, run a little faster. Can't change it now."
He passed the mile markers in 4:49 and 9:55.
A senior, Thomson has made visits to Oregon, Colorado, North Carolina State and Florida State. He says he's also considering Kentucky and Oklahoma.
Waltman moved up from third over the last half-mile, passing Collegiate's Matt Bode.
"I just focused on my form a little bit," Waltman said, "and just tried to stay with him and get to this (last) hill, where I could be able to turn it on."
St. Henry's 11th consecutive team title was sparked by 8-9 finishers Daniel Wolfer and Josh Hannon. The Crusaders totaled 84 points. Walton-Verona had 116.
Aptly named Chase Geary of Muhlenberg County ran off with individual honors, 15:58.66 to 16:14.39 by Patrick Gregory of Butler.
"I felt good about it. I didn't know if I was going to win it or what," said Geary, a junior. "My plan was just to get top three, but I'm happy with what I got."
St. X was happy with what it got, including a repeat title.
Five Tigers followed Gregory, led by Sam Lewis.
"Some of our guys didn't have their best day. Usually Connor Sheryak (the defending champion) is our first guy in and he was like the (fourth) guy in today," Coach Chuck Medley said. "But our team stayed together, picked it up. And our time gaps had to be pretty close, so I'm pretty happy about that."
Because Geary was not part of a complete team, St. X placed 2-3-4-5-6 in the standings to finish with 20 points. St. X also scored 20 in 1979. Trinity scored 20 a few years later.
St. X now leads archrival Trinity 19-18 in state titles.
"That means a lot to us," Medley said. "When I first started coaching (in 1998), Trinity was like four or five ahead of us. One of my goals when I started coaching was to pass them."