Brennan Fields looked like a Thoroughbred as he churned down the stretch to win the Class 3A cross country title at the Kentucky Horse Park on Saturday.
Fields, a junior at Madison Central, wasn't among the favorites coming into the 5K race, but he couldn't be caught after bolting into the lead with about a mile to go.
He won in a time of 15:54.73, a personal record.
"It's surreal," Fields said.
Never miss a local story.
"I wanted to be toward the back of the lead pack for a while, then once we made the turn at the top of the hill, I made my move.
"This is the best I've felt all season. I got it done today."
Right after Fields hit the finish line, Madison Central Coach Robert LaDeur wrapped him in a bear hug.
"A complete surprise!" LaDeur said of Fields' victory. "I have no idea where this came from. The Horse Park hasn't been a great course for Brennan to run, but he made up his mind today he was going to run away from the pack and see what happened.
"Oh, man, what a rush."
Fields credited advice from former coach and current teacher James Mutuse for helping him become the first runner in Madison Central history to win a state cross country title.
South Oldham junior Tanner Dowdy was runner-up in 15:59.82 and helped the Dragons win the team title. They edged 20-time champ St. Xavier by one point and denied the Tigers a third consecutive championship.
Tates Creek senior Ben Young, who ran fourth in the state last year, came into Saturday's race as one of the favorites. But it wasn't to be. He finished 27th.
"I was pretty strong up until about 2 miles, and then I hit a wall," Young said. "I just didn't have it today.
"Overall, I had a fun (career), but was just not a great way to end it."
Tates Creek sophomore Alex Mortimer finished 11th.
Defending champ Matt Bode of Louisville Collegiate said he felt "a lot of pressure from people picking me to win again. But, honestly, I didn't really expect to do it."
Bode said he took a break from his training as a swimmer and felt "kind of out of shape. But I got back into it."
That's not to say he had an easy race Saturday. He won in 15:53.65, but he was pushed to the end by Villa Madonna senior Eric Baugh, who covered the 5K in 16:00.10.
"I could hear people shouting for Eric the entire race, and especially at the end it got even louder," Bode said. "I didn't know I'd won until the last two steps."
Lexington Christian junior Aaron Wier, in his first year of cross country, was third in a time of 16:17.52.
"I felt like I ran a good race, but it's not the result I wanted," he said. "I put a lot of hard work into it and I felt I had a great season."
LCA sophomore Adam Huff finished seventh.
Bishop Brossart took team honors, led by Chris Loos (fifth place) and Adam Hartig (eighth).
Highlands junior Ethan Shuley said it was a lot windier than he expected and that kept him off his pace. It sure didn't show. Shuley won with a time of 15:58.14.
Shuley, runner-up last year, came into this year's state meet "expecting to run fast and go for the win. I'm happy I got it."
North Oldham took the team title. Trenton Fryman was runner-up and Alex McClarty took third for the Mustangs.
Lexington Catholic junior Christian Cole finished 11th.