High School Sports

High school notebook: Joint cross country meet between UK, Tates Creek features fast track

Aaron Wier of Lexington Christian Academy, right, running in last year's Franklin County Invitational at the Kentucky Horse Park, is one of the top runners in the state. LCA will be among the high school and college teams in Saturday's Bluegrass Invitational.
Aaron Wier of Lexington Christian Academy, right, running in last year's Franklin County Invitational at the Kentucky Horse Park, is one of the top runners in the state. LCA will be among the high school and college teams in Saturday's Bluegrass Invitational. Herald-Leader

"Faster than fast."

That's how Tates Creek cross country coach Chris Hawboldt described the course that's used in the annual Bluegrass Cross Country Invitational at Masterson Station Park.

The third edition of the event will take place Saturday. It is co-hosted by Tates Creek and the University of Kentucky. College races get underway at 9:30 a.m. with high school varsity competition beginning at 10:45 a.m.

Every Lexington team except Sayre will field runners, as will more than 20 other high schools in Kentucky. Teams from Ohio and Tennessee will also be represented.

This event is the only one of several held at the park each season to use the clock-busting course Hawboldt built.

"We start up on top of the hill," near the soccer fields, Hawboldt said. The runners then go down and loop around the soccer fields twice. A small uphill loop adjacent to the soccer fields is next, followed by another go-around the soccer field.

"The course is downhill or flat the whole time," Hawboldt said, noting that the uphill portion isn't too strenuous timewise.

Jason Dunn, when he was cross country coach at UK, four years ago came to the coaches association and asked if any of Lexington's coaches could help organize a joint meet between the city schools and the university. He also sought help maintaining a course UK could use when it hosts future SEC championships. Hawboldt took on the role and ran with it.

He said the goal was to build a quick course that would give high school athletes a fast time early in the year that they could aim for throughout the season on more difficult courses as they become stronger.

Hawboldt thinks the invitational is mutually beneficial to colleges and high schools. "The high schools ... if they are out here on the same day as the college coaches, they're probably gonna get a little bit more looks," Hawboldt said. "Because ... it's on the exact same course that their athletes ran on the same day under the exact same conditions, (college coaches) can compare apples to apples at that point."

Besides UK, the college teams scheduled to participate are Bellarmine, Eastern Kentucky, Ohio State, Illinois and Western Kentucky.

Oklahoma State, which has claimed three of the previous six men's national championships, was scheduled to compete but had to pull out because of multiple injuries, Hawboldt said.

The high school cross country season got underway Aug. 25. Regionals will be contested on Oct. 30 and Oct. 31, the same weekend as the Breeders' Cup. The state championship will be held Nov. 7 at the Kentucky Horse Park.

This year's NCAA Division I national championships will be at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park in Louisville. The city first hosted the event in 2012 and will do so again in 2017.

Sub-.500 but top 15

West Jessamine's girls' soccer team is 3-6-1 entering the weekend. It is ranked No. 11 by the coaches.

That's no mistake. The Colts have earned the respect of the coaches after winning six of eight region titles and advancing to the state quarterfinals last season.

Coach Kevin Wright thinks his team can score with anybody but says his defense needs more time to find its footing. A roster full of fresh faces — its 11 juniors and seniors are outnumbered by 12 sophomores — means that progress will take time.

"This is the youngest team I've had since I took over in '07," said Wright, who coached boys' soccer for 19 years before assuming the girls' job at West Jessamine.

Two particular upperclassmen have made a considerable impact. Anna Lee, a junior midfielder, is committed to UK. She has three goals and five assists this year. Eva Mitchell, a junior forward who leads the team with eight goals this season, is also receiving Division I interest.

"We've got a lot of firepower and we move the ball as well as any team I've ever had," Wright said. "We'll just have some little lapses that take the wind out of our sails."

The Colts have faced perhaps the toughest schedule in all of girls' soccer this season. Entering the weekend, all of the in-state schools they have played are ranked in the top 20 except Lexington Christian, which is receiving votes from the coaches, and East Jessamine. The Indiana opponents it faced last weekend were highly ranked, too.

Wright said he loves playing a tough schedule despite the risk of losses accumulating early on. He reminds his girls that it's all about the endgame.

"We've kind of got the program like Tiger Woods," Wright said. "He's not really looking for weekend wins, he's looking for majors. I've never hunted wins.

"I look for that adversity that's going to help you at the end of the year."

Big homecoming in store for former Lafayette coach

It's hard to imagine any "homecoming" this football season will mean more than the one Don Young will experience this weekend in Wintersville, Ohio.

Young, the former Lafayette High School football coach and a longtime teacher and coach in Fayette County, was a star running back (4,100 career rushing yards) in the late 1960s on Wintersville High School teams that went 19-1 over his junior and senior years.

Yet part of what will make this weekend so meaningful for Young is what he has overcome to get to "go home." In 2003, Young was diagnosed with throat cancer. At one point, the former Eastern Kentucky University running back says doctors told him not to count on more than three months to live.

Young endured a grueling regimen of radiation treatments. When they didn't kill the cancer, he had surgery in 2005 that removed his vocal cords. Medical technology has provided ways for him to communicate with others, but no one has heard his voice since.

Two months ago, Young said he had his most recent cancer scan. It was clean.

Via email, Young writes that his return to the scene of his high school football glory days "will be a dream come true that I look forward to with great pride and admiration (for) my teammates, who were by far the greatest bunch of fellows I have ever known."

KHSAA annual meeting

The KHSAA membership on Thursday voted down a proposal to eliminate "week zero" in football.

The proposal, which would have reduced the allowable time to play 10 games to 10 weeks beginning in the 2017 season, received 100 "no" votes to 82 "yes" votes. Thirteen of the schools represented at the meeting abstained.

Two-week tournament?

Perhaps the most notable item to come from the KHSAA's annual meeting was the possibility being raised of a two-week tournament format for the state baseball championship.

Associate Commissioner Butch Cope mentioned it in his address to the member schools. The KHSAA last month shot down the notion of dividing baseball into classes (like football) but said it would examine alternative tournament formats to help address concerns over pitchers.

Talks are still preliminary and no decision has been made to either maintain the current format (a weeklong, single-elimination tournament featuring 16 teams) or to adopt a new one. However, Cope said if a new format were to be adopted it could be possibly used as soon as this postseason.

Challenge Cup

The girls' soccer team at Lexington Catholic will host the Lady Knights Challenge Cup beginning Monday. Games will be played through Thursday with a championship to take place at 7 p.m. Saturday. All eight teams participating are ranked.

Monday's first-round games: No. 14 Tates Creek vs. No. 18 Highlands, 6 p.m.; No. 4 Manual vs. No. 2 Sacred Heart, 8.

Tuesday's first-round games: No. 6 Notre Dame vs. No. 5 Assumption, 6 p.m.; No. 3 Lexington Catholic vs. No. 21 Elizabethtown, 8 p.m.

Anyone who wears a soccer jersey to the games will be admitted free of charge.

Service member appreciation

Bryan Station will host Service Member Appreciation Night during its football game against Madison Central on Friday.

All military, police and firefighters who show valid ID at the gate will receive free admittance.

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