VERSAILLES — Andrew Kirk made his first victory in cross country a big one.
The 6-foot-3 Henry Clay senior won the Class 3A Region 6 title at Falling Springs Park and Recreation Center Saturday morning.
"It feels great," said Kirk, who didn't take up the sport until last year. "This is my first win, and it's awesome."
Kirk wasn't the only one wearing a winner's smile.
Lafayette's boys celebrated a team title, with five Generals finishing in the top 20 — Brian Rugg (third), John Spencer (seventh), Woody Higginbotham (ninth), Lee Smith (11th) and Mitchell Kilgore (18th).
In the girls' competition, Lafayette sophomore Mia Cornette shook off jitters and sped to a comfortable victory.
"I was laying on the couch this morning freaking out," Cornette said. "I was so, so nervous."
It didn't show on the course. Cornette, who also won the city championship, covered the 5,000 meters in 19:34, almost a half-minute ahead of Rachel Effinger of Woodford County.
Tates Creek's girls took home the team trophy. They edged Lafayette on a tie-breaker. Both teams had 52 points, so it came down to their sixth finisher. The Commodores won by two spots.
Tom Stickel, who coaches Lafayette's boys and girls, said he was hoping for a sweep of the team titles, "but we're happy. We had to come here and (qualify) for the state and we did that."
Losing the girls' title on a close call was a turnaround from last weekend when Lafayette's girls beat Woodford County (coached by Stickel's wife, Brooke) on a six-card tie-breaker.
Tates Creek's girls prevailed Saturday. Emma Anderson, a sophomore, led the Commodores by placing third, followed by Loren Sales (fifth), Kylie Russ (13th), Kara Weaver (15th), Katherine Anderson (16th) and Madison Gaither (19th).
For Lafayette, Cornette was followed to the finish line by Miranda Mullins (ninth), Oliva Rodrigue (10th), Mary Grace Hill (14th) and Kaitlyn Williamson (18th).
The boys' race was eventful.
Tates Creek senior Adrian Lyttle, one of the favorites, was in front when he slipped on wet leaves about a mile into the race. He fell down and banged his head on the ground. Even though he got up quickly, he didn't run well after that and finished far back in the pack.
Spencer, a Lafayette senior and another favorite, was right with Lyttle when Lyttle went down. Spencer jumped over him, but Lyttle's spikes cut up Spencer's leg. That didn't slow him down, but a cramp later in the race did. Spencer still finished seventh.
Coming into the region, Kirk figured it would be a three-man race among him, Lyttle and Spencer. So when they faltered, he seized the opportunity and won with a time of 17:00.
Kirk, who also plays golf at Henry Clay, was a latecomer to cross country. After he failed to make the basketball team as a sophomore, he decided to run track that spring to occupy his time. That led to cross country last fall.
"Probably one of the best decisions I've ever made," he said. "I love it a lot."
Bryan Station senior Kevin Ross was runner-up to Kirk.
"Once I saw two of the best (Lyttle and Spencer) were gone, I went after Andrew Kirk," Ross said. "It was all about guts."