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PREP CROSS COUNTRY: LaRue's Sandidge wins second straight region title (11/3)

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By Josh Claywell

BOWLING GREEN — Three years ago, Adam Sandidge wasn’t the world’s most motivated runner.

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Sandidge claims his work ethic wasn’t very good. But something changed his sophomore year, when Sandidge placed third at the Class 2-A, Region 2 meet before finishing in the top 35 at State.

He parlayed that success into even more last season, becoming LaRue County’s first region champion since 1993 and placing fifth at State.

And on Saturday at Ephram White Park, Sandidge’s good fortunes continued as he became the Hawks’ first two-time region champion, pulling away for a 14-second victory over Warren East junior Aaron Osborne.

“It’s been a great run,” Sandidge said. “I didn’t really expect this in my freshman and sophomore seasons because I didn’t have that good of a work ethic. But then I had a good showing at region in my sophomore year and it helped me realize I could do something.”

Sandidge won the 90-runner race in 16 minutes, 29.16 seconds, nearly 16 seconds faster than his winning time a year ago (16:45.15).

It was Sandidge’s third win this season and his seventh top-10 performance. He had four wins and seven top-three finishes last year, results he didn’t think were possible after his freshman season.

“I was just by myself and I didn’t really have a great work ethic about anything,” Sandidge said. “I did well at region as a sophomore, and that made realize I could do something with it. It made me realize how hard I had to work to get where I am.”

Where he is now is light years away from where he was in 2010. Sandidge has transformed into one of 2-A’s elite runners, and could be in contention to win State.

After Saturday’s dominating win, Sandidge believes he can compete with anyone.

“I feel I can get up there and run with the top guys in the state,” he said. “All the guys in the top five have beat each other at some point in the season, and no one really has the advantage. It’s just going to come down to who wants it the most and who wants to go out there and get it.”

Sandidge wasn’t the only area runner to qualify for Saturday’s state meet at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

The John Hardin Bulldogs finished third with 96 points, comfortably securing one of the region’s five qualifying spots. Sophomore Michael Kotarski placed 11th in 17:56.69, helping carry the Bulldogs after freshman Raleigh Boulware fell early in the race. Boulware regrouped and finished 19th in 18:12.39.

“I think we did really well,” Kotarski said. “Our performance was really good. There was just that one part at the beginning when Raleigh fell and got pretty scraped up. We did the best we did as a team. If he didn’t fall, we might have done better.”

Kotarski said his teammates didn’t get rattled when Boulware, who has been the Bulldogs’ No. 1 runner most of the season, went down.

“Seeing him fall might have made the guys psych out a little bit, but they picked it up and packed with me, and we were able to stay together,” Kotarski said. “Raleigh saw that and caught back up to us. I think we did a really good of picking ourselves back up after that happened and finishing strong.

“We just really wanted to get to State and we weren’t going to let something like that stop us,” he added. “We knew Raleigh could pick himself back up and get back up there with us.”

Placing sixth with 154 points, the Elizabethtown Panthers failed to qualify for State for the first time in eight years. But junior Chas Warden (sixth, 17:33.43) qualified as an individual.

“I think we’re all a little disappointed, but we know that we worked our best and ran our best,” Warden said. “We had some great times; everyone was under 20 minutes, and that was a goal of ours. If we didn’t make it, it wasn’t for a lack of trying.”

Like their male teammates, the Lady Panthers also saw a lengthy streak come to an end.

Elizabethtown had won the last four region titles – including the last three at Ephram White Park – but Edmonson County dethroned the Lady Panthers by placing four runners in the top 14 to score 61 points.

“Even though we’re second, our team came out and did the best they could,” said senior Hannah Godfrey (second, 19:32.28). “That’s all you can ask for. We’re looking forward to State. This race is done, and it’s time to move on. We’re thinking about what our strategies for next week are.”

Eighth-grader Savannah Kingery was fourth (20:31.12) for the Lady Panthers, who scored 66 points. Edmonson County locked up the title when junior Diara Davis finished 14th.

“In no way am I disappointed with the girls, because I know they gave everything they have,” Lady Panthers coach Jack Breunig said. “Edmonson County is a terrific team and they’re going to do great next week on the state course. We always come down here to win, and we were right there with them.”

Godfrey was looking to win her second straight region title, but South Warren freshman Caroline Haas pulled away for a 37-second win.

Godfrey was emotional after the race, but Breunig said she has to put it behind her and get ready for State.

“I told her she’s got another race to run,” he said. “This might have been her last region championship, but she’s got a state championship race next week and that’s what she needs to turn her attention to. That won’t be a problem for her. She’ll turn her attention to next week, and she’ll do great.”

Junior Kaitlyn Arel (eighth, 21:02.26) led fourth-place John Hardin, which earned 97 and also qualified for State.

Arel was the only Lady Bulldog to advance last season, and said it’ll be better having her team running with her this season.

“That’s what our goal was,” Arel said. “Last year it was just me and it was kind of lonely. It’s nice for us all to go back to State again. It was a lot of pressure. It was kind of hard to race by myself. I’m really glad we qualified as a team. It’s something great we can experience together.”

Sophomores Lindsay Atkins (22:15.32) and Sophia Jackson (22:16.20) placed 23rd and 24th for John Hardin.

“I was pretty confident we would make it to State as a team,” Arel said. “We all felt glad when we found out we had made it.”

Josh Claywellcan be reached at 270-505-1752 or jclaywell@thenewsenterprise.com.