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PREP CROSS COUNTRY: Mattingly going for region title (11/07)

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By Josh Claywell

By JOSH CLAYWELL jclaywell@thenewsenterprise.com

HARDIN COUNTY — Maggie Mattingly has had an impressive career for the John Hardin High School girls’ cross country team.

But there’s one thing Mattingly, a junior, hasn’t been able to cross off her list: Becoming region champion.

After finishing runner-up to Louisville DuPont Manual graduate Mary Grace Pellegrini each of the last three years, Mattingly has a pretty good shot at claiming her first Class 3-A, Region 2 championship.

“She’s had an outstanding year,” said John Hardin coach Jason Hayes. “She’s always done well, but this year she’s had a strong year all the way through. She’s worked hard this season and she worked hard in the offseason.”

Mattingly, ranked fourth in this week’s kytrackxc.com 3-A poll, will get her shot at noon Saturday at Phil Moore Park in Bowling Green.

Mattingly and the rest of the John Hardin team should be pretty familiar with the course as the Lady Bulldogs competed in the Greenwood Gatorland Run on Sept. 27.

That gives Hayes one more reason to believe Mattingly can win her first region title this year.

“If she runs the way she’s capable of, I don’t really see anyone that’s really going to challenge her for the victory,” Hayes said. “I think she has a good shot.”

The region features nine schools – Central Hardin, John Hardin, North Hardin Barren County, Bowling Green, Grayson County, Greenwood, Ohio County and Warren Central.

If the meet has seven full teams of five runners or more, the top four teams advance to next Saturday’s state championships in Lexington. The top five individuals not on those teams also advance.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what happens,” North Hardin coach John Russell said. “To be honest, it’s Bowling Green’s race to lose with North and John duking it out and trying to close the gap.”

The fourth spot is up for grabs, Russell said.

“We’re coming in with the game plan we have all year. We’re going to pack and get everyone we can,” he said. “I know this course is really fast and the Greenwood girls have had some good times on that course.”

On the boys’ side, first-year North Hardin coach James Jackson is looking for big things from his team.

“I’m truly hoping the team can qualify and I hope the guys are ready to run,” Jackson said. “If the guys do what they’re capable of, we can get out of the region and go to State.”

The boys’ race begins at 11 a.m., with the girls’ immediately following.

CLASS 3-A, REGION 3. It’s a strange new world for Meade County.

After being in the same region with Central Hardin, John Hardin and North Hardin, the Green Wave find themselves alone with Bullitt Central, Nelson County and Louisville schools Butler, Doss, DuPont Manual, Iroquois, Male, Pleasure Ridge Park and St. Xavier.

The top three girls’ teams and the top four boys’ teams advance to State, so coach Larry Garner knows the competition will be fierce in both races.

And even without two of his top girls’ runners in junior Shelby Jenkins and freshman Marley Stanfield, Garner feels the Lady Waves can secure a trip to State.

 “If we run well, we can come in second. They don’t have to run amazing to come in second, but if we have a couple blow up on us, it could get ugly,” Garner said.

The boys’ squad will be without junior John Stroud, who was injured after he fell off a horse.

“We still have a strong pack,” Garner said. “Our three, four and five guys can run with Male’s three, four and five.”

Races begin at 10 a.m. at the Old River Road Country Club in Louisville.

CLASS 2-A, REGION 2. Elizabethtown coach Dickie Jones keeps hearing his boys’ team, along with Warren East, are the top teams in the region.

But Jones knows it’s not as simple as someone saying the Panthers are the favorites.

“We’re looking real strong heading into the region,” Jones said. “I’ve been told we’re bouncing back and forth with Warren East as the favorite on the Internet.”

Warren East is the defending region champ, and Jones knows it won’t be easy to dethrone the Raiders.

“I think we have an excellent opportunity to challenge Warren East,” he said. “I think we’ll be able to put some pressure on them.”

On the girls’ side, Jones doesn’t know how much of a chance the Lady Panthers have at qualifying for State.

“We’ll have to have one of our better races to qualify as a team,” Jones said. “I think the favorite going in would have to be Allen County-Scottsville. They’re real strong on the girls’ side.”

Also competing are Adair County, Breckinridge County, Butler County, Edmonson County, Franklin-Simpson, Hart County, LaRue County, Marion County, Taylor County, Warren East and Washington County. Depending on how many have full teams, the region could send six teams to State.

Races begin at 11 a.m. at First Baptist Church in Hodgenville.

CLASS 1-A, REGION 3. Fort Knox will be competing at McNeely Lake Park in Louisville beginning at 11 a.m.

Teams attending include Bardstown, Bardstown Bethlehem and Louisville schools Beth Haven, Brown, Collegiate, DeSales, Evangel, Holy Cross, Kentucky Country Day, Kentucky School for the Blind, Portland Christian, St. Francis and Walden and Whitefield Academy.

Josh Claywell can be reached at 505-1752