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By JOSH CLAYWELL firstname.lastname@example.org
ELIZABETHTOWN — Over the last few years, North Hardin High School cross country coach John Russell has watched as the North Hardin Invitational hasn’t been attracting as many teams as the veteran coach would like.
Saturday’s installment at Severns Valley Baptist Church features 11 total teams, but Russell has a plan to increase numbers for next year.
“I’ll either offer a freshman race or something to help get the numbers back up,” Russell said while finalizing the course on Thursday night.
But for now, Russell is pleased with the turnout.
Every team in the tri-county area, with the exception of Fort Knox, is slated to attend the meet, which begins at 9:30 a.m. with the girls’ elementary race.
“I am pleased with it,” Russell said. “I was a little disappointed in that I had three other schools talk to me about our race, and all three of them have gone somewhere else. Last year was about the same.”
Four varsity teams – Bardstown, Covington Catholic, Louisville St. Xavier and North Oldham – opted to attend other meets this weekend. But the invitational picked up Breckinridge County, Green County, LaRue County and John Hardin.
Other varsity teams attending are Central Hardin, Cloverport Frederick Fraize, Elizabethtown, Meade County, Nelson County and North Hardin.
“I hope I’m not going to miss anybody. I’m hoping to bring a full load and go at it. That’s what I’m hoping,” Russell said. “I know John (Hardin) is going to be full and I’d like to run them full now before we see them at conference.”
After the girls’ elementary race, the boys’ elementary race will start at 10, middle school girls at 10:30, middle school boys at 11, junior varsity girls at 11:30 and JV boys at 12:15 p.m.
The varsity races begin at 1, with the boys’ race taking place first and the girls’ race starting around 1:45.
Russell hopes the format – which is how region and State will be run this year – benefits his girls’ team.
“It really doesn’t matter, but I’m old fashioned regardless,” Russell said. “I’m hoping it plays into our favor come region because the girls are going to need it. It’s going to be a tight battle.”
Due to ongoing construction around the church, Russell had to alter the course slightly from last year.
But the only major difference, he said, is the location of the finish line.
“Instead of hugging the tree line on the property, they come up all the way to the top of the field. Everybody will be able to see the finish,” Russell said.
As far as picking a winner for the varsity races, Russell expects both team races to be close.
“On the girls’ side, I think Meade County is the team to beat because they pack so well. But we’re going to make a run at them, and so is Central Hardin and John Hardin. It’s tougher on the guys’ side than it is the girls’ side. I think the three Hardin County schools are going to be chasing Meade County.”
The race for the individual titles don’t appear to be as close on paper.
Russell picked John Hardin’s Maggie Mattingly to win the girls’ race and North Hardin’s Andrew Stewart to win the boys’ title.
“Maggie has to be your odds-on favorite because of how she’s been running all year. Guys’ side, I’d say Andrew is in the running for the title,” Russell said.
Parking at SVBC will cost $5 to help cover the cost of renting the property from the church.
Josh Claywell can be reached at 505-1752