BOYS’ CROSS COUNTRY PREVIEW: Trojans enter the season loaded with experience

LaRue County sophomore Chase Hines finished 69th in last year’s Class 2-A state meet in 18:28.81.

North Hardin put together a successful cross country season last year, and with all of the experience it has coming back, the Trojans have high expectations for this campaign.

Losing just one runner from its 2018 roster, North returns every nearly everyone – including senior Kedrick Lin and freshman Gabe Russell, who both had successful seasons with the track team.

Along with that duo, coach James Jackson mentioned seniors Zach Harper, Cory Grizzell and Max Morales, juniors Chase Everage, Chase Lynch and Jayssen Hanson and freshmen Zander Mack and Aiden Cusimano as key runners.

Jackson also said sophomore Tomas Garcia, who qualified for the state meet a season ago, is currently playing with the Trojans’ soccer team but will be an important part of the squad near the midway point of the year.

“The team is looking awesome,” Jackson said. “This is the best we’ve looked in four years. Everyone, except for one runner, is back from last year’s regional team. The team will led by Kedrick Lin and Gabe Russell. They had an outstanding track season.

“Additional strong points will be Zach Harper, Cory Grizzell and Max Morales. Waiting in the wings to challenge for spots will be juniors Chase Everage, Chase Lynch and newcomer Jayssen Hanson. Freshmen Zander Mack and Aiden Cusimano will have great seasons and will be pushing hard for a regional spot. Tomas Garcia, our only runner to qualify for the state meet last year, is concentrating on soccer, but by mid-season he will be a major factor on the team.”

With a roster loaded with experience and talent – and runners that are capable of recording stellar numbers, Jackson and his staff set out to get their team in top-tier meets for this season.

They were able to do just that.

“This year we hope to have at least three runners in the 16s,” said Jackson. “If everything goes well our top-eight should all be under 17:50. To help us be successful we are running in three big meets this year. The meets are the Trinity Invitational – the oldest cross country meet in the state – and it’ll be North’s first time there since 2012. We are also running in the prestigious Greater Louisville and Fast Cats (Owensboro, KY) Invitationals.

“Those three meets will be our biggest tests, but all of our meets will help us reach our goal of being in the top-three at regional. We will also be racing at the incredibly-tough Franklin County Invitational, which will be held on the state course.”

LARUE COUNTY HAWKS. LaRue County may be young, but that doesn’t mean they’re not talented.

After a successful campaign last year that included a trip to the state meet, the Hawks have their minds set on achieving more goals this season with their young group.

“We hope to build off the success we had last year,” LaRue County coach Jim Phelps said. “We were able to qualify for the state meet last year, so our returning runners really experienced that excitement. However, we are still very young. We will be running eighth graders, freshmen and sophomores as our varsity squad.”

With no seniors, Phelps is looking at sophomore Chase Hines to be the main leader, while freshmen Gabe Fortier and Cody French will also be looked upon.

“Tenth grader Chase Hines will lead the pack. Ninth graders Gabe Fortier and Cody French should also play a large role in the team’s success,” Phelps said. “Our fourth-through-seventh spot right now is open. The offseason has just been about building a good mileage base so we can be ready for in-season practice. Ultimately, we just hope to show improvement individually and as a team as the season progresses and make a competitive run at region.”

In addition to the aforementioned runners, sophomore Grayson Miller and a pair of eighth graders — Nate Faulkner and Connor Metcalf — will also play important roles, along with sophomores Will Faulkner and Connor Nicholas.

“Right now, I have been really impressed with 10th grader Grayson Miller and eighth graders Nate Faulkner and Connor Metcalf,” said Phelps. “I am looking for these guys to really come on towards the end of the season. We also have some veteran runners in Will Faulkner and Connor Nicholas that can potentially help us towards the end of the season.”

Rounding out the Hawks’ roster is junior Tristen Locke, sophomores Riley Locke and Reed Miller, freshmen Chase Bigenho, Jason Dennis and David Honaker and eighth-graders Mikeal Aldridge, Brock Gross, Logan Hawkins and Bradley Laughner.

ELIZABETHTOWN PANTHERS. Spearheaded by lone senior Bryan Herringshaw and junior Matthew Musgrave, Elizabethtown presents a good all-around, experienced mix entering the season.

A pair of talented runners, Herringshaw and Musgrave are also key members of the Elizabethtown boys’ soccer team.

“Bryan and Matthew are two of our top returning boys,” Breunig said. “Matthew was our No. 1 runner last year and Bryan showed during the track season that he can compete at the highest levels in the state. This year has been a challenge for both of them due to their commitment to the EHS soccer team. They are both integral parts of the soccer team and they have an intense soccer schedule this year. As far as cross country, we will see how things play out as the season progresses.”

In addition to that duo, juniors Colton Breunig, Jack Logan, Anthony Bowen, Kai Murray, sophomore Logan Helton, freshman Gavin Breunig and eighth-grader Lance Logan are all expected to have big seasons.

“Jack has been a top performer at practice this year. His effort is impressive, and he continually looks for ways to improve,” said Breunig. “Newcomer Anthony Bowen has been a nice surprise. He has never competed as a runner, but he has picked things up naturally and is making huge gains quickly.

“Logan Helton was a varsity runner last year who continues to develop and improve every day. Lance Logan is a hard worker who is still figuring out his stride, but he is able to keep up with the other varsity runners quite nicely. Gavin Breunig is balancing swimming and cross country and broke into varsity at the end of last year and is looking strong.

“Colton Breunig has really come along in practices this year and should be a key contributor to our team this year. Kai Murray was out for a couple of seasons with injuries but he appears healthy and will help us out.”

Rouding out the roster are sophomores Porter Flowers and Logan Murray and freshmen Alex Curto and Ethan Gardner.

JOHN HARDIN BULLDOGS. John Hardin didn’t have much time off over the summer.

Instead of going on vacations and hanging out at the pool, the Bulldogs were working on improving as they all have the same goal in mind for the season: making it to the big meet.

“Although we are a small team, we worked hard over the summer,” John Hardin coach Josh Vogel said. “We have a lot of young guys that have joined us. Each runner wants to improve from last year. The varsity guys’ main goal is to qualify for state.”

Gavin Davis, Eden Forbes and Jakob Dugan – all three returners – will look to spearhead the squad, while a pair of up-and-comers in Charlie Cox and Brenden Nagle will also play significant roles.

“Our returners are Gavin Davis, Eden Forbes and Jakob Dugan,” said Vogel. “Gavin is a senior and he put in a lot of work this summer. I expect him to have a strong season. Eden has shown his dedication through the summer, which will show when races start. Jakob improved last season by so much and I only expect him to get better. Some of our standout younger guys include Charlie Cox and Brenden Nagle.

“I’m excited to see how they race this year.”

CENTRAL HARDIN BRUINS. Central Hardin lost quite a bit, but it is excited about what is has coming back.

Although the Bruins graduated five varsity seniors who finished Nos. 1-5 in last year’s regional meet, coach Tim Pennington’s roster includes a handful of experienced talent coming back.

“We are a young squad as we graduated five varsity squad seniors last year who had finished 1-5 on our squad at regional, so a loss of experience and depth,” Pennington said. “Although with the loss comes opportunity as several of the guys returning this year filled out the remaining parts of the squad as either starters or alternates. The team is looking better as more practice sessions are completed and expect this to continue as they are buying in to the team goals, as well as their individual goals, so their efforts are being noticed, so expect it to show on the race course.”

Co-captains in juniors Marcus Abel and Sam Bennett will lead the way, while senior Jaece Hamlin, fellow juniors Max Beltran, Graham Hewitt, Eli Kraan, Zack Logan, Matthew Muse and Ian Taylor and sophomores Connor and Josh Brown will also play important roles.

“This year, coming in as one of clear leaders, is co-captain Sam Bennett. He’s put in work over the summer and it shows,” said Pennington. “Other ones who are key to the success of the squad will be co-captain Marcus Abel, Max Beltran, Connor Brown, Josh Brown, Jaece Hamlin, Graham Hewitt, Eli Kraan, Zack Logan, Matthew Muse and Ian Taylor. I expect that week-to-week we will see these guys moving about in the varsity finish so through the season we’ll probably have several starting groups as we try to get to that ‘core seven’ who will be the regional squad.”

Rounding out the roster is senior Brandon Atcher, junior Logan Schrock, sophomore Lee Carter and freshmen Nathan DeMuth, John Painter, Brady Paul and Eli Schrock.

FORT KNOX EAGLES. It’s a brand new squad for Fort Knox in 2019.

With a roster containing all new players and a new head coach in Terry Turner, the entire team is focused on rebuilding the program this year and getting it back to where it used to be.

“We are a relatively new team; none of the current varsity members have ran cross country for Knox before, with it also being my first year as the head cross country coach,” Turner said. “What we are trying to do is rebuild the program back to where it was three years ago. There had seemed to be a lack of interest in the sport around Knox, so we are just trying to make it exciting.”

The Eagles’ roster currently contains eight runners and is highlighted by Trevor Allen and Brandon Mitchell.

While Mitchell is looked upon as the crew’s leader both on and off the course, Turner expects a lot out of his entire group in Year 1 at the helm.

“The whole team is under the radar. We are a very small team with roughly eight members,” said Turner. “Brandon Mitchell has definitely been my go-to. His work ethic has been lights-out. He’s putting in the time and effort and leading even when he doesn’t want to. It’s great to see a relatively quiet young man be vocal and motivating. He’s really brought up the moral of the team, recruiting friends and negotiating with me to make practices easier for his teammates.

“Then there’s Trevor Allen, someone who has never ran cross country or even track, but has fallen right into place as competition for Brandon.”

Tyler Mansfield can be reached at 270-505-1754 or tmansfield@thenewsenterprise.com.

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