ALL-AREA GIRLS’ CROSS COUNTRY: Musgrave, Kirk top area runners

Emma Musgrave hasn’t been running all that long.

She finished 80th in 22:12.55 as a seventh-grader at the Class 2-A Girls’ State Cross Country Championships.

Musgrave moved up 50 spots last year and was clocked in 20:55.30.

She placed 17th last month at the Kentucky Horse Park in 20:22.97.

“It could have been better,” the Elizabethtown freshman said. “I’m still a little upset because I wanted to get on the podium.”

The top 15 finishers make the podium.

Musgrave missed that mark by 1.43 seconds.

“But I’ve got a couple more years,” she said.

Musgrave was selected as the Girls’ Cross Country Runner of the Year as selected by the coaches and The News-Enterprise sports staff.

She finished with 25 points and five first-place votes. LaRue County’s Laila Gross and North Hardin’s Lizzy Staley tied for second with 10 points. Staley received a first-place vote.

“It’s an honor,” Musgrave said of winning the award. “I’m happy.”

She won the Class 2-A, Region 2 meet in 20:18.33 at the end of October by 23 seconds.

That led the Lady Panthers to a second-place finish.

Musgrave captured the Lincoln Trail Heartland Conference championship by 30 seconds over teammate Sophia Warthen.

“I started (in the seventh grade) because I wanted to try it out,” she said. “I was playing soccer and I just wanted to do it as a side sport. But it became my main one. I never knew that I’d be a runner. I never thought about that before seventh grade. It’s fun.”

Musgrave said a former Elizabethtown runner has helped her along the way.

“She inspired me,” Musgrave said of three-time Runner of the Year Sarah Been, now at Xavier University. “It was cool to see that she was doing so good and it made me want to be like that.”

SOPHOMORE OF THE YEAR. Meade County’s Makenna Kirk finished with 21 points and three first-place votes to edge LaRue County’s Laila Gross, who had 18 points and three first-place votes.

“At first I was in disbelief because my mom came down and said, ‘Coach Garner called me. You got Sophomore of the Year,’” Kirk said. “I kind of just stood there in disbelief and she kept talking and I thought, ‘Oh, she’s being serious.’”

Kirk placed 21st in the Class 3-A, Region 2 championships as the Lady Waves took fourth to make it to the state meet for the sixth year in a row.

“I really like the team. I think the team is why I’ve stuck with running,” Kirk said. “It’s just really repetitive and it’s a lot sometimes. It’s not always fun. The entire time you’re running you’re thinking, ‘I have this many minutes left.’ Or, ‘I have this many miles left and I’m done.’”

Kirk has come a long way since she began running and looks forward to going even further.

“We used to do family runs when we first moved here in sixth grade,” she said. “I thought, ‘Let’s try it’ and I stuck with it because I liked it. I met my best friend through cross country. I was on the middle school team (in eighth-grade) and my coach came to me and said, ‘I’m gonna move you to JV and let’s see how you do.’

“I ran in JV for a few races and actually came in first in one of them. I thought, ‘Maybe I should go out and try a little harder and keep doing this.’ Hard work allows success.”

COACH OF THE YEAR. Elizabethtown’s Jack Breunig led the Lady Panthers to another top 10 finish at the Class 2-A state meet.

He won the award with 14 points and two first-place votes. He edged Meade County’s Larry Garner by one point. Garner also had two first-place votes. North Hardin’s Isiah Watts had 11 points and a first-place vote. Fort Knox’s Terry Turner also had a first-place vote.

“I look at this award more like a team/program award and it’s another reinforcer that we are doing our best from top to bottom,” Breunig said. “With the help of Coach Jo Anna Breunig, Coach Scott McAnally, our parent support and, of course, our athletes, we have all worked together to build a quality program for our runners.

“The girls continue to set their goals high and they have high expectations for each other. The accountability amongst the team is a key component to their success on the course. With a roster that ranged from four senior runners to many talented underclassmen, we had a great balance of experience, leadership, and work ethic that can make any coach look good.”

“We have outstanding, high quality cross country coaches in this area, so to be recognized by them is an honor. In particular, the work Larry Garner did with his girls this year at Meade County really stood out. The combination of their team depth and their ability to run as a pack was impressive.”

Mike Mathison can be reached at 270-505-1758 or mmathison@thenewsenterprise.com.

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