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The Trimble County High School cross country team enjoyed an outstanding day at the Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s Region 5 Class A Meet in Danville Saturday. Trimble took top honors in the region in the boys’ run and finished second overall in the girls’ run.
“I thought that the entire team rose to the occasion and ran well,” Trimble Coach David Apel said Monday. “We were very happy with our performances Saturday at the Regional meet.”
The coach said Saturday’s course was well laid out and mowed. One particular challenge for the runners was the fact that much of the course was not easily accessible to parents and other team supporters. This resulted in the runners having to be mentally tough while running such an important race without much crowd support.
“I thought our kids were up to the challenge well and were able to maintain their focus as they ran all out on the far part of the course by themselves,” Apel said. “The last mile of the course ended up being pretty tough with some hills in exactly the wrong places. Yet, our kids attacked the course hard.
“I was particularly impressed with Kyle Puckett and Tessa Chilton who ran new personal bests,” Apel said.
Other schools competing at Danville Saturday included Augusta, Bracken County, Burgin, Carroll County, Danville, Eminence, Frankfort, Gallatin County, Lexington Christian, Nicholas County, Owen County, Paris, Sayre and St. Patrick.
Of those schools competing in the boys’ race, nine fielded enough runners for team scores. Trimble outpaced the competition with an overall score of 54. Owen County placed second with 79 points, Bracken County (94) was third, Sayre (111) fourth, Burgin (116) fifth, Danville (123) sixth, Paris (163) seventh, Augusta (183) eighth and Lexington Christian (186) ninth.
Individual times for Trimble’s boys included Christian Apel, fourth, 17:45.2; Kyle Puckett, eighth, 18:14.0; Conner Ball, ninth, 18:26.4; Tray Robbins, eleventh, 18:36.9; Johnathan Papai, 23rd, 20:02.0.
“Christian had a strong race challenging for the third spot and just narrowly losing to Alex Beckerson, a very strong runner from Burgin,” David Apel said.
First and second places individually were almost foregone conclusions as two the state’s best--Nicholas Waltman of Sayre and Hunter Trenary of Owen County--battled it out significantly ahead of the field. Waltman finished first overall with a time of 16:39.9 to outpace Trenary (16:51.5).
“We again had good grouping of our top four with all of them being within 10 seconds of each other through the first mile,” Apel said. “Kyle Puckett stayed close to the front the entire race and got a medal while Conner and Tray just finished out of the medals.”
The first eight individuals to complete the race were awarded medals, according to Apel.
“The fact that they were both also in the top 11 allowed us to put four guys in the top 11 in the race giving us a commanding lead as a team as we looked to our 5th and last scorer Johnathan Papai,” Apel said. “I made sure to tell Conner and Tray that while they did not medal they were big winners in my mind.”
Apel, in reiterating how important the team’s late season surge has been, said if Papai was running the same times as three or four weeks ago Trimble’s margin of victory would have been less than 10 points.
“As it was we scored 25 points less (less of course is better) than the second place team Owen County,” he said.
In the girls’ portion of the meet, Trimble’s runners finished about 6.5 seconds behind regional champs Sayre in total elapsed time. Sayre won the event with 37 points to Trimble’s 42.
“We again had good grouping with Erin Gonterman leading the way,” Apel said. “She has run solidly and been a reliable presence in our first position for most meets this year.”
Gonterman’s time of 21:56.0 was good enough for seventh overall among all individuals.
“Kirsten Baird, Ashley Brierly and Kylie Wilberding kept close to her for much of the race,” Apel said. “In the last mile Erin opened up a pretty sizable lead on our other girls. I thought she had a very solid race. In my mind all the other girls had good races as well. Kirsten had a very good race and placed second on our team.
“Still, one of the real keys to our girls’ success again came from our number five runner,” Apel said. “This time it was Tessa Chilton who stepped up for us big time. As fans of our team know we have had a time gap back to number five all season.”
Earlier in the year Apel was able to run a very talented sixth grader, Shelby Papai. However, at Regional and State meets teams cannot run a girl who is that young.
“Tessa Chilton, despite having only limited varsity experience and being several minutes behind our other girls had the best race of her young career,” Apel said. “I told both her and Courtney Matthews, who ran 6th for our team on Saturday to run their races and not worry about where they were. I consider Tessa to be a real heroine for running so well and helping us stay very competitive in the team competition, losing only to Sayre by 5 points!”
In addition to Gonterman, Trimble’s individual times were as follows: Kirsten Baird, ninth, 22:55.3; Ashley Brierly, 10th, 22:59.5; Kylie Wilberding, 11th, 23:01.0; Tessa Chilton, 29th, 28:57.5; and Courtney Matthews, 31st, 29:27.5.
This week Trimble is preparing for the state meet, which will be held at Lexington’s Kentucky Horse Park on Saturday.
“This week we obviously have bigger challenges as a team,” Apel said looking ahead. “On the guys’ side particularly the difference between fourth place and ninth place is almost negligible. Our goal for the guys is to get on the podium (top four) as a team. The girls’ goal is to improve upon last year’s finish -- ninth.”
The Runnin’ Raiders will depart for Lexington on Friday.