Curtis rested, Maddie Schueler flew
Last Saturday’s regionals featured thirty-six races in three
separate classes at eleven different sites with thousands of athletes
and hundreds of teams. Though they ran on different courses and
at different times, all were running on the same day for the same
prize: the opportunity for the individual runners and their teams
to jump on the school bus for the trip to Lexington and the chance
to line up at the start of the Kentucky State Cross- Country Championships.
One rested. One flew. And thousands of others sprinted, clawed,
stretched, and literally dove across the finish line in an effort
to make it to the next level.
Bobby Curtis, the Saint X senior who is the reigning state champion,
state record holder, and a contender for the title of the number
one runner in the nation, rested on the sidelines while his Saint
X teammates easily qualified for the opportunity to defend their
state title. However, resting wasn’t Curtis’ choice.
Although Coach Chuck Medley’s schedule had always called for
Curtis to rest this Saturday in preparation for the state championship,
Curtis, who was disappointed at the 14:49 he had posted on his valedictory
race at the Seneca Park course where he had won his first victory
four years ago and where he had subsequently grown to be a fan favorite,
had wanted just one more shot at the course. But Medley told him
to stick with the plan because he has much racing ahead of him at
FootLocker and hopefully at the world cross-country championships
Maddie Schueler of Louisville’s Sacred Heart Academy flew
over the same course in a PR of 17:57. It was the first time under
18:00 for Schueler, the junior who had come close in her race the
week before with cross-town rival, Carmen Mims. Schueler posted
a 19:15 last November in her sixth-place finish at the state championships
but through hard work and racing against the best on a week-in and
week-out basis has blossomed into the number-one runner in her class
and the favorite at this Saturday’s championships.
In spite of cold temperatures, high winds, and slippery footing,
the regionals produced no real great upsets or surprises. However,
that is almost never the case at the state championships where the
Kentucky Horse park’s tough course and the pressure of competing
for all the marbles causes most observers to flinch at predictions.
But here’s how it looks on paper:
Class AAA Boys (950+ Students)
Bobby Curtis is the reigning state champion and the state record-holder.
No one in Kentucky has been within a half-minute of him this year.
The question is whether he will break his state record and by how
much. Actually, Curtis’ 15:06 state record is an excellent
time for the Horse Park course: its soft footing, 180-degree turns,
and taxing hills make it at least twenty seconds slower than a 5K
on an average golf course or park where most high-school cross-country
is contested. It is also difficult to turn in record times without
someone on your shoulder. But Curtis wants to send a message to
the rest of the nation that he’s race-ready. So, we’ll
The real race here is for second place, which is absolutely up
for grabs. Louisville Butler’s Jacob Buckman has been chasing
Bobby Curtis for years and would like to gain some recognition.
South Oldham’s Kal Clark proved to himself that he can run
with the big dogs after staying with Curtis and Adam Perkins in
their duel at the North Hardin Invitational several Saturdays ago.
On the other hand, his teammate, Serbian exchange student Ondrej
Puskar, has beaten Clark as often as not. Chris McCoy of Louisville
Trinity is also a contender as the senior is looking for a great
finish to his senior year.
South Oldham looks to be as much a prohibitive favorite as Bobby
Curtis. With Clark and Puskar battling it out for number two and
Daniel Marner and Matt Weingart expected to finish in the top fifteen,
South Oldham looks to avenge its disappointing seventh-place finish
from last year and wrest the title from defending champion Saint
X. On the other hand, Saint X hasn’t won a record fifteen
state championships by just letting someone walk to the title. Saint
X’s top five runners defeated South Oldham at North Hardin
and they always run better when their star, Curtis, is there to
lead the pack–and when it’s state championship time.
Louisville’s Trinity High School has come a long way since
the beginning of the season and the Shamrocks are be regaining their
once-proud tradition. Similarly, no one would ever count out a Tony
Rowe-coached team so Daviess County must also be reckoned with.
Class AAA Girls
Maddie Schueler is the favorite because of her speed, consistency,
mental toughness, and the competition she has taken on this year.
But last year’s runner-up, junior Julie Yonts of Louisville’s
Ballard HS, is an excellent runner and demonstrated her genuine
cross-country skills on this same course last year when she beat
Schueler by twenty seconds. Sacred Heart’s freshman phenom,
Leah Ryan, who finished third to Carmen Mims and Schueler in 18:07
at the Metro Meet of Champions, has the ability to run faster and
should be in the chase.
The race for the team championship looks even closer than the race
for the individual title. With its one-two punch of Schueler and
Ryan heading up a team combining both youth and experience, Louisville’s
Sacred Heart Academy must be given the favorite status. But Campbell
County only lost to Sacred Heart by one point (47-48) at the North
Hardin Invitational. Sara Hater of Campbell County is capable of
a great race and if the inexperience of some of Sacred Heart’s
freshmen hurts that team on race-day, the title could be up for
grabs. Although Louisville Manual’s star, Melissa Massey,
is injured and not running up to her potential, she is a gutsy runner
and her teammates have recently enjoyed some break-out races.
Class AA Boys (571-950 students)
Daniel Morgan, the defending state champion, is returning and must
be considered the favorite in spite of the fact that he has been
up and down recently. However, Jacob Fortney of Muhlenberg North
comes from a small community in Western Kentucky which is quickly
developing a reputation as an incubator for state-level runners
and his recent efforts, including a wire-to-wire win at the regionals,
demonstrate that he will be there at the wire and may well give
that school its first-ever state championship. David Webster, a
senior from Elizabethtown, has not only the experience and the speed
but also the tradition of running for the same school that produced
the legendary Thomas Murley, a three-time state champion who later
captained Stanford to its best-ever performance at the NCAAs.
Warren east is the runaway favorite to win the team title–especially
since they may put three runners in the top fifteen and all five
in the top twenty-five. After that it is a race for second between
Morgan’s Boyle County, junior Keith Knapp and his Lloyd Memorial
HS teammates, and Louisville’s Desales, a former state champion
which has quietly worked its way into contention this year.
Class AA Girls
Carmen Mims, the state’s fastest runner and the defending
champion, is capable of duplicating Bobby Curtis’s feat in
this race–winning by thirty seconds and setting a course record.
Mims, however, seems to need competition to run well, and it is
possible she may let some runners stay in the race who might not
otherwise have the ability to stay with her. One of these is Danella
McClure, a junior from Warren East, and her teammate, Heather Coulter,
who will probably try to gang up on Mims just as Leah Ryan and Maddie
Schueler tried several weeks ago. Nicole Jaggers of Edmonson County
is a senior with experience who will be in the hunt as well. Ryanne
Fortney, Jacob’s sister, also from Muhlenberg North, has been
improving all year and is poised for an excellent race. Atop-five
finish by her would generate the best brother-sister finish in the
recent history of the KHSAA.
If McClure and Coulter run as expected and their teammates run
as they have all year, the Warren East girls should edge Highlands
for the title. This would make Warren East champions in both boys
and girls, thus replicating their joint championships of 1999 and
2000. Darcie Dressman and her Highlands teammates are committed
to preventing the Warren east sweep and are capable of taking the
Class A Boys (Under 570 students)
This race should feature a cavalry charge at the end. Chris Danks
of perennial power Saint Henry won the Meet of Champions in an impressive
fashion two weeks ago and seems to be ready for the state meet.
But whenever the defending champion is also on the starting line,
the champion must be given the edge. And so it is with Alex Brey,
the senior from Louisville’s Kentucky Country Day, who first
won the title as an eighth-grader and would like to cap his career
with his fourth championship. Teammates Matt Sykes and Adam Stanley,
both seniors from Pikeville, have the state meet experience and
the speed. All four (or more) should be shoulder-to-shoulder down
Saint Henry has been close in recent years but just hasn’t
been able to take home the state championship. However, this should
be their year and the boys should have a big trophy to put in the
case beside the girl’s 1998 trophy. Bishop Brossart, also
a perennial contender, should fight it out with Hancock County for
Class A Girls
Sarah Cole of Somerset and Jackie Gordon of Frankfort HS have met
twice this year. Each has won one race. Last year Gordon was second
at the state meet and Cole was third. Gordon has finished 5th, 3rd,
and 2d in the state meet in the last three years. Cole has finished
3rd, 3rd, and 2d the past three years. Saturday is their rubber
match (and Gordon’s last shot at an elusive state championship).
Leesa Unger and Ryan Quire, Gordon’s teammates at Frankfort,
and Jessica Gooch of Hancock County will likely round out the top
In spite of the fact that Frankfort may have three runners in the
top five, Gooch’s defending champion Hancock County will probably
take the team title on the basis of their ability to put four runners
in the top ten and all of their runners across the line before Frankfort’s
fourth runner. Saint Henry will definitely challenge Frankfort for
second place–especially if their third, fourth, and fifth
runners pick up just a few places.
The temperature is predicted to be in the low 60's with overcast
skies and little chance of rain. The sun is supposed to shine brightly
tomorrow on My Old Kentucky Home and the course should be dry and
as fast as The Horse Park can be. All in all, a great day for racing.