BY AARON SNYDER
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
The thrill of a big victory isn’t always followed up by a large dose of rest and relaxation.
Just ask Morgan County’s Kailee Perry and Boyd County’s Elijah Miller, the All-Area Cross Country Runners of the Year.
Perry wrapped up her sophomore season with a Class A state crown. Five weeks later, she placed eighth in the Junior Olympics in Hoover, Alabama. Perry was Co-Runner of the Year as a seventh-grader in 2013.
Miller, also a sophomore, seized his first Class 2A, Region 6 title before fighting for 13th place at the state meet — he’s recorded finishes of 10th, 19th and 13th in Lexington so far. He took a quick breather after the season.
“I usually take about a week-or-two break,” Miller said. “Then I just go out and run, nothing real hard, just do distance and stuff. I’ll just run around my house or whatever.”
Russell’s boys captured the fifth spot at State, its secondbest result under coach Crystal Cantrell, who saw her 2013 bunch nab the fourth platform on the stage.
Cantrell collected her fifth consecutive Coach of the Year honor, but more importantly to her, the Red Devils racked up their fifth straight region trophy.
Ashland coach Phillip Caudill, in his 16th year with the program, found the ideal ingredients for a region-championship recipe. Ashland’s girls ascended to titleholder status for the first time since 1998.
A new name to the mix certainly did her part. Rebekah Howard, a freshman who transferred from Glasgow when her father, Sean, became Ashland’s superintendent, was the team’s top runner in 11 of 16 races this past season. Sophomore Mary Alice Thornburg, the region’s individual champion, and Howard were rarely separated by more than 30 seconds in any given race.
“We were third in the region (in 2015), seven points from winning,” Caudill said.
“Adding that piece (Howard), we knew it could potentially be a special year if everybody came to work.”
Caudill said upon learning of Howard’s arrival, he challenged his runners.
“Knowing that she was going to be at this high level, the whole team knew there was a shot to have a good team,” Caudill said. “So Mary had to step up, Britta (Dalton) had to step up. The whole team had to step up.”
Caudill said Howard and Thornburg, Ashland’s two All-Area representatives, “pushed their team every day at practice, and outside of practice, so there was great leadership of a young team.”
Faith Bolin, coach Charles Bolin’s daughter, and Krysta Perry, Kailee Perry’s younger sister, joined Kailee as Morgan County All-Area runners. All three return next season, and the season after, and the season after.
“My teammates and I encourage each other, we’re happy for each other,” Kailee Perry said. “We have a lot more years left together.
“We like each other, but we have a rivalry,” she said of her relationship with Krysta, an eighth-grader. “She’s always like, ‘I’m going to beat you!’” The Lady Cougars notched a sixth-place state meet finish.
Jordan Riley was Russell’s best runner at State. She was the 28th to cross the line. Riley, Hannah Allen, Chloe Porter and Peyton Cantrell made the All-Area team for the Lady Devils, who placed two points behind Ashland in the region event.
Bath County placed a pair — Carrie Staviski and Abby Henderson — on the All-Area squad.
Kaitlyn Adkins (Greenup County), Riley Brown (East Carter), Kelsey Cyrus (Rowan County), Olivia Leet (Fleming County) and Elizabeth Middleton (West Carter) rounded out the team. Leet is a former Runner of the Year. Middleton has a promising future, evidenced by her second-place region result.
Fittingly enough, five Red Devils — Seth Atkins, Jared Goodman, Jax Downs, Max Cantrell and Jules Scott — earned All-Area honors.
Atkins, Goodman and Downs each won multiple meets this past season. Atkins is the lone senior, leaving Downs, a senior to-be, as the next leader of the pack.
“During all of summer training,” Crystal Cantrell recounted a period when Atkins was away for academic reasons, “Jax was leading for us then and was just the one that motivated everybody during the summer to get out and do their running. That’s what makes your cross country team. You’ve got to get out early and get your conditioning in and you can get your speed work in later.”
The Cantrell family were present on cross country courses, in full, this season.
Crystal and Chuck, her husband, both coach. Peyton was a senior. Max was a freshman.
“We take it very seriously.
We always say during cross country season that we don’t eat, we don’t sleep, the Cantrells don’t do anything but cross country during the season,” she said with a laugh. “It’s kind of a family thing. We get to be together and enjoy it and do something healthy at the same time.”
Miller, Goodman and Atkins finished 1-2-3 in the region meet at Boyd County, Miller’s home course on which he set a record earlier during his 10thgrade campaign.
Miller said he implemented more of a team focus this year. He was happy to see Eric Sparks and Jacob Sammons join him on the All-Area team. He expects nothing but even more fruitful outcomes in the near future.
“We had a lot of new people this year, and we were just trying to pack them in and get that team gap closer,” Miller said. “I think we’ll be doing really good next year. We’re only losing one person (senior Ray Humphrey).”
Two other schools — Elliott County and Rowan County — garnered multiple selections.
Elliott County’s Lucas Ison zoomed to region supremacy.
Teammate Brandon White is also among the All-Area bunch. Vikings Nick Anderson and Braxton Ward made it as well.
Completing the team were Raceland’s Parker Ball, Bath County’s Caleb Bowen and East Carter’s Caleb Handley.
Coaches’ votes determined All-Area honorees. The newspaper’s sports staff chose Coaches and Runners of the Year.
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The 2016 All-Area Boys Cross Country Team. Front row (left to right): Max Cantrell, Jared Goodman, Parker Ball, Jules Scott, Lucas Ison, Seth Atkins, Caleb Bowen and Caleb Handley. Back row: Coach Crystal Cantrell, Jacob Sammons, Braxton Ward, Eric Sparks, Nick Anderson, Brandon White, Dylan Boyle, Elijah Miller and Jax Downs.
The 2016 All-Area Girls Cross Country Team. Front row (left to right): Kailee Perry, Jordan Riley, Chloe Porter, Hannah Allen, Elizabeth Middleton, Carrie Staviski and Krysta Perry. Back row: Faith Bolin, Abby Henderson, Peyton Cantrell, Kelsey Cyrus, Rebekah Howard, Riley Brown, Mary Alice Thornburg and coach Phillip Caudill. Absent from photo: Kaitlyn Adkins, Olivia Leet.