The Boyd County Cross Country Invitational is in its 37th year, and first-year Lions head coach Dirk Hollar can hardly wait.
“I’m excited,” Hollar said about Saturday’s race. “From what I understand, we’ve never had this many teams before.”
Twenty schools will be represented, with the girls varsity race set for 11:30 a.m. and the boys to start an hour later. The 5,000-meter course begins on the BCHS football practice field and ends on the track.
Both defending team champions — Russell’s boys and Fairview’s girls — are back with several key returners from their 2011 lineups.
Overall, the field is loaded with runners from across the region and beyond — Dixie Heights (northern Kentucky), Wayne (W.Va.) and Coal Grove (Ohio).
“There are a lot of good teams, that’s what we are excited about,” Hollar said.
One of them is Hollar’s own girls squad, which jumped to fifth in the Class 2A rankings last week. The Lady Lions finished ahead of the state-ranked trio of Elizabethtown, Mason County and Christian Academy in a Sept. 22 meet at Kentucky Horse Park.
“The girls were excited about being ranked that high,” said Hollar, whose team was No. 10 the week before. “When I told them, Alliya Kautzman’s eyes got really big.”
Boyd County’s top seven runners include Darian Steele, Courtney Gibson, Kautzman, Hannah Cassady, Sarahlyn Miller, Taylor Cyrus and Cortney Cook. Cassady and Cyrus, a first-year runner, are the only seniors in the group.
Miller has a sore hip flexor and Cyrus is dealing with knee tendinitis, but both are expected to compete Saturday.
The Lady Lions have closed the gap on Class A power Fairview this season and are looking forward to another opportunity.
“We would like to knock them off,” Hollar said. “We keep getting closer and closer. We would be happy with second, but not satisfied.”
Last year, Fairview’s Lyndsey Burke won the individual title in 20:37. Katie Richard and Brooklyn Bowen of the Lady Eagles finished second and fourth, respectively.
East Carter senior Macy Dyer is ranked ninth in Class 2A.
“East Carter has been sneaking up on the other teams,” Hollar said. “And Dixie Heights is bringing about 50 kids overall.”
The meet opens at 9 a.m. with 1,600-meter races for elementary girls and boys. Middle schoolers take the course at 10 a.m. and will run 3,000 meters.
In the varsity boys race, Russell and Ashland will continue their competitive battle. Russell won last year’s BC Invitational championship as Jacob Heyerly, Josh Riley and Brandon Yates placed fourth, fifth and sixth.
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2671.