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LEXINGTON — For the first two miles of the KHSAA Class 2A boys’ championship cross country race, North Oldham senior Taylor Sanders stayed in pursuit but bided his time.
Just after the two-mile mark of the 5K race at the Kentucky Horse Park, Sanders took the lead. He coasted from there, taking the state championship in 16:20.40 to also lead the Mustangs to their second-straight team state championship with 63 points. South Oldham’s girls also defended their Class 2A girls’ title for the fourth-straight year with 75 points, ahead of runner-up North Oldham with 114 points.
In Class 3A, Oldham County placed fourth in the girls’ championship race with 163 points, while Colonels’ senior Luke Weishaar placed fifth in the boys’ race 16:29.51 to lead Oldham County to a eighth place team finish with 326 points.
Though Sanders won the Region 3 meet Nov. 5, he still went into the state meet with an underdog mindset. Sanders’ region win was his first win all season.
In the state meet, Lexington Catholic junior Nicholas Laureano finished second in 16:33.56, while Bell County senior James Brown was third in 16:46.19.
“The whole weekend I heard and read stuff that I was gonna be battling for third or fourth,” Sanders said. “It was all Brown’s race to win and I just told myself, ‘He’s got everything to lose. He’s the favorite.’ Nobody was counting on me to win, but I knew I could win. I just told myself that when the time comes, you’ve gotta go, no regrets and I just did it today.”
The win for the Mustangs’ is their third in the past four years. Behind Sanders, their next top three finishers were among the top 20.
“Every year it’s a challenge putting the pieces together, but every single guy on our team works to push the next guy in front of him,” North Oldham coach Drew LaMaster said. “I told the guys that it was a total team effort today and it was evident especially with our four up front.”
For the Lady Dragons, it was also a team effort, though they weren’t boasting afterward. Junior Grace Whitworth was the top South Oldham finisher in sixth place, with a time of 20:18.21, behind champion Gabriella Karas, a Martha Layne Collins seventh-grader who finished in 18:30.31.
“Honestly, we’ve had such a good season that even though we won, it doesn’t undermine our season,” Whitworth said. “It’s always nice bragging rights, but we don’t want that to define what South Oldham is. It’s just not as classy.”
Weishaar went into his race as a favorite to win, but he couldn’t catch up to St. Xavier junior Connor Sheryak, who won in 16:00.21.
“I really just wanted to run the race,” Weishaar said. “When they pulled away, it kinda de-motivated me and I was like, ‘Oh man, I don’t know what to do now.’ I tried to get back up, but I just didn’t have it.”
The Lady Colonels might have finished better had their top runner been at full strength.
Sophomore Caroline Grogan finished ninth in 19:38.18, but her sister, senior Margaret Grogan suffered severe dehydration as she neared the finish line. Margaret, who had fallen behind well before the final 200-meter stretch, fell and came to a crawl going up the final hill to the finish line.
Margaret shook off an offer from Oldham County coach Kirk Thomas, who was standing outside the race path barrier rope, to pull her out and finished 186th in 23:21.92. Volunteers carried Margaret to a nearby medical tent where she received oxygen and fluids.
“She’s done this before at the end of a race after she’s finished, but I’ve never seen it before she’s finished,” Thomas said. “I’m not sure if it was just the wind that dehydrated her or what.”
Sanders was visibly worn out at the end of his race, but he staggered to the back of the finishing gates with both of his fists held high and a grin on his face. He kept them up until he embraced his mother and father moments later.
“This couldn’t have turned out any better,” he said. “I’m just so happy and so thankful for everything.”
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