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Oldham County sets strong September pace

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By Sam Draut

The best team in Oldham County thus far this fall doesn’t need a ball or way to score goals.

September couldn’t have started much better for Oldham County cross country. The girls team won all three meets while the boys team, led by Jacob Brizendine, won two meets.

Oldham County coach Kirk Thomas said the team is talented this season. The results have shown.

“As a team we are really supportive, and we get along really well,” senior Katy Chapman said. “We push each other every single day, so that works really well.”

Girls

Runners have departed, but Oldham County continues to improve each year.

The Lady Colonels were sixth in 2015 at the KHSAA 3-A state meet. A year later, Oldham County placed third. Last fall, Oldham County was the state runner-up.

Constanza Arpinelli, a foreign exchange student from Italy, who placed fourth, and Rachel Boice, a 15th-place finisher and 2018 graduate, are gone, but Thomas thinks this team has plenty of talent.

With its typical emphasis on pack running, Oldham County’s group of scoring runners haven’t allowed for other teams to pick up points in between them.

In its win at the Shelby Invitational, Oldham County had five runners place in the top-10. The following week, Oldham County won the Rumble Through the Jungle as all five scoring runners crossed within 16 seconds of each other, all finishing consecutively from third to seventh place.

“I have been coaching for 15 years, I have never seen a pack be able to run so tight together,” Thomas said. “It doesn’t give other teams any chance to put runners between us.”

Oldham County won the Franklin Invitational at Kentucky Horse Park Sept. 15 by 88 points as all five scoring runners placed in the top-17.

Chapman has led Oldham County in two of the three races while Savannah Cagle won the Shelby Invitational. With the graduation of Boice and departure of Arpinelli, Chapman has assumed the top-runner role.

“They [Boice and Arpinelli] were two of my really close friends,” Chapman said. “It is a kind of weird to think that I am that role to somebody else, but it has been a lot of fun and I have big shoes to fill.”

Oldham County’s depth of runners has been unmatched in its early season performances. Along with Chapman and Cagle, sixth other runners have placed in the top-25. Hannah Henage, Chloe Boa, Anna Constant, Ella Henage and Jacquelyn Ellsworth have all finished in the top-10 in at least one of the three races while Emma Wayland was 24th in the Shelby Invitational.

Thomas believes the competition between runners has made the team stronger.

“It helps them encourage each other and it also helps them push each other,” Thomas said. “It gives them a belief that ‘if Katy [Chapman] is up here in front, I know I can run with Katy.’ That’s what keeps them so close and makes it a really strong team. A lot of years there is one up here and two here, and its easy to drift away because they don’t have a teammate with them.

“Whoever is up front, the others know that they need to be too.”

Ella Henage and Ellsworth, a pair of freshmen, have been surprises while Hannah Henage made a big improvement in track, Thomas said. With greater depth, Thomas believes this year’s Lady Colonels are better than last season.

“We have been working really hard,” Hannah Henage said. “Even though we might be a little competitive between each other, we always pull each other along.”

Boys

It’s hard to imagine the fall starting any better for Jacob Brizendine. The senior has been the best runner anywhere he has competed, winning a triad of races within the first 15 days of September.

Brizendine started the month by winning the Shelby Invitational by 38 seconds ahead of any of the other 98 runners. A week later, running in the rain and mud, Brizendine won the Rumble Through the Jungle by 16 seconds against a field of 217 competitors.

Kentucky Horse Park, the site of the KHSAA 3-A state meet in November, hosted the Franklin Invitational and 251 runners Sept. 15. With familiarity with the course, Brizendine won the meet by 23 seconds.

After battling injuries in time to return to regionals and the KHSAA track and field 3-A state championship meet in May, where Brizendine placed sixth in the 3,200 meter run, he took a two-week break before starting cross country training. The break helped, and Brizendine ran hard during the summer to prepare for the fall season.

“Summer miles are what pays off,” Brizendine said. “It really comes down to how hard you work in the summer.”

It’s no secret Brizendine is a dedicated runner, but Thomas believes he is a student of running as well.

“He doesn’t just come out and run and do what the coaches tell him,” Thomas said. “He thinks about it. He does things on his own, he reads on his own.”

The goals have been placed and the progress is apparent.

As a sophomore, Brizendine placed 30th at the state meet. He set a goal to finish in the top-5 as a junior. He did. Brizendine placed fifth with a time of 16:02.29 last fall.

Though course conditions, weather, and a number of other variables can affect time, Brizendine ran the state race nearly 48 seconds faster as a junior compared to his sophomore season.

In his senior year, it’s only fitting for Brizendine to continue to seek improvement.

“He has a goal to win state this year,” Thomas said. “He is focused on that and knows what kind of work it’s going to take to have that happen. There are three or four other runners out there that are at his level.”

Brizendine paced Oldham County to a sixth-place finish last season. The team goes beyond Brizendine though, as the Colonels have won the Shelby Invitational and Franklin Invitational.

Spencer Harvey has stepped into the role of the Colonels’ number two runner while Caleb Lohr and Clayton Carter have broken into the top-5. Isaiah Cook and Steven Votaw have been scoring runners, as has Luke Payne, which gives the Colonels seven capable runners for five scoring spots.

“We have been pushing specific guys to get out over the summer, that way, we can reach our goal at the end of the season,” Harvey said. “We want to look back on our training and be confident about what we did.”