The Highlands Ladybirds cross country team put together a solid run of a school-record four consecutive Class 2A state championships.
But after coming close once during that time, the Christian Academy of Louisville Lady Centurions ended the streak placing three in the top 10 on their way to 64 points for the state championship. Highlands finished runner-up with 93 points.
The good news for the Ladybirds is the Centurions graduated two seniors off that team including sixth-place finisher Clara Lynch. Highlands freshman Maggie Schroeder edged her out for fifth in 19 minutes, 23.24 seconds.
Highlands returns four seniors who ran at state last year. But there is some young talent coming up to push them.
"It's always nice to have seniors on your team, especially when we have younger girls that need guidance," said Brian Alessandro, Highlands Head Coach. "But with that, they've improved a lot. It's going to be a strength for us. We didn't have one senior that ran for us at the state meet last year."
Those four returning seniors are Brianna Collins (21st in 20:26.44 at state meet), Karsen Hunter (26th in 20:33.52), Ashtyn Heiert (46th in 21:21.59) and Savannah Brady (68th in 21:44.95). Brady broke a school record in the 800-meter run in track and field last spring and finished third in the Class 2A meet.
"I think that that's really important for the older kids to be cheering on the middle schoolers that way we can work well together as a team and all get to know each other," Brady said. "I think that since so many of the younger kids are going to be so good coming in, it'll be good to have a good environment now so that will continue on when the older kids are gone."
Freshman Greta Noble (27th in 20:34.34) and sophomore Alissa Campbell (30th in 20:38.56) also return. But Alessandro listed seventh-grader Ruby Smith and sophomore Maria Broering as runners who could challenge to run at state. Broering also plays soccer, but Alessandro is working things out with her schedule so she can run at state because she has Top-5 potential.
The Bluebirds finished seventh at the Class 2A meet last year. They graduated two seniors in Colt Parris and Kevin Kreutzer, but return freshman Will Griffith (35th in 17:41.65), seniors Anthony Derosa (91st in 18:36.88), Caleb Chambers (94th in 18:38.86) and juniors Donovan Staab (116th in 18:41.98) and Jake Ryan (178th in 19:51.18). Alessandro is hoping senior Josh White and sophomore August Hug step forward to fill in some shoes.
"I think that it's important for us to work as a team," Chambers said. "I feel like we have a solid group of close runners that all finished generally around each other. I feel if we push each other to our highest, we can improve on last year's note."
Highlands hopes to see the Ladybird runners run below 20 minutes and for the Bluebirds to average 18:30 like last year. Highlands has 70 runners combined in grades sixth through 12th grade.
"I think we have a solid program year-to-year in place," Alessandro said. "We kind of sticking to what we do. It'll be interesting."
The first meet is Aug. 26 in the Ryle Invitational. The state meet is Nov. 4.
Fort Thomas Matters Sports: 2 17 Highlands Cross Country Preview