CANNONSBURG – After a scintillating 17-or-so minutes, it’s Comedy Hour for Boyd County’s cross country team.
“They’re quirky and weird, and just so funny,” said Lions coach Becca Chaney.
Grant Chaffin narrowly staved off a charging Tyler Conn, of Russell, to complete an uncanny 1-2-3-4 finish for Boyd County’s boys in the Class 2A, Region 6 championships on Saturday morning at the old Boyd County High School course.
Isaiah Caperton, Elijah Miller, JB Terrill and Chaffin form a quick quartet that has Boyd County aspiring for more next weekend in Lexington.
“I think we can win (State) if we really want to,” Terrill said. “Right now we’re ranked No. 1, so I think we can do it.”
Waylon Smith placed 12th to give Boyd County 22 points, 47 fewer than runner- up Russell. The Lions ended Russell’s run of six consecutive region crowns.
Led by eighth-grader Paige Decker, Mason County’s girls cleared Ashland, 41-57, for top team honors.
At 19:31, Decker fearlessly beat formidable Ashland duo Mary Alice Thornburg and Bekah Howard.
“It’s a great accomplishment because both of those girls are top-quality runners, not only in this region but in the state,” said Lady Royals coach Mark Kachler. “(Decker) has a very level demeanor about her and she handles things with a lot more maturity than you would expect out of most eighth-graders. I think she’s got an exceptionally bright future.”
Thornburg (19:48) edged Howard by six seconds. The senior and junior, respectively, have been instrumental in Ashland’s success — the team won back-to-back region titles in 2016 and ’17 before achieving state runner- up status last November. Thornburg is coming to grips with finality.
“It kinda is just now hitting me,” Thornsburg said. “That was my last time getting to run here and getting to stand on the podium for Region, so that’s a bit odd for me.”
Aubree Hay (13th) and Annie Whelan (17th) helped lift Ashland, which has dealt with numerous illnesses and injuries this season, to the second spot. Hayley Fielding was its fifth runner in.
East Carter’s Riley Brown and Boyd County’s Sophia Simmons rounded out the top five.
Kachler’s bunch featured six runners among the first 15, none of whom are juniors or seniors.
“They’re resilient and we got good depth, that’s the main thing,” said the coach.
Boyd County’s boys boast depth, too.
At full strength, a 1-2-3-45 showing would have been conceivable, Chaney said. Gavin Brock is out with an ankle fracture. Smith filled the void nicely.
The Lions consistently strive to kick it into high gear at the same point on one of their two home courses, Caperton said. He did just that.
“Once we go across that bridge at El Hasa (Temple), that’s when we go,” said the junior. “That’s when we try to get a gap.”
Caperton created separation there and sustained it.
He recorded a time of 17:14, 16 seconds ahead of former champion Miller.
Miller, a senior, has been an influential leader.
“Our team is as good as it is because of Elijah,” Chaney said. “He sets the precedent. He gets them to the line. He calms them down. He gets them ready. We really don’t step in and say anything. He does it all.”
Freshmen Terrill and Chaffin are constantly competing. They keep score of who finishes ahead of the other in events. Chaffin owns a 5-4 advantage at the moment.
“If I win at State, we tie,” Terrill asserted.
Added Chaney: “He better bring it. Grant’s right on his tail.”
Terrill and Chaffin get Chaney chuckling often. She was smiling for several reasons on Saturday.
“This whole boys team, the whole group of them has been awesome,” she said. “They keep us entertained.”
Boyd County, Russell, Rowan County and Mason County are State-bound on the boys’ side. For the girls, team qualifiers are Mason County, Ashland, Boyd County, Rowan County and Russell.
Individuals set to compete at State — without team affiliation — are Aiden Dorsey (Ashland), Caleb Handley (East Carter), Curtis Giles (East Carter), Alex Boyle (Ashland), Chris Thornburg (Ashland), Jaysten Maze (Rowan County), Kaitlyn Adkins (Greenup County), Brooklynn Wireman (Greenup County), Mary Stephens (East Carter), Brown and Simmons.
West Carter’s Brody Sparks earned the right to run in Lexington as an individual in the Class A championship.