With the first meet less than three weeks away, the Henry County cross country team is increasing their mileage and tempo to make sure they are ready to toe the starting line at the Shelby County Invitational Sept. 6.
The squad, which started practice July 15 with a low turnout before growing in size as the school year approached, has been training at Harry Hill Park in preparation for fall races.
The boys’ team is trying to rebound from a season in which they did not advance to the Kentucky State Cross Country Championships for the first time since 2004, while the girls will most likely not have enough varsity runners to compete as a team so will rely on individual success to meet their goals.
The long-distance runners will focus on two races this season — the North Central Kentucky Conference Championships and the Class 2A, Region Three Championships. If they can run well enough at regionals to advance to the state meet, then their focus will shift as they go up against the best runners from around Kentucky at the State Horse Park in early November.
“Practice has been going well,” Henry coach Ricky Drawbaugh said. “We are still working on a base right now. We will focus again this year on conference and regional as our two biggest meets. I think we will have a boys’ team for most meets, but the girls will be running as individuals. Everyone is about where they ended last year.”
The only runner Drawbaugh has seen a significant improvement in, he said, is junior Travis Farmer — the brother of last year’s senior Larry Farmer, who holds the 5K cross country school record and now runs for Brescia University. Travis had a solid summer of training with an increase in his weekly mileage to as much as 50 miles per week, and has unlocked determination that could get him to the next level.
Farmer, who wants to break his brother’s record this season, will be joined with teammates Timmy Ashby, Timmy Torret, John Hart, Brandon Goodwin and Paul Leet. Other runners might also join the squad as the season progresses, Drawbaugh said.
Individually last November, Brittany Crawford, and the Farmer brothers made it to state based on their regional races. At state the following week, Larry placed 59th and Travis placed 142nd in the boys’ race, while Crawford placed 104th.
The top runner for the girls this season looks to be Cassey Fischer, who is coming off an impressive track season, where she placed sixth at the Kentucky State Track and Field Championships in the 3,200-meter run with a school record of 12 minutes and 32 seconds. If that translates over to this season, the freshman could be hard to hang with out on the cross country course.
Crawford, last year’s top runner, has decided to play on the high school’s volleyball team this fall, but might run meets with the cross country team, Drawbaugh said. Fischer and Crawford will be joined by senior Jessie Ottersbach, junior Alexa King, and seventh-grader Cathryn Fischer to round out the small team.
After the Cats open the season at the Shelby Invitational, they will race a 12-meet schedule.
“From the training, if we can keep these guys out, I think this looks to be our best team since I’ve been around,” Drawbaugh said. “The big goal again is to send as many to state as possible.”