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STATE CHAMPIONSHIP

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Fischer 16th, Phillips 79th in Class 2-A state meet

By Tommie Kendall

Representing Henry County High School against the best runners in Kentucky on Saturday afternoon, sophomore Cassey Fischer placed 16th at the state meet for the second year in a row and junior Eric Phillips placed 79th in just his first year running cross country.

Both runners had different goals entering the season-ending meet, used different race tactics and left the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington with different results. Fischer covered the 5,000-meter (3.1 miles) up-and-down race in 21 minutes, 11 seconds; Phillips completed it in 18:48. For the first time since 1991, the state course was switched to a new location on the other side of the Horse Park, which is a slower course based on the layout of the land. Fischer and Phillips are the first Henry County runners to participate on the course with the 21:11 and 18:48 times being the new benchmark.

In the girls’ Class 2-A race, Fischer started towards the front of the field, passing the first mile with her fastest split of the year in 6:18 in around 16th place. Up front, Jenna Rogers of Christian Academy-Louisville took the lead for the first time just past the mile point and used a quick surge to open up a gap on the rest of the runners. As the junior began to motor away from the field, Fischer was bouncing between the 15th and 20th spots.

Rogers, a first-year cross country runner who won Henry’s regional meet the weekend before, crossed the finish line in 19:28, 32 seconds ahead of Elisha Overpeck of Lloyd Memorial in 20-flat and Jessie Murner of South Oldham in 20:06. Fischer, who fell back to 20th in the closing half mile, went around four girls with a blazing final kick to finish 16th overall. She was less than one second away from chasing down the 15th-place runner. In the end, after a gutsy performance, Fischer had to settle with 16th place for the second consecutive year, barely missing a top-15 podium finish.

“I was very pleased with Cassey’s race. I think her previous experience at state helped her a lot,” HCHS coach Greg Woods said. “It was painful, however, to see her miss out on the all-state team by just one second. I hope she understands that does not diminish what she did. I believe Cassey will be a top-10 runner before she graduates.”

Fischer first qualified for the state meet as a seventh grader in 2006 when she placed 112th in 23:01. Her eighth-grade season was cut short with a stress fracture, which sidelined her for the second half of the season. Then, as a freshman last November, she placed 16th at state in a new school-record 20:27 — Megan Foree held the previous record of 20:30 when she placed ninth at the state meet in 2005. Based on the new course and a tough field of runners, Woods said this year’s performance might have topped them all.

Following the girls’ Class 2-A race, the boys took to the starting line for their tour around the Horse Park. Franklin County senior Robert Sandlin pulled away early in the race to open up a sizable gap that continued to grow with each stride. He finished in 16:22 with Ryan Thurman of Calloway County finishing second in 16:54 and Jon Renneker of Ashland Blazar finishing third in 16:58 as only three runners broke the 17-minute barrier on an unseasonably warm day and on the hilly course.

Meanwhile, Phillips used an overly-cautious start to pass the mile in 5:32, well outside of his pre-race goal in the top-40. He went past a few runners midway through the race and crossed the finish line in 79th place, almost one minute off his best time this fall.

Phillips ran track last spring as a sophomore but stepped it up to another level this cross country season as Henry’s top runner in each meet and one of the few Henry runners who have ever broken 18 minutes for the 5K distance.

“Eric had a little tougher time than Cassey (at state). I think the lack of experience really hurt him,” Woods said. “His time was not bad, but it wasn’t what he or I was expecting. I think for Eric getting the experience of running at state this year will help him to do great things next year.”

E-mail us about this story at sports@hclocal.com.