Run and have fun.
That’s the mantra Bernadette Madigan-Dugan preaches to her teams at Lexington Catholic. The Knights’ girls had plenty of fun Saturday at the Kentucky Horse Park after a dominant victory in the Class 2A KHSAA Cross Country Championships presented by UK HealthCare.
Fun’s had quite a run in the Knights’ camp: This was their third straight championship and the most convincing result of the three. They scored 38 points — the lower the better in cross country — while the next-closest challenger, Harlan County, finished with 102. Bali Hoten of Thomas Nelson won the race but participated as an individual, so the runner-up finish of LexCath senior Cate Conklin stood as the best-scoring performance in the team results.
It’s a testament to the Knights’ depth that neither Conklin nor Caroline Beiting, who finished 13th, ran last week in the Class 2A Region 4 meet. LexCath had no trouble taking that meet either.
“We’ve worked really hard this season to get everybody healthy for state,” said Conklin, who has battled a nagging issue with her tensor fasciae latae (TFL), a muscle in the thigh, since the end of the spring track and field season. “We’ve had our ups and downs with injuries, but we’ve come quite a long way.”
Beiting for the last month also battled a hip issue. She ran right behind teammate Joanna Bryant (12th), while Conklin wasn’t too far in front of Anna Dawahare, a fellow Knight.
Cecelia Lowry, who came in 17th overall, rounded out LexCath’s scorers.
“They are amazing kids, and very mentally tough,” said Madigan-Dugan, herself a former NCAA champion distance runner at the University of Kentucky. “When it comes down to it, they just do their very best. It’s not got a lot to do with coaching — it’s how great they are.”
The Knights, who prior to this stretch hadn’t won state since 1984, ran their overall state title count to eight. They equaled a run of three straight championships earned in the 1970s and will be projected to extend it come 2024. Only Conklin will graduate from among the top five scorers at state, and with underclassmen down the roster like Abigail Turner (31st) and Nora Parker (41st), the streak could go on a while longer.
“We have quite a few young runners and we’re excited,” Conklin said. “I’ll be gone next year, but I’m sure they’ll have a good time.”
In February, a friend convinced James Ndayishimiye to come out for Lafayette’s track and field team. He wanted him to run sprints, but the Generals’ staff saw a distance runner in the former soccer star.
A mere eight months later, Ndayishimiye put a bow on one of the most riveting sports stories in recent Lexington memory. He ran the hilly course in 15:27.38, faster than anyone who showed up to compete in any of Saturday’s races.
“When I start running, I don’t really have a plan,” Ndayishimiye said. “I’m just like, ‘I’m gonna run and see how I do. When I see someone about to pass me, I don’t let ’em. I keep going.”
Adam Patel, a fellow senior out of North Oldham and the Class 2A runner-up last season, was within striking distance for most of the race but finished about five seconds (15:32.37) behind Ndayishimiye, who got out to a strong start in the first 400 meters and never trailed from there. Grant County’s Lincoln Herald ran 15:36.37 to place third; either time would have been good enough to win the other two championships.
Ndayishimiye, referred to by the team as its “Cinderella Man,” is a Congolese refugee whose family arrived in Kentucky by way of Uganda when he was 10 years old. The Generals have rallied around him this season, and he became just the second runner, boy or girl, in Lafayette history to win a cross country state title, joining Damian Nally, a champ in 1987 and 1988.
“He went and got the job done today,” Lafayette Coach Caleb Joy said. “For all the adversity he’s had to face to come to the United States and live the American dream by making it here, for James, going out to run and just giving it his best is probably the easiest thing he’s had to do in his life.
“He’s having so much fun doing it and the sky’s the limit for him. He has everything in him to go be a professional runner later in life.”
Addison Moore ran 18:12.41 to break through for a Class 3A state title after several years of knocking on the door.
Moore, a Woodford County sophomore, finished fourth (2022), 11th (2021) and third (2020) the last three seasons. Now the state’s clear frontrunner across all three classes — her PR of 17:20.80 earlier in the season was better than the next three best individual times posted, all by seniors whom she bested on Saturday — finally has a piece of hardware that eluded her grasp.
“I made a decision this week to just run my race for God, and when I went out there and ran for Him, I just felt like I had more of a better mindset than I usually do,” said Moore. “I just had more of a confidence boost.”
Moore is the second girl to win a title for Woodford County. She joined Holly Straight, who won the Class 2A title in 1975, the first year the KHSAA sponsored girls championships.
Tiger claws, Eagle talons
For the second straight year, Beechwood narrowly defeated Lexington Christian Academy for the Class A girls team title.
Sophomores Lily Parke and Nora Wilke finished 2-3 behind champion Emmie Underwood, a seventh grader from Fort Campbell. Wilke used a late burst to pass LCA’s best finisher, eighth grader Kennedy Moughamian, just ahead of the finish line.
A friendly rivalry is emerging between the two programs, who project to be tops in Class A for the foreseeable future. Both rosters are rife with underclassmen.
“They push us and we push them to be better,” said LCA’s Annalise Randles, who finished ninth.
LCA’s boys finished sixth as a team. Cole Roberson (17:43.30) and Bode Byall (17:45.00) paced them, finishing 27th and 28th overall.
Champ vs. champ
The Class 2A boys race had an interesting wrinkle: Due to offseason realignment, it featured two defending champions. Thomas Nelson sophomore Riku Sugie successfully defended his title in the meet while Will Sheets, the winner in Class 3A last year, finished third.
Sheets, a junior at Covington Catholic, last year had the fastest time at the KHSAA championships. He struggled with a hip injury most of this season and admitted Saturday that he was a “crappy teammate” this year while questioning his love of the sport.
At last week’s regional — in which he didn’t compete — his coach encouraged him to take a jog around the same course on which he won last year’s Class 3A title, just to see how he felt.
“I just went out and tried to discover the true depth of running,” Sheets said. “I think that’s what I’ve lost a lot, especially with my six weeks away. I didn’t have that deep connection with running. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting there.”
KHSAA CROSS COUNTRY RESULTS
Class 3A boys’ top five teams—1. Trinity 95, 2. Cooper 123, 3. St. Xavier 192, 4. North Oldham 204, 5. Conner 226.
Class 3A boys’ top 10 individuals—1. James Ndayishimiye, Lafayette, 15:27.38; 2. Adam Patel, North Oldham, 15:32.37; 3. Lincoln Herald, Grant County, 15:36.37; 4. Paul Van Laningham, Cooper, 15:41.70; 5. Eli Oetken, Trinity, 15:45.07; 6. Charley Townsend, North Oldham, 15:52.14; 7. Kobey Yates, Marshall County, 15:52.91; 8. Jasper Smith, North Oldham, 15:54.11; 9. Joey Carroll, Conner, 15:56.47; 10. Tiger Bartlett, Ryle, 15:57.59.
Class 3A girls’ top five teams: 1. Assumption 54, 2. Oldham County 110 (won tiebreaker), 3. Manual 110, 4. North Oldham 219, 5. Ryle 236.
Class 3A girls’ top 10 individuals—1. Addison Moore, Woodford County, 18:12.41; 2. Tula Fawbush, Oldham County, 18:16.15; 3. Reagan Gilmore, Assumption, 18:18.59; 4. Chesney McPherson, Barren County, 18:20.22; 5. Maddie Strong, Scott, 18:35.74; 6. Bailee Montgomery, Manual, 18:37.12; 7. Caroline Mooney, Bullitt East, 18:41.94; 8. Julia Schmitt, Assumption, 18:53.45; 9. Leah Penick, Assumption, 19:01.22; 10. Allison Kopser, Ryle, 19:09.03.
Class 2A boys’ top five teams—1. Covington Catholic 62, 2. Mason County 151, 3. Paducah Tilghman 179, 4. Thomas Nelson 186, 5. Bourbon County 193.
Class 2A boys’ top 10 individuals—1. Riku Sugie, Thomas Nelson, 15:40.02; 2. Brendan Nagle, John Hardin, 15:52.57; 3. Will Sheets, Covington Catholic, 16:10.97; 4. Joe Mayer, Covington Catholic, 16:22.40; 5. Casey DeSilvey, Spencer County, 16:33.33; 6. Samuel Herbig, Christian Academy of Louisville, 16:34.85; 7. Max Germann, Boyle County, 16:42.22; 8. Brice Nelson, Webster County, 16:47.92; 9. Marshall Hart, Mercer County, 16:47.96; 10. Daniel Filiatreau, Thomas Nelson, 16:49.46.
Class 2A girls’ top five teams—1. Lexington Catholic 38, 2. Harlan County 102, 3. Corbin 124, 4. Rowan County 130, 5. Bourbon County 165.
Class 2A girls’ top 10 individuals—1. Baili Hoten, Thomas Nelson, 19:03.35; 2. Cate Conklin, Lexington Catholic, 19:11.29; 3. Anna Dawahere, 19:35.82; 4. Autumn Egleston, Rowan County, 19:42.69; 5. Anabelle Plummer, Christian Academy of Louisville, 19:50.31; 6. Bethany Simpson, Bourbon County, 19:56.02; 7. Isabella Day, LaRue County, 20:03.65; 8. Peyton Lunsford, Harlan County, 20:06.62; 9. Emma Massengill, Corbin, 20:17.34; 10. Sami Govey, Boyd County, 20:19.28.
Class A boys’ top five teams—1. Bishop Brossart 87, 2. Villa Madonna 92, 3. St. Henry 132, 4. Highlands Latin 145, 5. Bethlehem 148.
Class A boys’ top 10 individuals—1. Nathan Ruth, Bishop Brossart, 16:04.20; 2. Roman Sierpina, Collegiate, 16:12.60; 3. Samson Weldemichael, Beechwood, 16:37.80; 4. Isaac Riggs, Bethlehem, 16:43.70; 5. James Gurley, Collegiate, 16:47.00; 6. Ryan Shaps, Kentucky Country Day, 16:56.10; 7. Jeff Stewart, St. Henry, 16:57.60; 8. Grant Greenwell, Bethlehem, 17:00.50; 9. Lake Durrett, St. Henry, 17:03.20; 10. Thomas Mathews, Walden, 17:04.30.
Class A girls’ top five teams—1. Beechwood 41, 2. Lexington Christian 69, 3. St. Henry 132, 4. Owensboro Catholic 200, 5. Green County 212.
Class A girls’ top 10 individuals—1. Emmie Underwood, Fort Campbell, 19:11.35; 2. Lily Parke, Beechwood, 19:27.35; 3. Nora Wilke, Beechwood, 20:20.29; 4. Kennedy Moughamian, Lexington Christian, 21:21.15; 5. Peyton Reid, Owensboro Catholic, 20:23.94; 6. Maggie Durrett, Covington Holy Cross, 20:28.14; 7. Margaret Dulaney, Collegiate, 20:30.76; 8. Isabelle Shearer, Jackson County, 20:31.20; 9. Annalise Randles, Lexington Christian, 20:33.03; 10. Gabby Ault, St. Mary, 20:35.69