Starr’s Mill cross country head coach Kelly Rock will always remember the moment she stepped onto the championship podium. In her first season, the Panthers made school history as the boys’ cross country team won its first state title.
Starr’s Mill scored 71 points and finished 15 points ahead of McIntosh. The Panther boys finished with an average time of 17:24. On the girls’ side, the Lady Panthers finished in third place at the state meet.
“It means everything,” Rock said. “I had the opportunity to work with great athletes who were dedicated and focused. They trained hard and grew as a team. The coaching staff spends countless hours putting together a program to help achieve the goals that the team set. We all were singularly focused on doing our best. To see that translate into a state title left me speechless.”
The Panthers placed three seniors in the top 10. Nick Nyman ended his cross country career with a third-place finish. He ran 16:52.96 to secure three points for the team. Harrison Fultz came in fifth, and Ty Duben was sixth. Teammates Rhett Parry (22nd), Matt Norton (36th), Joseph Muzzillo, and Kolby Smith also chipped in to help secure the victory.
“The team set goals last year for this season, and they worked really hard to accomplish them,” Rock said. “I am so proud.”
The McIntosh boys scored 86 points to finish in second place. Whitewater finished 19th and Fayette County was 23rd. McIntosh senior Zach Jaeger was second overall with a 16:37.35 time. Teammate Rease Henry was right behind him as he finished 10th overall. Fayette’s Khali Madison (17th) and Derek Danley (55th) logged the highest boys scores for their respective schools.
On the girls’ side, McIntosh scored 59 points to take second place. Whitewater was ninth and the Fayette girls were 24th. Individually, McIntosh junior Zoe Smith ran a time of 19:48.89 to finish fourth. Starr’s Mill teammates Megan Dobso and Darby Olive logged top-10 finishes.
The win added to the Panthers impressive resume. This is the third time the girls’ team reached the podium at state. They last did it in 2008 and 2014. As for the boys, this is the first time they have ever reached the podium stand.
The hard work started in early June as both teams worked with Gritton’s Training Systems. It helped make the conditioning schedule more efficient with practices and yoga resting periods. It also helped build the athletes mental and physical state to compete at a high level.
“What I learned this year is that the compound effect is what creates champions,” Rock said. “There were tiny moments each week in practice, in conditioning, in team bonding activities where I could see changes happening in individual athletic performance and overall team spirit and compatibility.”
As a result, Starr’s Mill consistently got better over the season. They saved their best for last at the state meet. Now, the entire community is excited to see them continue to thrive in the future.
“We have been supported and encouraged and now celebrated,” Rock said.
Around the county, Sandy Creek was also in cross country action. The Patriots represented in the Class AAAA state meet and finished 19th in the girls’ race and 23rd in the boys’ competition. Sara Mascheroni led the Lady Patriots with a time of 22:53.38, while Andres Sanchez paced the boys with a time of 17:31.43 to end the season.
In Class-A Private, Landmark Christian scored another strong finish. the girls team placed third. Erin Fegans was their top individual finisher in third place.
Their boys team placed fourth overall. Zack Pruitt was their top individual finisher taking third place.