MURRAY — The Calloway County cross country team hosted the Calloway County Invitational for the eighth year in a row on Saturday morning. Head coach Jonathan Grooms said this was the biggest one yet.
“We had over 550 runners between all the races yesterday and probably over 1500 people running and walking around our beautiful campus at CCHS,” he said. “Having bigger races leads to more competition and experience racing in crowds, which helps us as we head toward the end of the season and the Kentucky State Meet.”
Murray High’s cross country team was also present at the Calloway Invite on Saturday.
Head coach of the Tigers Emily Chipman said the flat course and nice weather made for a good race.
Grooms said, “The weather was great. We had a slight breeze, and it was cooler in the morning when the varsity races were run. Weather makes a huge difference in the way the runners compete. When it is very hot outside, they are less willing to take the early chances in a race as they have a mental fear of the sun zapping too much energy.”
Calloway’s varsity boys are glad to have placed third as a team in such a large race. Their average time was 19:28.44.
“The boys group ran solid, they packed well as usual.,” Grooms said. “We were missing two of our top six runners (Eli Maggart and Carson Bobo), and we still finished third overall out of 19 schools. It is hard to argue that is not a solid day.”
The Lakers were led by Daniel Puckett, who placed ninth with a time of 18:19.8.
“I thought our boys’ number one Daniel Puckett got out faster this time and freed himself of the crowd early as he went with the small front group of runners,” Grooms said.
The varsity girls also did exceptionally well for Calloway, placing fifth overall. They were led by Ainsley Smith, who placed fifth individually with a time of 22:46.3. Newcomer Bella Swain was the number-two runner for Calloway with a time of 25:01.9. Swain placed twentieth individually.
“Bella Swain has been a nice addition for the girls this year,” Grooms said. “She finished as our No. 2 runner on the team after only her second career race. She still has a tremendous upside as she is still figuring out her pacing throughout the 5000-meter race. She has been able to put in some solid training over the last few weeks, and it is starting to show in her race performances.”
Grooms is especially excited about the middle school girls’ team placing first out of 21 schools present on Saturday. The future is bright for CCHS cross country.
As well as for MHS cross country. Like Swain, Saturday’s race marked Tiger Cullen Larkin’s second race. It took him only 10:56 to complete the 1.5-mile race.
“Cullen Larkin showed out for the middle school boys’ team,” Chipman said.
Chipman said the middle school girls started off their race a bit slow but appeared to become stronger and more confident as the race progressed.
“They did really well for where they are with their experience, and I’m happy with that,” Chipman said. “I always encourage them to set goals for each race and to work hard to meet those goals. My advice to them each race is to set realistic goals for themselves, not comparing themselves in a negative way to others. I want them to run a smart race so that they grow in confidence and experience with each meet. Most of them are new to the sport, and I want them to enjoy it so they can come out again next year.”
Grooms is overall pleased with the race on Saturday.
“Running well at your home invitational is hard and shows how veteran your team really is,” he said. “I was running around making sure everything was going well at timing, concessions, the gate, course monitors, amongst other things. As a coach, it is great having seniors (Ben Nelson, Jessica Wicker, Alyssa Wicker and Alaina Davis) to rely on, to make sure the team warms up properly and gets to the start line. We were able to run well and put on a great meet which can be a difficult task.”