Highlands focused on state title

Highlands focused on state title


Highlands focused on state title


Highlands' Ethan Shuley set a national elite mark at the Moeller Primetime Invitational.

Highlands’ Ethan Shuley set a national elite mark at the Moeller Primetime Invitational.

Highlands cross country runner Ethan Shuley is fast out of the gate, and he vows to get faster.

Shuley, the defending Kentucky Class 2A individual state champion, opened the season with a national elite clocking and a win at Saturday’s Moeller Primetime Invitational, finishing the 5-kilometer Bruin Course at the Golf Center at Kings Island in 15 minutes and 32.10 seconds.

“My goal is to get below 15 minutes, and I think I can do that. I’ve been training hard,” Shuley said.

Teammate Geoffrey Mearns also posted a national elite time of 16:24.10, placing seventh. The Bluebirds finished fifth in the final team standings with 131 points.

Mason, with four of the top 15 runners, won the meet with 66 points, good for a 13-point cushion over runner-up Cincinnati St. Xavier, which totaled 79. Olentangy, led by individual runner-up Hunter Moore (15:57.20) was third with 89 points.

Highlands had four runners in the top 50, including Will Backscheider (17:04.60) and Matthew Gray (17:28.20). Jackson Paul (17:39.90) rounded out the Bluebirds’ top five.

The first meet of the season has the team excited about the direction the program is heading under coach Brian Alessandro, but it’s the last meet of the year that drives them.

“We’d love to win a state championship,” Shuley said. “We won in track, and we’d like to do it in cross country. That’s our ultimate goal.”

Highlands finished third at last year’s Class 2A state cross country meet at Lexington’s Kentucky Horse Park with 110 points, well back of champion North Oldham (49), which had six of the top 24 finishers. All but one of North Oldham’s top runners are back, posing a challenge for the Bluebirds, who return every runner.

The Bluebirds, who placed four runners in the state’s top 30, are ranked No. 1 in the KyTrackXC.com Class 2A preseason poll. North Oldham is ranked No. 2.

Alessandro said during the preseason that improvements in Highlands times are in the offing. He was delighted to see such a strong opening effort on the Bruin Course. Shuley’s clocking at the Moeller meet was about 26 seconds faster than his state-winning time of 15:58.14. Mearns trimmed 40 seconds off his state time.

Backscheider was 34 seconds faster than last year at state. Paul was 30 seconds faster. Gray was eight seconds faster.

“Ethan is the best runner in the state,” Alessandro said. “But it’s important that the other guys do well. Highlands’ boys haven’t won state since 1985, so it’ll be 30 years coming up.”

Not if Shuley can help it.

“The boys won state two years ago in track for the first time in over 50 years (they finished second last year by a point after winning their first track and field crown since 1959), so that’s even longer than 30 years (for cross country),” said Shuley. “I think we can win state this year for the first time since 1985.”


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