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CROSS COUNTRY: First look at the real Stars

BNL's Danielle Kittaka churns toward the finish line while securing a spot in the top 10 during Monday's BNL Invitational.

BNL’s Danielle Kittaka churns toward the finish line while securing a spot in the top 10 during Monday’s BNL Invitational.

BNL boys finish 3rd,

girls fourth during

the BNL Invitational

By Justin Sokeland

TheHHCSports.com

Bedford North Lawrence boys coach Scott Hiles didn’t know what he had in this trial run. Girls coach Jill Vance knew her team was better than it showed during its first event. Both were satisfied with the results during the annual BNL Invitational on Monday afternoon.

Boys results

Girls results

BNL senior Trey Pemberton finished 7th in the boys race in 17:47.4.

BNL senior Trey Pemberton finished 7th in the boys race in 17:47.4.

The Stars, with a herd of freshmen making their varsity debuts, finished third in the seven-team field with 96 points in the boys meet, while the BNL girls shook off the discouragement of Saturday’s sloppy tour through the rain and muck to finish fourth in drier, more favorable conditions.

Jennings County won the boys meet with 25 points, while Seymour swept aside everyone, claiming the top six spots in the girls meet to record a perfect score of 15 and take the title.

In the boys race, BNL senior Trey Pemberton was seventh in 17:47.4, and his younger brother Chance was 18th (despite falling on the first lap during the double tour of the BNL course) in 18:57.2.

BNLs Zoe Zollman chases down a competitor during the annual BNL Invitational.

BNL’s Zoe Zollman chases down a competitor during the annual BNL Invitational.

The story all season will be how BNL’s gaggle of freshmen (13 on the 17-man roster) perform under race pressure. Hiles was certainly encouraged as two rookies (Isaak Gilbert and Trevette Daughrity) cracked the scoring fivesome.

“They needed to know,” Hiles said. “It’s one thing to train, it’s another to run a race. So I’m pleased where the team finished. Watching the race, I would not have thought we could be in the front. As a first race, this was good exposure for all the brand-new guys on a rugged course.”

Jennings County’s Alex Hendrix was the individual winner in 16:51.0. The Panthers had four finishers among the top 9. Seymour was second overall with 37, while BNL was a distant third.

In the girls event, BNL sophomore Danielle Kittaka cracked the top 10, settling for eighth place (23.24.6), helping the Stars to a team score of 104.

“She’s about 20 seconds ahead of where she was last year,” BNL coach Jill Vance said. “That’s a very good sign.”

BNL freshman Isaac Gilbert navigates a small stream on the BNL course.

BNL freshman Isaak Gilbert navigates a small stream on the BNL course.

The sunshine was also a good omen. After slogging through the weary weather in the opener, BNL needed a dry run and a shot of confidence.

“I just kept telling myself that it was the course and conditions,” Vance said. “They looked a lot better today. The home course makes a difference. I’m fairly happy overall.”

Zoe Zollman was 14th overall (23:56.5), Payton Flynn posted another PR (26:00.3) to settle for 31st, and senior Bethany Murray – a track sprinter who had never gone over 400 yards before making her debut at 5k – was 36th in 26:56.4.

“I knew our times would be slow on Saturday,” Kittaka said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I think we’re going to improve a lot.”

Seymour’s Ashton Chase was the individual winner in 19:40.7.

BNL will return to action on Saturday. The girls will compete at Salem, while the boys will race in the annual Tiger Run in Louisville.