Alex Bunch is still getting up to speed, and there might be no better place to do that than at Millennium Park.
Bunch feels right at home has enjoyed considerable success on the Boyle County cross country course at the park, and she got in one more good run there Thursday night in the Boyle County Invitational.
The Lincoln County senior won the girls race at Boyle for the third consecutive year, getting her first win of the season in only her second race even as she continues to work on her conditioning.
“I’m getting there, but it’s a good start,” Bunch said.
Bunch has made a habit of running close to the front at Boyle. She finished second in 2008 and ’09 before getting her first win in this meet the following year as a sophomore, and she won the girls middle school race in 2007 as a seventh-grader.
So it’s clear that she likes the Millennium Park course.
“I do, but I think I like the old version of it better,” she said.
Boyle coaches made a minor course change after last year’s invitational, moving the finish line location, following a major change two or three years ago.
Bunch was 2 seconds faster on this year’s course than she was a year ago. She ran the 3.1-mile course in 19 minutes, 52 seconds and finished 30 seconds ahead of runner-up Meagan Smith of Danville.
“My goal was to break 20 (minutes) ... so I did what I wanted to, and I was happy with my performance,” she said.
And she wasn’t the only Lincoln runner with reason to be happy. Brian Carlson earned his second invitational win in six days, winning the boys race by almost a full minute.
“It’s nice to have Lincoln one and one,” Bunch said.
Carlson won Danville’s E.G. Plummer Invitational on Saturday, but Bunch was a spectator at that meet. She had taken the ACT earlier that day, and between the mental fatigue and the small amount of time between the test and the race, she didn’t think she had a good race in her.
“I could’ve made it back, but if I wanted to race at the caliber I wanted to, I couldn’t do it after sitting for four hours,” she said.
Bunch didn’t run up to her expectations in her first race of the season, but she still finished 18th out of 281 runners in St. Xavier’s Tiger Run on Aug. 25 in Louisville.
She had participated in the Governor’s Scholars Program this summer at Centre College, and she said the time she spent there cut into her training.
“It was a lot harder to get some runs in, but I still did it. And even after I got back, I tried to bump it up even more,” she said. “I feel like maybe I’d be a little better off right now if I’d gotten more distance in this summer. It was just really difficult to with GSP.”
However, Bunch said the workouts with her Lincoln team — and some other workouts as well — have been intense. She said
“We’ve already stepped up our speed quite a bit,” she said.
She said she frequently did pushups during the summer in an attempt to improve her upper-body strength, and she’s doing them again now as part of her preparation for Lincoln County’s Junior Miss competition next week, where fitness is one of the judging criteria.
“My arms are a lot stronger toward the end of the race. I have a lot more upper-body strength because of that,” she said.
Bunch has won four Class AAA regional titles, including the last three in a row, and she finished 38th last year in the Class AAA girls race at the state meet. She said her goals for this season are much the same as they are every year.
“I just want to have my best season so far and go out with a bang,” she said.
She also said it’s hard to believe the end of her high school career is fast approaching.
“I’ve been running for seven years. That doesn’t even seem right,” Bunch said.
Danville’s Smith, who won at the Plummer on Saturday, said she didn’t feel right during her run Thursday.
“I did not feel like I ran very well,” she said. “I felt good for about the first half, and then I started getting really tired. I had been tired all day. I just didn’t feel like it was a good run for me.”
Nikki Coffey of Boyle County rounded out the top three, finishing 9 seconds behind Smith. Boyle coach Grace Jameson said Coffey had been running too quickly at the start of her recent races, and she changed her strategy for this race.
“She had a great race,” Jameson said. “She changed her plan of action, and it really worked for her. She did a great job.”
No other area girls finished in the top 10, and no area boys were in the top 10 behind Carlson.
Austin Anderson of Boyle finished 13th in the boys race, running just over 1 minute off the winning time.
“Austin has been training all summer, and he is just doing fantastic. He’s ready to take over that leadership role,” Jameson said.
Bryant Qualls of Mercer County was 14th and Alex Beckerson of Boyle County was 15th in the boys race. Taylor Gray of Mercer was 13th in the girls race.
Madison Central won both the boys and girls team titles. Boyle led area girls teams in fourth place, and Mercer led area boys teams in fifth place.
Boyle County Invitational
At Millennium Park
(3.1 miles; 100 runners)
Team scores — 1. Madison Central 50; 2. Henry Clay 58; 3. North Laurel 59; 4. Wayne County 134; 5. Mercer County 145; 6. Boyle County 193; 7. East Jessamine 195; 8. Burgin 198; 9. Anderson County 212; 10. Somerset 217; 11. Danville 295.
Individual leaders — 1. Brian Carlson (Lincoln County) 16:43; 2. Garrison Burchell (North Laurel) 17:21; 3. Trevor Shearer (Wayne County) 17:21; 4. Griffin Sexton (Madison Central) 17:27; 5. Brennon Fields (Madison Central) 17:35.
Other area runners — 13. Austin Anderson (Boyle County) 17:50; 14. Bryant Qualls (Mercer County) 18:08; 15. Alex Beckerson (Burgin) 18:19; 21. Jacob Crowell (Mercer County) 18:37; 23. Dean Tyler (Mercer County) 18:43; 24. Eliel Lemus (Kentucky School f/t Deaf) 18:51; 25. Charles Holsinger (Burgin) 18:52; 31. Blake Durham (Casey County) 19:09; 34. Jordon Smith (Lincoln County) 19:14; 42. Jordan Woods (Mercer County) 20:00; 45. Taylor Whitsell (Boyle County) 20:11; 50. Patrick Leahey (Boyle County) 20:44; 51. Nick Beckerson (Burgin) 20:49; 59. Nathan Winter (Boyle County) 21:14; 62. Cooper Shearer (Burgin) 21:17; 64. Nick Fluty (Boyle County) 21:29; 65. Michael McChesney (Danville) 21:53; 68. Lex Burkhead (Mercer County) 22:00; 70. Taylor Jameson (Boyle County) 22:09; 71. Matt Wagner (Danville) 22:19; 72. Dillon Maynard (Kentucky School f/t Deaf) 22:20; 75. Mason Stamm (Danville) 22:46; 77. Matthew Calvert (Danville) 22:52; 78. Drew Dear (Boyle County) 23:04; 80. Jack Lammy (Boyle County) 23:13; 82. Clellan McMurry (Danville) 23:21; 84. Luke Smith (Lincoln County) 23:40; 88. John Yankey (Mercer County) 24:38; 89. David Gonzalez (Kentucky School f/t Deaf) 24:40; 91. Zachary Curtsinger (Burgin) 25:11; 92. Bruce Gemmer (Kentucky School f/t Deaf) 26:01; 93. Kendrick Dunn (Mercer County) 26:07; 94. Kaleb McDonald (Mercer County) 26:08; 96. Luke Cecil (Mercer County) 27:05; 97. Luke Shofner (Lincoln County) 27:27.
(3.1 miles; 67 runners)
Team scores — 1. Madison Central 25; 2. Henry Clay 57; 3. Rockcastle County 81; 4. Boyle County 97; 5. Mercer County 129; 6. Marion County 155; 7. Anderson County 167.
Individual leaders — 1. Alex Bunch (Lincoln County) 19:52; 2. Meagan Smith (Danville) 20:22; 3. Nikki Coffey (Boyle County) 20:31; 4. Julia Manning (Madison Central) 21:43; 5. Daria Ochenkowski (Henry Clay) 21:50.
Other area runners — 13. Taylor Gray (Mercer County) 22:42; 21. Cora Teets (Mercer County) 23:29; 22. Lena Hutchins (Boyle County) 23:31; 23. Kelsey Arthur (Casey County) 23:36; 25. Kate Leahey (Boyle County) 23:45; 27. Ada Benson (Boyle County) 23:50; 33. Allie Crowell (Mercer County) 25:23; 39. Tori Gray (Mercer County) 25:48; 48. Amanda Montgomery (Boyle County) 27:10; 53. Samantha Price (Boyle County) 28:10; 59. Casey Host (Mercer County) 29:52; 60. Delaney Overstreet (Boyle County) 30:13; 61. Daisy Brosi (Boyle County) 30:40; 62. Sanna Muhammad (Boyle County) 31:18; 65. Brooke Lawson (Mercer County) 32:18; 67. Abby Meece (Casey County) 34:44.