DANVILLE — For the third year in a row, Lincoln’s Alex Bunch posted the fastest time in the Boyle County Cross Country Invitational, claiming her third girls varsity title Thursday at Millennium Park.
But the victory could not keep the Lincoln senior from feeling a little blue post-race.
“It’s my last Boyle County Invitational. That’s sad,”¿Bunch said.
Bunch earned her 3-peat by covering the 3.1-mile park course in a time of 19 minutes, 52.9 seconds. The Lady Patriot runner was all alone at the finish, with second-place runner Meagan Smith, a Danville junior, crossing 30 seconds behind her in a time of 20 minutes, 22.1 seconds.
But the two race leaders were running side-by-side early on in the race.
“I knew I¿needed to (run with Smith) if I wanted to run a good time because I watched Saturday (E.G. Plummer Invitational), I didn’t run, and she ran a solid time. Her splits were pretty strong so I felt like, if I could run with her, that she could pull me through a fast time.”
However, because of Smith’s running strength, Bunch knew she would eventually have to break away – and that time came two-thirds of the way through the race.
“At the far end of the park, a little before the two-mile, is when I kind of moved ahead,” she said. “We started to split apart there and it sort of continued after that.”
Even as the gap opened, Bunch still couldn’t resist looking over her shoulder to check Smith’s position.
“I’ve got to stop doing that,” Bunch scolded herself. “That’s not a good habit.”
Thursday’s Boyle County Invitational was only the second meet for Bunch this season. But she says that’s about to change.
“With Junior Miss right now, it’s hard to get meets in,”¿she said. “It’s a lot more exhausting even without meets because I still have to run and then I go to three more hours of Junior Miss practice. But it will be over next weekend, and then it’s all cross country.”
Lincoln claimed a sweep in the varsity races, with Patriot runner Brian Carlson outrunning a field of 100 to take the boys title.
The Lincoln sophomore also earned his win without any real challenge, finishing 38 seconds ahead of North Laurel’s Garrison Burchell. Carlson jumped out to an early lead and never faltered, finishing the race in 16 minutes, 43.4 seconds.
“It was one of the easier courses. It wasn’t super easy, but it wasn’t like really, really hard like the E.G. Plummer one. But I¿really wanted a faster time,” Carlson said. “Where I had really nobody to run with, I just settled into my pace and wasn’t really looking.”
“I really need somebody to pace,” he added. “My first mile I came in exactly where I was supposed to. Whenever it came time for the second mile, I went from about a first mile of 5:05, 5:10 all the way down to 11 the second mile, which is about 5:50. That’s a big slowdown.”
When the time was called out at the two-mile mark, Carlson started paying more attention to his pace.
“As soon as I see the group of people, that’s when I start to pick it up a little bit,” he said. “It’s inspirational to hear. When I heard the time, I knew I needed to run faster.”
The time alert at the two-mile mark was more than enough to spur Carlson to victory. He cut his time over the remainder of the race to seal the win. Burchell, a senior at North Laurel, was runner-up with a time of 17:25.6, just nosing out Wayne County junior Trevor Shearer by two-tenths of a second, 17:25.8.
Carlson could have claimed an even larger margin of victory than 38 seconds had he not taken a slight detour off the Millennium Park course route.
“I actually took a wrong turn right before we go into the dog park,” said Carlson. “I turned left before I got into the area instead of going straight and that kind of threw off my time. There was a guy standing there and I’m like, ‘Am I supposed to go down there?’ and he said, ‘Yeah!’ So I had to turn around and go back. It threw my time off some.”
While Carlson hopes to add more wins as the season progresses, he says his main concern is just improving his time.
“I do kind of enjoy winning, but I much more enjoy getting a better time instead of necessarily winning,”¿he said. “By the end of this year I want to go to the Footlocker Nationals. If I can get under 16 (minutes) by the end of this cross country season, I’m thinking about entering the seeded race. If I win the seeded race, then I get to go to San Diego and nationals. So that’s the main thing right now, is getting under 16.”
Madison Central won the girls team trophy with 25 points and East Jessamine claimed the boys team win with 34 points.
Lincoln had a total of five athletes make the top 10 at the Boyle Invitational. Allie House had Lincoln’s best time in the girls middle school run, placing eighth in the 3K run with a time of 14:24.6. Katherine Rowe ran fifth in the girls elementary 1.1-mile race in 8:18.2 and Austin Wethington was ninth in the boys elementary race with a time of 7:49.1.