Bearcats Cross Country finds its stride at Elk River Trail Invitational

The Lady Bearcat Cross Country team proudly displays their first place trophy, after outrunning the competition at the 2022 Elk River Trail Invitational. (Photo courtesy of Coach PD Louzy)

CLAY COUNTY—The Grafton High School (GHS) Lady Bearcats found their stride, placing first in the 2022 Elk River Trail Invitational.

Because of GHS’s Homecoming activities, the Bearcat Cross Country program was forced to postpone running. So, to make up for lost time, Head Coach PD Louzy shared that he picked up the mid-week race, in hopes of keeping his runners conditioned.

“It was an out and back on a rail trail, so I told the kids if they were going to get a Personal Record (PR), this would be the course to do it on,” Louzy said.

And many Bearcat runners went on to do just that.

Running for the Lady Bearcats, Emily Viani took the lead from the outset and never relinquished it.  With a steady stride, she won the meet with an impressive time of 19:50.7.

“That was her first time finishing in under 20 minutes this season,” Louzy noted. “It was also a course record for this meet.”

  The next two Lady Bearcats to cross the finish were River Sipes (22:12.6) and Sophia Austin (22:15.7), who claimed fifth and sixth places overall.  

“Both of these ladies turned in outstanding times. River has been battling some health issues, this was a nice bounce back race for her,” Louzy expressed.  

It would be Natalee Cartwright (23:44, 11th place), Kevie Sipes (24:39, 15th place), CE Richards (24:59, 16th place) and Kayla Greathouse (27:06, 21st place) who rounded out the Lady Bearcat varsity runners for the day.  

The Lady Cats went on to claim first place, sneaking by Richwood by just one point, finishing out the day with 38 points.

“It was a nice race to have right before Big 10 and Regionals,” Louzy voiced. “The girls confidence should be pretty high right now.”

During the meet, Herbert Hoover finished in third place, followed by Clay County in fourth.

The Lady Cats also completed against Calhoun County, Roane County, Sissonville, South Charleston and Cross Lanes Christian High Schools, but because they did not field enough runners, those teams did not qualify.

GHS was also represented by Destiny Weaver (32:54, 30th place) and Ali Wilfong (35:56, 32nd place), who ran Junior Varsity at the invitational.  Louzy revealed that both girls have been improving every week. 

The GHS Boys put on an outstanding showing in Clay County as well, with JT Veltri leading the Bearcat runners, finishing in second place overall, with a time of 17:45.3.  

Colson Annon claimed fourth place overall, finishing the race in 18:22.5, and Bryce Isner also finished in the top 10, crossing the finish line in 20.02.6 and claiming ninth place.

Gavin Royce recorded a season best time, finishing 26th overall, with a time of 23:32.

“We get MJ Niggemyer back off from injury for the Big 10 Race this Thursday,” revealed Louzy. “That will be a big help as he was having a great season before getting hurt.  We are moving in the right direction for this time of year.  So we’ll see what happens over the next couple of weeks.”

 Although their performances were strong, the Cats did not qualify for the event due to lack of runners. They were among several teams who were unable to place, including Herbert Hoover, South Charleston, Calhoun County, Richwood, Tolsia, Sissonville and Cross Lanes Christian. 

With a team total of 27 points, Roane County snuck past Clay County (28), to claim the title of victor of the 2022 Elk River Invitational.

The Bearcat Cross Country Program is focused on their next two meets with hopes of outstanding performances once again.

“We’ve got the Big 10 Conference Meet tomorrow at Preston, and then we host Regionals next Thursday at West Taylor,” Louzy shared. “The kids seem to be peaking at the right time.  Hopefully it will show up in the results to come.”


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