Front row left to right, Lucas Hart, Elijah Miller, J.B. Terrill, Jonah Stanley, James Overholser, and Coach of the Year from Boyd County Becca Chaney. Back row, Caleb Bowen, Gavin Brock, Isaiah Caperton, Grant Chaffin, Aidan Dorsey, Trad Egleston, Bryson Hackney, and Caleb Handley. KEVIN GOLDY | THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
CANNONSBURG Isaiah Caperton left basketball behind and hasn’t looked back, except maybe to see how far behind him his competition was.
On a crisp championship Saturday morning, the three closest runners Caperton saw behind him were all teammates.
The Boyd County junior was the first of four straight Lions to cross the finish line in 1-2-3-4 fashion in the Class 2A, Region 6 meet. That allowed Boyd County to end Russell’s six-peat as region champion.
The Lions went on to place second in the state meet. Boyd County did it behind a coach who’d led Fairview’s girls to a state title eight years ago, a seventh-year-veteran runner who’d had oodles of individual success but never experienced a team region title, and a first-year Lion who never intended to become The Daily Independent’s All-Area Runner of the Year.
“I didn’t expect any of this,” said Caperton, a junior who completed his first cross country season at Boyd County after transferring from Spring Valley. “I didn’t even know I was gonna run for serious, I thought I was just doing it to keep in shape for basketball. But now I just run.”
Specifically, he runs fast. Caperton finished the region race first in 17:14 to lead the parade of Lions. Senior Elijah Miller was 16 seconds behind him, and Boyd County freshmen J.B. Terrill and Grant Chaffin came in third and fourth, respectively.
Those four all made All-Area, as well as Boyd County’s Gavin Brock, who enjoyed a successful season before fracturing his ankle.
“Whatever you tell (Caperton) to do, he’s gonna do it,” Lions coach Becca Chaney said at the All-Area photo shoot at Boyd County last week. “He’s positive. The only negative thing I saw (him say) is if he didn’t hit a time, he would get so mad at himself. He’s that intense on himself, which you can’t teach that in kids. That makes my job easy as a coach. And then when the other kids see that, along with Elijah and the way he led, it just was that year for the guys to be like that.”
Caperton also supplanted Miller as the All-Area Runner of the Year. Miller won that award in the three previous falls and shared it the season before that.
Miller didn’t seem to mind the metaphorical passing of the torch.
“I’m glad that we definitely have somebody taking my place and filling in spots,” he said. “We have a lot of good runners coming up to just keep the team going in a good direction.”
Miller, a six-time All-Area selection, said he doesn’t plan to run collegiately. If that holds, he’ll end his competitive career as a region champion, a distinction no one other than the Red Devils had held in Class 2A, Region 6 since Miller was in elementary school.
“It was pretty awesome for sure,” he said. “It’s something we’ve been working for my entire career, since sixth grade.”
There’s also a new Coach of the Year, who isn’t really a new Coach of the Year.
One or the other of the Russell coaching Cantrells — wife and husband Crystal and Chuck — had claimed those honors during each year of the Red Devils’ title run.
Chaney is Coach of the Year this season. It’s the first time she’s won it as a boys coach, but she was named girls Coach of the Year at least six years in a row, from 2006-11, and shared that recognition in 2013 while coaching Fairview. (2006 is as far back as All-Area information is available online.)
Building Boyd County’s program hasn’t been exactly the same as that job with Fairview’s girls, Chaney said.
She said the level of competition and effort at the top was similar in both situations, but Boyd County affords more options due to higher enrollment.
“Competing for spots, which always makes the team better, makes them work harder and trust each other,” she said, “and they know they’re all out there doing the same thing for the same reason.”
That reason was the goal of a podium (top-four) finish at the state meet. Boyd County did better than that after growing up faster than even its coach expected, she said.
“We’d go to meets, and we’d do really well, and I’d look at my assistant coaches and I’m like, I think maybe we are legit,” Chaney said. “We didn’t know at the end of the state meet because we didn’t have anybody (individually) in the top 15, so we were like, ahh ... and when (the results) said second, it felt like first to us. It was a big accomplishment, I felt like, for these boys.”
Boyd County’s second-place state finish was the second in as many years for a northeastern Kentucky team. Ashland was second in the Class 2A girls meet last year.
“You go down middle state, nobody even thinks of eastern Kentucky, and I think we’re starting to still put eastern Kentucky on the map,” Chaney said, adding with a hearty laugh, “It’s always good when we bring in eastern Kentucky teams and we finish high in the state, and all the other teams in central Kentucky are upset.”
Rowan County had three All-Area selections — Trad Egleston, Lucas Hart and Jonah Stanley. They finished ninth, 14th and 11th in the Class 2A, Region 6 meet, respectively.
For Russell, Tyler Conn and Jared Goodman each made the team. Conn, who has since transferred to Boyd County, was fifth at the region meet. Goodman came in 10th and was picked All-Area for the fourth straight year.
Caleb Bowen and James Overholser represent Bath County. Overholser finished third in the Class A, Region 7 meet, and Bowen, a third-time honoree, was fifth.
Ashland, East Carter, Elliott County and Johnson Central each contribute one runner to the All-Area team. For the Tomcats, it’s Aidan Dorsey, who was eighth at the region meet. Caleb Handley represents the Raiders for the third straight year after coming in 15th in the region. Lucas Ison, a third-time honoree, was second in the Class A, Region 7 championship. The Golden Eagles’ Bryson Hackney is on the team for the second straight fall.
The All-Area Runner and Coach of the Year were selected by The Daily Independent sports department. The team was composed based on the top 16 individual times among all northeastern Kentucky schools reported to MileSplit.
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ALL-AREA BOYS CROSS COUNTRY TEAM
Caleb Bowen (Bath County)
Gavin Brock (Boyd County)
Isaiah Caperton (Boyd County)
Grant Chaffin (Boyd County)
Tyler Conn (Russell)
Aidan Dorsey (Ashland)
Trad Egleston (Rowan County)
Jared Goodman (Russell)
Bryson Hackney (Johnson Central)
Caleb Handley (East Carter)
Lucas Hart (Rowan County)
Lucas Ison (Elliott County)
Elijah Miller (Boyd County)
James Overholser (Bath County)
Jonah Stanley (Rowan County)
J.B. Terrill (Boyd County)
RUNNER OF THE YEAR
Isaiah Caperton (Boyd County)
COACH OF THE YEAR
Becca Chaney (Boyd County)
ASHLAND — Alex Boyle. BATH COUNTY — Hunter Middleton, Taylor Purvis. BOYD COUNTY — Jake Crawford, Mason Simmons, Waylon Smith. EAST CARTER — Curtis Giles. JOHNSON CENTRAL — Isaiah May, Jacob Rice. ROWAN COUNTY — Jayson Ingles. RUSSELL — Carson Kidwell, Elijah Pridemore.