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Bardstown opens its 2014 cross country season with a new coach on board, but without one of the top runners in school history.
But coach Josh Hartlage is hoping his team can move on from the departure of Brandon Price — now running for St. Catharine College’s squad — and possibly find the next great runner to emerge from the ranks.
“It’s been quite an adjustment” taking over as coach, said Hartlage, who ran for Butler High School and spent last season coaching the middle-schoolers in track and cross country. “It’s going to be tough to replace somebody who runs sub-17:00 in a 5K.”
And while he doesn’t have the number of runners he might have competed with at 3A Butler, there’s no lack of interest in the Bardstown program, which has 20 kids out in high school and another 20 middle-schoolers to help out with building depth.
“Our young guns look real promising,” Hartlage said.
Senior Joseph Upson, one of the leaders of the boys’ squad along with classmate Carlos Sustaita, agrees.
“It’s looking good,” Upson said. “We’re just worried about getting to state. That’s our goal.”
Price was the Tigers’ lone representative at state last year, Bardstown’s first year in Class 2A. In the final season in 1A, Bardstown’s boys qualified for the state meet, but only junior Josue Sanchez and sophomore Tad Scyphers remains from that squad.
Sophomore Erick Sanchez — Josue’s brother — will play a big role, and Hartlage said he’d be leaning heavily on Upson and Sustaita.
“We’re looking for a lot from them,” he said.
On the girls’ side, the roster bears a lot of resemblance to the Tigers’ soccer roster. Senior Katie Sidebottom has been one of the Tigers’ most consistent runners over the years, despite splitting time with the soccer squad. She qualified for an individual state berth as a freshman, and heads up a large contingent of soccer players. In fact, just one of the girls on the cross country squad — freshman Lauren Roby, who will be counted on heavily — is not playing soccer. Eighth-graders Lily King and Ashley Zizzo will also play big roles.
Hartlage said the upperclassmen have embraced the leadership roles thrust upon them, taking the youngsters under their wing as they search for the depth to get the team qualified for a state berth again.
“We’re pushing hard in practice and practicing as much as we can,” said Upson, who admitted the hot, humid weather recently has made things difficult for the team, if not himself. “I actually do like it hot. If I can run it in a blazing heat, I can definitely run it when it’s cold.”
Of course, the cold is the big feature of the end of the season, when temperatures dip in time for November’s region and state meets. Hartlage hopes his team is ready when that time comes, and he likes what he sees so far.
“It’s just a hard-working team,” he said. “We’ve got great leadership.”