In addition to the men's team qualifying, the Cougar girls had one individual qualifier. Senior Julie Dudgeon ran her best race of the season to make it to Lexington as one of the seven individuals who posted the best times from non-qualifying teams.
The Cougar men finished behind first place Saint Xavier (32 points) and second place Butler (65 points), both of whom are from the Louisville area. The Cougars finished with 111 points to edge out fourth-place DuPont Manual, who scored 116 points. Not qualifying this year were North Hardin (fifth place with 119 points) and Central Hardin (sixth with 137), two teams which are traditionally strong in the region and who usually give the Cougars fits.
Coach Anthony Miller said he was confident before the start of the 5,000-meter race that his boys could very well qualify if they stepped up their performances and ran personal bests, and that's exactly what they did.
Junior George Canter, who was an individual qualifier last year's state meet, was the first Cougar across the line, finishing 11th overall in a time of 16:14. Senior Jason Dudgeon was not far behind, coming in 18th in a time of 16:38. Senior Jordan Barrett was the third Cougar to break the 17-minute mark as he crossed the line in 16:41 to grab 20th position.
Josh Pawley crossed the line in 27th place with a time of 17:05, while Mark Bass was the last Cougar runner in point-scoring position, finishing 35th overall in a time of 17:20. Wes Gift finished in 52nd place in 18:22, and Joe Phelps was the final Cougar across the line, finishing 64th overall in a time of 19:58.
"This team showed a progressive commitment, with a determined work ethic to give it their all every day in practice," Miller said of his team. "I think that is what got them their third-place victory."
For the girls team, Dudgeon's qualifying run was an upbeat ending for a frustrating, injury-plagued season. Even in the regional final, the Lady Cougars could send just five runners to the line, the minimum number to qualify for a team score.
"This has been a very tough year for the girls," said head coach Charlie Haak. "We've had a lot of injuries and I think we only had four races where we had the minimum five runners."
The Lady Cougars finished a respectible seventh with a total of 162 points. North Hardin's girls finished in first with 30 points, folowed by Manual (53 points), Butler (109 points), and Pleasure Ridge Park (116 points). Central Hardin (137) and Meade County (138) finished ahead of the Lady Cougars in non-qualifying positions.
Dudgeon finished in 21st place overall in a time of 21:21 that made her the seventh, and last, individual qualifier.
"I ran my heart out," Julie said, "because as a senior, I wanted to finish by going to the state."
April Decker was the next Lady Cougar to cross the line, finishing 28th overall with a time of 21:53. Brittany Robison was 30th in 21:58, Brooke Hack was 41st in 23:13, and Tiffany Canter finished 52nd in 24:56.
The Class AAA Championships will kick off this coming Saturday beginning with the girls race at 12:30 p.m. Central Time at the Horse Park. The boys race will follow 45 minutes later.
"We have one week to focus on the state race and we hope that it all goes well for our team and for Julie," Miller said.