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The Shelby County girls' cross-country team just can't seem to get over the hump.
For the third consecutive year the Lady Rockets finished fifth as a team in the Region 4, Class 3A meet. The top four teams advance to the state meet.
"We tried hard to find a reason why we didn't get in the top four this year, but we couldn't," SCHS Coach Slone Barnett said. "Caterina [Karas], Taylor [Webb], Janelle [Solinger], Lindsey [Miller] and Katie [Melanson] all ran their best times. That's our whole top five, I can't ask for any more than that."
Karas, a freshman who has led the Lady Rockets all season, put herself right on the heels of Sacred Heart's Emma Brink and nearly ran down the state's top runner, but had to settle for second. Karas was just 12 seconds off Brink's 18:22 first-place finish on the course at Seneca Park in Louisville.
"I was shooting for 18:30, so I was really happy with my time [18:36]," she said. "I was trying to catch her [Brink], but her legs are about twice the size of mine. I gave it all I had."
The Lady Rockets, who had reached a state ranking of No. 10 this season, knew it would be tough to challenge for a top-four spot in the state's toughest region.
Assumption won the meet with 45 points, and Sacred Heart took second with 48 points. Those two teams are ranked No. 1 and 2 in the state. Eastern, ranked No. 4, took third and Oldham County, ranked No. 10, finished fourth.
"With three teams in the top four and five teams having been ranked in the top 10 of [Class] 3A this year, our region can't be any tougher," Barnett said. "But every one of our girls did their part and everyone of them ran hard. I just feel like I let them down."
The Lady Rockets, however, did have three individuals qualify for the state meet. The top four individuals not on a qualifying team, also qualify for the state meet.
Karas, Webb - who finished 15th in a time of 20:04 - and Solinger - 27th in 21:08 - will make the trip to the Kentucky Horse Park this Saturday.
Karas said she'll give catching Brink another shot on the more challenging and hilly course.
"I'll try to go for No. 1 next week," she said. "I like hills a lot better - I think I'm stronger on hills."
What might have hurt the Lady Rockets the most in the regional meet is what wasn't in the race. Barnett said the team was missing three runners because of injuries who likely would have finished in the team's top five, and Waggener High School didn't enter the race.
According to Barnett, if Waggener had entered the race it would have bumped the number of team's qualifying for state to the top five teams instead of just the top four.
"They had a team during the regular season, so we're not really sure why they didn't field a team for the regional," Barnett said.