By GAVIN LAPAILLE
Gold Standard Sports Editor
Senior Redmond Johnson had a message for his cross-country teammates before the regional meet: don’t let this be my final race. Johnson’s speech must have hit home. The Fort Knox Eagles finished third in the Region 3A meet Saturday, sending the entire squad to state for the first time since 2004.
“When Redmond said this could be his last time running, that pumped me up,” sophomore Michael Haddix said. “I wanted them to make it to state.”
Senior Richard Thackrey, Haddix and Johnson were the top three finishers for the Eagles, with Thackrey placing ninth overall after finishing the course in 18:06.72. Haddix came in two spots behind in 18:18.71, with Johnson claiming 16th at 18:38.80.
Sophomore Austin Martineau ran 19:16.59 and came in 21st, and junior Andrew Junek rounding out the scoring for the Eagles with a 30th place finish at 19:56.10. Freshman Bryan Sivelle and eighth-grader Guy Parmeter also ran for Fort Knox, coming in 49th and 50th respectively.
Collectively, the group finished with a time of 1:34:16.92, totaling 82 points. That score was just good enough to edge out Kentucky Country Day and Louisville Holy Cross for one of the last two team qualifying spots for state.
Fort Knox head coach Scott Curley credited his runners for finishing the race strong. He said of the Eagles top five runners, four of them had dual sprints at the end, and all four won.
“You don’t realize how important those points are,” Curley said. “It’s not just the guy finishing first. It’s a team effort. That’s what I was proud of.”
The underclassmen said they were motivated to send the two seniors to state.
“It was probably the quietest meet I’ve ever been at,” Junek said. “Usually we’re all talking and joking around. This was just quiet. We all knew what we had to do. We knew we had to get these two seniors to state.”
Thackrey and Johnson have been with the Fort Knox program for four years, and both have qualified for state in the past as individuals. The goal from the beginning has been to get the whole team there this year.
“Through those years I always said we need to go as a team,” Thackrey said. “It’s great that we can leave that. Hopefully it happens the year after and the year after. We leave a legacy and that’s pretty cool.”
The team bases a lot of their strategy off Thackrey, who Curley said almost always runs his first mile the same. Thackrey said he and Johnson went out faster than normal, which helped everyone in the end.
“Based on all the anxiety and how pumped up we were, it felt awesome and normal,” Thackrey said. “That’s what improved our times.”
The team will now travel to Lexington this weekend for the Kentucky Class A State Meet at Lexington Horse Park Saturday. Thackrey and Johnson have run the course previously, and say it’s challenging.
“It looks short and flat, but as soon as you start it’ll tear you up,” Johnson said. “The wind blows strong when you’re running up the hills. It’s a tactical course. You have to keep going and try to finish with a good time.”
While many of the guys will be wrapping up their first year at Fort Knox after coming from other schools, they said qualifying for state with this team means more to them because of how they all get along.
“I know this team better and can relate to them,” Martineau said. “It’s a team effort to get to state and run together.”
Curley said the Eagles have no reason to be nervous heading into state.
“They’ve done the hardest part,” Curley said. “Now it’s time to enjoy it. Everyone needs to run their race and we’ll be fine.”
Girls. The Fort Knox girls team also competed in the Region meet, finishing in seventh place with a collective time of 2:03:10.54. Freshman Shannon Brown was top finisher for the Eagles, coming in at 23.5.52 and just missed out on qualifying for state as an individual. Freshman Taylor Stephenson, sophomore Vanessa Jackson, senior Chelsea Pfeiffer, sophomore Jalisa Fleisher, eighth-grader Nicole Kubica and senior Christina Rice rounded out the Fort Knox participants.
“This is the largest girls’ team we have had in a long time,” Curley said. “There have been many years when it was hard to get five girls to even qualify for a team score. The seven girls this year did a fantastic job of working together and getting better every week. For many of the girls, this was their first experience with cross-country. We could not be more pleased with their dedication and effort. We hope all of the underclassmen will continue the sport next year.”
Region 3A Results
3. Fort Knox
9. Richard Thackrey, 18:06.72
11. Michael Haddix, 18:18.71
16. Redmond Johnson, 18:38.80
21. Austin Martineau, 19:16.59
30. Andrew Junek, 19:56.10
49. Bryan Sivelle, 22:31.29
50. Guy Parmeter, 22:35.28
7. Fort Knox
31. Shannon Brown, 23:50.52
34. Taylor Stephenson, 23:57.91
35. Vannessa Jackson, 24:09.69
41. Chelsea Pfeiffer, 25:18.90
43. Jalisa Fleisher, 25:53.52
45. Nicole Kubica, 25:59.88
47. Christina Rice, 26:57.73.