MURRAY — For second-year St. Mary cross country coach Christopher Henderson, it was a pleasant surprise.

Because on a soggy Saturday morning on a winding 5K path in-and-around the campus of Calloway County High School, his seventh grader Gabby Ault strode to a Class A First Region crown behind 21:22.65 — outpacing expected champion and 2020 runner-up Kate Keller of Crittenden County by a minute-and-change.

And not long after she crossed the finish line, did her teammate in sophomore Miranda Gartner clock in for third place, behind a 23:06.48.

It wasn’t the best times for the duos, but given the conditions and the circumstance, they were gutty performances in their own respective ways.

For Ault, it was her first-ever experience in a regional championship. Keller was clearly her pace car, and when the timing was right near the middle of the race, she gunned it and never thought twice.

“Usually, Gabby will come out around seventh to 10th place in every race,” Henderson said. “She’ll run out in that position ... and then work the whole race herself. She did come out hard (today), and ran a lot faster than she usually would. And the reason that I let her is because with (Crittenden County’s) Kate Keller, it’s all been worked up in (Gabby’s) head that this was her race ... the one she was going to win. And we knew Kate has a great first mile, so she wanted to stay right there and keep her in sight.

“Once she could tell that she was pacing just fine, Gabby knew she was going to pick up on the end. Within the first mile, we knew she could make the pass and gap it out the rest of the race.”

Asked about her performance and preparation, Ault’s answer was short — but mighty.

“It’s really crazy,” she said. “It was very exciting. There were a lot of sprints. 400’s. They weren’t that bad.”

Sprints seemingly did the trick.

As for Gartner, there was a lingering question as to whether she’d even run this race while trying to return from an avulsion fracture in her left foot — an injury best described when “ligament or tendon pulls off a piece of bone,” that sidelined her for most of the 2020 soccer season.

She’d recently returned to help the Lady Vikings make the 2020 First Region Tournament, and texted Henderson that she would, indeed, run this race.

“I’m really happy to be back,” Gartner said. “I was kind of worried going into it because I haven’t had much time to practice going into it. Or really prepare. I’m glad with my time and how I did today, but I wish it could’ve been a little better.”

As for her injury, she might’ve aggravated it on the course — a noticeable gimp as she veered off the finish line and into the arms of family.

A heavy price, but perhaps worthwhile, as she (and Ault) easily qualified for next week’s 2020 Class A State Championships in Bourbon County.

“It was bothering me today, and I hit a few holes while I was running,” she said. “I think I may have hurt it again, but I hope it’s not bad. It’s throbbing.”

2020 Class A XC Regional

Calloway County High School

5K Varsity Run

Oct. 24, 2020

Murray, Ky.

Boys Teams

1) Dawson Springs, 1:36:52.86

2) University Heights Academy, 1:36:01.30

3) Fort Campbell, 1:41:54.18

4) Livingston Central, 1:43:19.10

5) Hickman County, 1:42:37.32

6) Fulton County, 1:47:20.03

7) Crittenden County, 1:58:02.53

8) Murray, 2:14:31.77

Boys Individuals

1) Tomas Duncan, UHA, 16:44.37

2) Tobias Duncan, UHA, 17:46.03

3) Carson Kitchens, Liv. Central, 18:12.08

4) Ethan Osborne, Dawson Springs, 19:08.65

5) Grant Shrader, Fort Campbell, 19:15.69

6) Lucas Osborne, Dawson Springs, 19:22.22

7) Yosiah McCune, Dawson Springs, 19:25.71

8) Caleb Garrett, Dawson Springs, 19:26.96

9) Tyler Hale, Dawson Springs, 19:29.32

10) Brandon Quigley, St. Mary, 19:31.24

Girls Teams

1) Fort Campbell, 2:04:17.36

2) Crittenden County, 2:10:23.45

3) Murray, 2:13:47.88

4) Fulton County, 2:24:23.33

5) Livingston Central, 2:34:00.03

Girls Individuals

1) Gabby Ault, St. Mary, 21:22.65

2) Kate Keller, Crittenden County, 22:44.59

3) Miranda Gartner, St. Mary, 23:06.48

4) McKayden McClure, Fulton County, 23:12.69

5) Emma Cogbill, Ft. Campbell, 23:29.38

6) Alexandra Stearns, Ft. Campbell, 24:21.66

7) Jade Green, Murray, 24:23.31

8) Sophie Lacy, Ft. Campbell, 24:53.24

9) Leah Jenkins, Murray, 25:02.03

10) Marlee Riddle, Murray, 25:16.85

Follow Marlowe on Twitter @dreamarlowe85, call him (270) 575-8661, or email him at emarlowe@paducahsun.com.

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