LEXINGTON — Conner O’Shea watched as his sister, Ciara, blew past the field on Saturday to win her second-straight Kentucky High School Athletic Association Class 3A State cross country title.
The freshman went to the front of the field at the start of the race — as she usually does — and quickly took a dominating lead.
Conner wanted to do the same thing.
“It works out for her, so I thought I’d give it a shot,” Conner said.
That’s not normally his style.
In his last high school race, though, he wanted to take a shot at a championship.
“We had a strategy. We went for it and it worked,” Central coach James Mutuse said.
It worked to perfection.
Conner took the course a few minutes after his sister and pushed out to the front of the field early on. With the help of teammate Brady Masters, the senior took the lead just before the mid-point of the race and pulled away from the field.
The senior posted a time of 15:50.60 to claim his first state title. Masters, a sophomore, used an impressive late kick to take second place with a time of 16:02.58.
“I just wanted to stay confident and stick to my training,” Conner said. “I knew it was going to pay off.”
It was a historic performance.
The O’Shea are the first siblings to ever win KHSAA individual cross country state championships in the same season.
It was a special moment for the entire family.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Jamie King O’Shea, Conner and Ciara’s mother and a former All-American runner at EKU. “It’s something that I know they’ve had in their minds since last year. I think they just executed the plan well, from when it started last summer to here today.”
Led by Conner and Brady Masters, the Indians finished fourth in the team standings. Senior Kyler Stewart was 26th in a time of 16:47.02.
Junior Wesley Stokes (17:33.68) was 81st. Sophomore Marcus Hutchinson (17:38.92) was 97th. Junior Noah Halloran (17:52.70) was 115th and Austin Jacobson (18:23.48) was 183rd.
The Lady Indians finished 18th in the team standings.
Eighth-grader Amilya Reynolds took 80th in a time of 21:16.92. Seventh-grader Jamie Gugel (21:27.98) was 94th. Meredith Campbell (23:04.68) was 193rd. Audrey Jacobson (24:13.17) was 243rd. Diana Tabor (25:12.36) was 267th and Kaley Boyd (28:01.45) was 284th.
“These kids have such great discipline — and not just the O’Sheas,” Mutuse said. “They all work hard. They are so disciplined. It sends a message. If you work hard, you will be rewarded.”
Ciara was rewarded with another championship.
The freshman had won every in-state race she had entered this season and didn’t really face any real competition on Saturday at the Kentucky Horse Park.
Jessica Secor of Manual stayed within striking distance for a while, but by the mid-point of the race, Ciara (18:29.42) already had a huge lead.
“I didn’t go out too hard,” Ciara said. “I was waiting to see if anyone would go out with me. One (runner) came out with me for a while, so I just stayed there until I got a feel for the course and the wind. Once I had that feel, I just went.”
Ciara said last year she was surprised to win a state title as an eighth-grader.
This time around, she was cautiously confident.
“I was hoping. I hadn’t raced against some of the competitors,” Ciara said. “I had seen some people’s times drop pretty significantly. I was ready for anything.”
Secor finished as the state runner-up. The freshman was more than 40 seconds behind Ciara.
Conner didn’t pull away from the field as quickly as his sister, but was at the front of the pack from the start.
After finishing 13th at the state meet last season, the senior started to pull away about the mid-way point this year. As he headed up the final stretch, no other competitor could be seen behind Conner.
“I heard my coach say, ‘50 feet back,’ at one point.” Conner said. “Until then, I knew I just had to keep going.”
Masters was in fifth place near the mid-way point of the race and surged up the standings at the end.
Ryan O’Dea of Trinity was third and Jackson Watts of Madisonville was fourth.
The pair of titles for the O’Shea siblings gives Madison Central four state titles in the past six years — Ciara O’Shea (2018, 2019), Conner O’Shea (2019) and Brennan Fields (2014).
“It’s amazing, really. Just amazing,” Conner said.
Two local runners qualified to compete in the KHSAA Class A State Championship on Saturday in Lexington.
Model junior Colton Collier posted a time of 19:00.45 and finished 85th, while Berea Community seventh-grader Sawyer Bailey (20:06.93) finished 175th.