Highlands first-year head coach Brian Alessandro wasn't convinced that this was a rebuilding year for the girls' track team, even though the Bluebirds were short on seniors and missing some key components due to injury.
"We only had four seniors returning and everybody else was 10th grade or below," said Alessandro, who also lost multi-event performer Ava Abner to an off-season knee injury. "I thought we were pretty good but we had to make up for a lot of points.
On Monday, the Bluebirds will make space for another championship trophy inside the school's overflowing cases. They confirmed their coach's belief on Saturday at Harrison County and won a fifth straight Class 2A girls' regional crown.
"It's nice. We really wanted to win our regional," said eighth-grade distance runner Lauren Ossege, who won individual titles in the 1600- and 3,200-meter races.
Bluebird Kelsey Etherton was victorious in the 800 meters. Highlands' relay teams won three of four races - the 400, 800 and 3,200 - and placed second in the 1,600.
The Bluebirds totaled 167 points while outdistancing runner-up Western Hills (131) and third-place Lloyd (71), which received a win by Carol Ray in the pole vault.
Key second-place finishes helped Highlands pile up points. Isabelle Ison was runner-up in the pole vault and Hannah Schenck was second in the high jump. Lisa Patterson finished second in the triple jump and Maria Weyer was second in the 100 meters. Alyssa Farley (1,600) and Frances Tracy (3,200) also nailed down state berths with runner-up finishes.
The top two individual finishers and 10 at-large entries in each event qualify for Friday's state meet in Louisville.
"Our seniors did a great job leading us in their last regional. Nearly everybody ran a personal-best," Alessandro said of Weyer, Patterson, Shelby Tully and Sydney Watson. Tully and Watson were part of winning relay teams and Watson had top-three finishes in the 100 and 300 hurdles. "We knew we had a young team, but we also have some great seniors."
Covington Catholic, which got a win in the 400 relay, was the highest local boys' placer at Harrison County with a third-place finish. The Colonels (76 points) finished well back of the host Thorobreds (126).
Lloyd (53 points) finished fourth and received three individual wins by Tyler Bray, who is going to state in four events. He won the high jump (6 feet, 4 inches), long jump (21-8) and 110 hurdles (14.93 seconds). Bray was second in the 100 meters with a time of 11.44. The Juggernauts' Dylan Withers won the pole vault.
Highlands' boys placed sixth in the final team standings with 46 points.