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Rivalry between two of state’s top high school distance runners will resume at Ryle Invitational

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

The running rivalry between Ryle senior Tiger Bartlett and Covington Catholic junior Will Sheets will continue Saturday when they compete in the Ryle Invitational boys cross country race that’s scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. 

Last season, Bartlett placed first and Sheets came in second in the Division II conference and Class 3A region cross country meets. In the Class 3A state championship meet, however, Sheets crossed the finish line first with a winning time of 15:28 and Bartlett placed third in 15:44.

Ryle senior Tiger Bartlett

Sheets received the Gatorade Kentucky Player of the Year award in boys cross country after winning the state championship.

A few months later, the two distance runners confronted each other in the 3,200 run at the Class 3A region and state track meets. Sheets took the gold medal and Bartlett placed fourth in both of those races.

Last Friday night, the two runners competed against each other once again in the Moeller Primetime Invitational cross country meet in Cincinnati. Bartlett won that 5,000-meter race in 15:44, followed by two Ohio runners and Sheets placed fourth (16:36) in the large school division.

That sets the stage for their latest rematch in the Ryle Invitational on Saturday. Bartlett won the boys race last year on his home course, but Sheets wasn’t among the field of runners.

The two finishers behind Bartlett were Johnathan Christopher of Campbell County and Nathan Ruth of Brossart. They are both returning for Saturday’s meet that will have a $6 admission charge for spectators. 

Campbell County junior Olivia Holbrook

Ruth, the Class 1A state runner-up last year, won a gold medal at the Moeller Primetime Invitational last Friday for placing first in the race for boys small-school teams. His winning time was 16:58.

Teams are not separated into divisions for the Ryle Invitational so runners from small and large schools will compete together in the boys and girls varsity races.

Four of the top five finishers in last year’s Ryle Invitational girls varsity race are expected to be in Saturday’s field. The defending champion is Campbell County junior Olivia Holbrook. The third, fourth and fifth finishers in that race were Allison Kopser of Ryle, Maddie Strong of Scott and Lily Parke of Beechwood.

At last year’s state cross country meet, Strong won the Class 2A race and Parke placed second in Class 1A. The top local finishers in Class 3A were Kopser and Holbrook at 14th and 15th.   

The top two finishers in the Grant County Invitational girls race last Saturday were Strong (19:39) and Parke (20:24). That same day Holbrook placed 16th (20:00) in the Louisville St. Xavier Tiger Run. Last Friday, Kopser finished sixth (20:12) in the girls large school race at the Moeller Primetime Invitational.    

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