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With a full moon hanging over the Grant County High School football field, the GCHS cross country team counted down the seconds leading to midnight as they prepared for their first practice of the season July 15.
“I think it’s really cool to have practice at midnight,” eighth grade runner and 2010 state qualifier Hayley Leach said. “It’s a great way to open up the cross country season and it has a lot of people looking forward to it.”
Nearly 40 runners, current and alumni gathered on the track for a two-mile race, pitting the alumni against the current team.
For alum Jordan Cummins, who lead the boys team last season to a 13th place finish individually and as a team, couldn’t pass up the chance to miss the GCHS cross country midnight madness.
“It is one of those memories you don’t want to let go of,” he said. “Now that I have graduated, it is hard to let go and it’s nice to hang with my brother, Jayden and teammates.”
Cummins is heading to Jacksonville State University in Alabama, to run on their collegiate team this fall.
“I have been running more than I have ever been,” he said. “I run about 40 miles a week and have lost about 11 lbs. since I began training.”
As the clock struck midnight, coach Marlon Kinsey began his 23rd consecutive midnight madness for GCHS.
“It’s just a good way to kick off the season,” he said.
Due to KHSAA regulations, fall sports practices can’t start until July 15 and the idea about starting at midnight has a UK connection.
“The original idea comes from the UK midnight madness for basketball and also from former cross country coach Barry Binkley from Dayton High School,” Kinsey said. “Binkley was coaching when I competed in cross country and when I became a coach I told him I was stealing his idea and he told me he got the idea from UK basketball.”
Anytime July 15 rolls around, Kinsey says he gets pretty excited to get started.
“I am like a kid in the candy shop,” he said. “I get excited when the last runner crosses the line at the state meet I am already preparing for the next season, determining what are we going to do and what personnel we will have and who do I keep an eye on to keep in the program. I feel we are doing good things because those that venture sometimes come back down the road.”
The alumni won the two-mile race, but with that challenge, Kinsey saw some positives for the current team.
“I was really pleased with Tyler Edmondson’s performance,” he said. “He ran a respectable summer two-mile time in the low 11’s and is further along than we anticipated at this point in the year.”
Getting out at midnight to run was no big deal for the runners, and Leach feels this speaks volumes about the program.
“It shows we want to start as soon as possible and improve on last season,” she said. “If that means we have to start at midnight to get better, that is what we are going to do.”
Leach will be looked at as a leader for the girls team along with sophomore Kaitlyn Howard.
“It’s an honor for me being an eighth grader and my hard work and determination,” Leach said.
Howard said she feels good to represent the team.
“I want to put them behind me and have them push me to go harder and meet their expectations,” she said.
With practices officially under way for fall sports, Kinsey is ready to get the summer miles underway and make sure the runners are prepared for their first race.
“We are offering practice sessions in the morning and evening four nights a week and then on the weekends we are just having morning practices to beat the heat,” he said. “I want all of them to know I am committed to them and that is why I do the extra things like midnight madness or potlucks with them. I am giving my time to make the best of them. I want to give them a sense that this is not just a team, but a cross country family, that we hope will become an extended family after they graduate from high school.”