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Prep Sports Notebook: Villa Madonna cross country runners looking to build on last year’s success

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

Villa Madonna Academy cross country runners will begin preseason workouts on Friday morning with a new sense of purpose after the unprecedented success they had last year.

The boys team that won its first Class 1A region championship and placed second in the state meet has everyone returning. The girls team that placed second in both the region and state meets has to replace four of its top five finishers, but coach Brian Rapien expects them to be among the top contenders once again as well.

Villa Madonna senior Owen Kovacic

“The reason why I know that is because of the culture of our team,” Rapien said. “Our girls team and our guys team, we’re family. They don’t run for their individual selves, they run for each other. They know the standard every year is we get to the state meet and we compete for a state title. Some years are better than others, but every year our girls team and our guys team rise to the occasion.”

The top returning runners on the Villa Madonna boys team are senior Owen Kovacic, sophomore Ethan Martin and junior Adam Kolar, who all finished among the top 10 at last year’s state meet. But St. Henry had five runners among the top 22 finishers and won the team title by a 30-point margin.

“St. Henry had a better pack, for sure,” coach Rapien said. “We were more spread out and we’re hoping to fix that this year and run a little more together than we did.”

The Villa Madonna girls placed second in both the region and state meets, just four points behind the winning teams. The Vikings’ team leader in both of those races was Charli Gerrein, who transferred to Beechwood this summer. The three teammates who finished behind her were seniors who graduated.

“I have all the confidence in the world in our younger runners to kind of step up and keep us going and build upon the success we had last year,” Rapien said.

The first day of preseason practice for high school volleyball, soccer and golf is also Friday. Football teams started practice in helmets only on Monday.

Holy Cross basketball player going to Peach Jam tournament

Holy Cross basketball player Jacob Meyer has spent the offseason competing in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League circuit with the Indy Heat 17-under select team that qualified for the Peach Jam championship tournament.

Jacob Meyer

Indy Heat compiled a 9-10 record in four EYBL sessions that were held in Orlando, Indianapolis, Louisville and Kansas City and finished fifth in Division A to earn a berth in the Peach Jam that begins Sunday in North Augusta, S.C.

Meyer has averaged 9.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 19 games for Indy Heat while shooting 43.9 percent (62 of 141) from the field and 72.9 percent (35 of 48) from the line. In the team’s final game of the Kansas City session, he had 10 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals in a victory the team needed to clinch a berth in the Peach Jam.

The 6-foot-2 guard was a double-figure scorer in seven other games. At the Louisville session, he scored 18 and 24 points in back-to-back victories. In those two games, he was 17 of 23 from the field, 3 of 6 from 3-point range and 5 of 6 at the line.

Meyer was the leading scorer in Kentucky high school basketball last season with a 38.2 average. In June, he announced that he was opting out of his verbal commitment to Western Kentucky University and resuming the college recruitment process.

Highlands graduate qualifies for U.S. Amateur golf tournament

Justin Gabbard

Highlands graduate Justin Gabbard earned a spot in next month’s U.S. Amateur men’s golf tournament by placing second in a 36-hole qualifier held earlier this week at TPC River’s Bend in Ohio.

Gabbard carded a 7-under 137 total that was one stroke behind the winner. He had a 5-under 67 in the opening round and 2-under 70 in the final round of the tournament that included more than 70 golfers from several states.

The U.S. Amateur will be played Aug. 15-21 in Paragus, N.J. Five weeks later, Gabbard will begin his sophomore season on the Xavier University golf team. Last year, he played in eight tournaments and had the team’s third lowest average score (75.36).

In his final high school season, Gabbard tied for fifth place in the 2020 Kentucky state tournament and was named first-team all-state.


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