Freshman leads Lady Hornets’ stellar effort at indoor meet
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FAYETTEVILLE — Bryant freshman Kelsey Mitchell did not let the seven-million dollar Tyson Track Center scare her Saturday at the ATCA Invitational, nor did she fear the stiff competition from a five-state area that showed up to compete. Competing indoors for the first time in her track career, Mitchell scored 10 of the Lady Hornets’ 32 points and capped off her debut with a new school record in the long jump.
The meet began with the Lady Hornets 3200-meter relay team of Samantha Montgomery, Brooke Higgs, Mary Edwards, and Candice James making a dramatic comeback from a huge early deficit to win by one second over Jenks, Okla. Jenks, a nationally ranked program, took the early lead and at one point pulled out to a 50-meter lead, but Bryant chipped away to draw close going into the final exchange. As Edwards neared the exchange with James, she stumbled and the baton fell to the track. James quickly retrieved it and gradually closed on Jenks’ fast anchor leg and settled in just off her shoulder. Withstanding several surges, James waited until the final turn and sprinted to the lead right at the finish. Bryant was timed at 10:14.3 with Jenks at 10:15.6.
“Our 3200-meter relay team is undefeated in this facility and these girls wanted to keep that record going,” coach Danny Westbrook commented. “It was a gutsy performance and it proves you can never give up no matter what the circumstances.”
In the hurdles, Mitchell and Austyn Wingard both made the finals out of the prelims. They both ran stride for stride with eventual winner Whitney Anderson from Russellville until the final hurdle where Wingard clipped her trail leg and almost fell down. Mitchell held onto 2nd with a good lean at the tape with Wingard recovering to take 5th. Mitchell was timed at 9.23 and Wingard at 9.53.
“Kelsey ran a great race,” said Westbrook, “and Austyn was right in there ’til the final hurdle. She did a good job of recovering to get up for fifth. Both of these ladies have a chance to hurdle really well at the state meet and I think either one of them can win.”
In the jumping events, Mitchell finished 6th in the long jump and set a new school record with her jump of 15 ft., 2 in. In the triple jump, Jessica Norris leaped 31 ft., 11 in. to take 5th, with Mitchell jumping 30 ft., 8 in. for 6th place.
In the final event of the meet, running out of the slow heat, Bryant’s 1600-meter relay team of Britain Owens, Higgs, Mitchell, and Edwards finished 2nd behind Jenks with a time of 4:23.3.
“I thought overall we scored well against the caliber of competition we were up against,” said Westbrook. “Kelsey Mitchell had a super meet, and she is just a freshman. As far as the state meet on March 7th, when you take out all of the out-of-state teams and all the competitors that were not from a AAAAA school, we scored in almost every event. I truly believe we have a chance at another state title, but we will definitely have to score better in the distance events and our field event competitors will have to have a good day.”
The AAAAA indoor state championship will be held at the Tyson Center on Friday, March 7th beginning at 1 p.m.