Lady Hornets’ relay team wins at State in record time
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PEARCY — The showdown between the Bryant Lady Hornets and the Bentonville Lady Tigers in the 3200 meter relay at the Class AAAAA State track championship meet on Saturday, May 15, did not prove to be the wire-to-wire, neck-and-neck battle that most anticipated.
The two teams came into the meet at Lake Hamilton High School with the two best times in the state. Bryant’s foursome of Jessica Sowell, Mary Edwards, Kim Bergen and Brooke Higgs (three sophomores and a junior) had recorded a 9:52.3 during the season. Bentonville had clocked in at 9:53.8. But the two quartets had not faced each other during the season so it figured to be one of the highlights of the meet when the two locked horns.
But Bryant blew them away.
The Lady Hornets not only won the State title in the event, they knocked down a six-year old State meet record burning up the track in 9:47.6. Bentonville was a distant second in 10:01.41.
The mark topped the standard of 9:48.4 set by Rogers in 1998. That same year, Rogers came back at the Meet of Champs and set the overall state record of 9:42.6, a feat the Lady Hornets hoped to duplicate at Lake Hamilton on Wednesday, May 19.
“There are a couple of places I think we can shave off some time,” stated head coach Danny Westbrook. “So, I think that overall record is attainable for us. We’re definitely going to give it our best effort.
“The whole relay team ran great,” he added. “Mary ran the race of her life, and Kim had a personal best, as well.”
The Lady Hornets’ team title hopes didn’t not develop. Little Rock McClellan, a team Bryant defeated at the AAAAA-Central meet, won with 70 points. Bryant finished with 33 to finish 10th in the 32 team meet but garnered two State event titles. Higgs’ season-best time of 2:19.6 won the 800 meter run.
At the Meet of Champs, Bryant will compete in the 3200 meter relay as will Higgs and Edwards, who placed third in the 800.
“As the race developed,” Westbrook said of the dramatic relay victory, “Jessica got boxed in by some slower runners and subsequently gave Bentonville a sizeable lead going into the second handoff. Mary took the handoff with about a 20-meter deficit and charged after the leader. When she handed off to Kim, she had not only run a personal-best split but had caught the leader and given us a 20-meter lead, which we never relinquished.
“Kim also ran a personal-best time to extend the lead even further,” Westbrook continued, “and when she handed off the baton to Brooke, everyone in the stadium knew they were watching a possible state record in the making.”
“When I cam around the last curve and heard the crowd,” said Higgs, “I knew we could still get the record and I just kept pushing.”
Those in the crowd rose to their feet in anticipation as Higgs came off the final turn, watching the stadium clock tick off closer and closer to the record, Westbrook said. Higgs lunged across the finish line and the record was Bryant’s.
In the 800, Higgs took the lead from Bentonville standout Jessi Barnes with about 200 meters to go and pulled away for the victory. Edwards put in a dramatic finishing kick to earn third place with a time of 2:23.4 just ahead of Barnes who was fourth in 2:23.65 and just behind Lake Hamilton’s Patricia Bradbury (2:22.15).
The Lady Hornets might’ve had another title and Meet of Champs entry but for a fall. In the 100 meter hurdles, standout sophomore Kelsey Mitchell led most of the race but took a spill near the finish line. By the time she could gather herself, get back up and across the line, she had finished a disappointing eighth with a time of 17.7.
“Kelsey was really disappointed and the fall was very unfortunate,” Westbrook said. “But I was extremely proud of her effort. She could have played it safe and would have finished in the top four easily but she took a risk to try to win it and it just didn’t work out.”
The Lady Hornets also picked up points from Edwards in the 1600, Jessica Norris in the triple jump and Mitchell in the long jump. Edwards’ time of 5:38.4 was good for a sixth place finish. Norris covered 33 feet, 3 inches to place seventh. Mitchell’s leap of 15-11 garnered an eighth-place finish.