Hornets match Wolves
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HOT SPRINGS — The Bryant Hornets cross country team may not have notched their third consecutive meet championship but with each of their top three runners turning in personal best times and the team tying Class AAAAA rival Lake Hamilton for second, it turned out to be a pretty good day otherwise.
The Hornets, ranked fifth in the Class AAAAA, finished with 86 points, as did third-ranked Lake Hamilton, which hosted the event at Oaklawn Park, home of the Class AAAAA State championship meet Nov. 8.
Defending Class AAA State champion De Queen won the event with 61 points. (Lake Hamilton was awarded the second-place honors by virtue of the placement of their sixth runner.)
Meanwhile, the Junior Hornets captured a team title with what head coach Steve Oury called “their best team performance of the year.” The Junior Hornets with 68 points, edged the host Junior Wolves by eight points. Sheridan was third (88) followed by Hot Springs (118) and Russellville (118).
“We can take a lot of positives from this week’s performance,” said Oury of the senior high team’s effort. “There is no shame in losing to De Queen. Their top four runners can match up with any team in the state in any classification. Even though Lake Hamilton got us on the tiebreaker, this meet proved we can run with them and beat them if we run well.
“Some of the guys are pretty disappointed, but that’s good,” Oury added. “They expect to win now, so finishing third is a letdown. At the beginning of the year if you would have told them they would place third at this meet they would have been thrilled. Winning creates higher expectations, so we have to keep working hard to reach those expectations.
“Next week at Fayetteville will be even bigger than this week’s meet,” he added. “We will finally get to see the strong northwest Arkansas teams and also some outstanding teams from out of state.”
Bryant travels to the prestigious Chili Pepper Invitational in Fayetteville this Saturday.
The Hornets, coming off team titles at their home meet and at UALR, were led, as usual, by senior Bryan Ballew who placed fourth overall. His 16:40 was a personal record. Steven Bright’s p.b.-time of 17:07 was good for 10th with freshman Ethan Blakley topping his best time with a 17:10 to garner 11th.
Zach Roberson and Adam Schneider completed Bryant’s scoring quintet. Roberson’s 18:10 was good for 34th in the 241-runner event. Schneider was 35th in 18:12.
Also for the Hornets, Chris Robinson turned in a time of 18:36. He was followed by Tino Kretschmer (19:01), Zach Williams (19:05), Allen Trotter (19:51), and Andrew Linder (19:55).
“Bryan, Steven, and Ethan all ran excellent races,” Oury said. “I think all three of them will be under 17 minutes next week. Zach was very upset with himself after the race, but he was sick for several days last week and is still feeling some of the effects of the illness. He works hard and will be back to full strength soon. Adam Schneider really came through for us. He has had an amazing year so far. Chris Robinson is suffering from some leg problems, which is a real concern for us right now. He ran a courageous race for us. He was obviously in pain with every step he took. Tino Kretschmer and Zach Williams ran personal best times and will hopefully dip under the 19-minute barrier next week.”
For the Junior Hornets, Alvin Rapien led the way, turning in a fourth-place finish in 11:41 over the two-mile course. Ben Higgs (16th in 12:31), Tyler O’Neal (19th in 12:35), Jeremy Accord (24th in 13:00), and Will Wilson (26th in 13:02) finished the scoring group.
The team won the event despite being without Justin Hefner who was out of town. Hefner usually supplies the team’s second best time.
“I am thrilled with the junior high team for the way they competed today,” Oury stated. “To win a meet of this caliber without your second runner competing shows that the guys are really starting to understand the team dynamics of cross country. All of our top five today ran personal best times. Jeremy Accord really stepped it up this week. He was the key for us. Ben, Tyler, Jeremy, and Will all worked together to maintain as close of a gap as possible.
“Alvin ran a smart race and could have just as easily been second, as he was passed by two runners in the home stretch,” Oury noted. “He did what he had to do, which was to compete with the frontrunners and secure a top five finish.
“This win is a real feather in our cap,” he added. “Hopefully, it will inspire the guys to work hard not only for the rest of the season but over the summer.”