Lady Hornets roll to team title
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continueposting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
HOT SPRINGS — The defending Class AAAAA State champion Bryant Lady Hornets, ranked No. 2 in the state this season, placed all five of their scoring runners in the top 13 to dominate a 25-team field at the Lake Hamilton Invitational held Saturday, Oct. 11, at Oaklawn Park, site of the Class AAAAA State championship meet on Nov. 8.
Bryant finished with just 27 points. Host Lake Hamilton was second with 73 followed by Bryant’s AAAAA-Central rival Mount St. Mary’s with 130.
Meanwhile, the Junior Lady Hornets, running for the first time without their top runner Chelsea Mansfield, who wound up in the scoring five for the senior team, turned in a second-place performance, finishing with 70 points to Pulaski Academy’s winning total of 44.
The Lady Hornets, with a showdown with No. 1 ranked Rogers and top out-of-state teams at the Chili Pepper Invitational in Fayetteville looming on Saturday, Oct. 18, placed four runners in the top 10, paced by junior Brooke Higgs and sophomore Mary Edwards. Higgs placed fourth overall, running the 2.5 mile course in a blistering 15:27. Edwards surged in the late stages of the race to finish in fifth with a 16:10 clocking.
Sophomore Jessica Sowell stepped up to finish eighth in 16:28 with Mansfield, running her first senior high race, placing ninth in a time of 16:30. Senior Jessica Finley completed Bryant’s scoring group, placing 13th with a time of 16:53.
Sophomores Cari Odle (17:10, 21st) and Nicole Snyder (17:31, 27th) also contributed to Bryant’s team score by beating Lake Hamilton’s fourth and fifth runners.
“In a field this size and running this well on the state meet course, our girls served notice today that they are not going to give up their state title easily,” noted Lady Hornets coach Danny Westbrook. “Brooke just continues to get faster each week and I believe she will surprise a lot of people on this course at state. Mary accomplished her mission today of not having any place gaps between her and Brooke. I have to give Jessica Sowell and Chelsea Mansfield my MVP awards this week. Their time and place were just fantastic. Also, I am so proud of Jessica Finley. She just keeps coming through for us each meet.”
The meet was also marked by the return of sophomore Kim Bergen. In her first meet after returning from injury, she ran a 17:50 to place 39th, just behind teammate Sam Montgomery (34th in 17:43) who also recently returned from being sidelined.
“Just looking at race results from up in that part of the state, Rogers’ girls look unbeatable,” Westbrook said of the upcoming challenge in Fayetteville. “On paper, it looks like you could almost hand them the state championship trophy right now. But they don’t run meets on paper, and after our performance today I think we can be a very dangerous opponent.”
For the Junior Lady Hornets, freshman Sarah James stepped up to lead the way, finishing eighth overall with a time of 10:35. Eighth-grader Nicole Darland surged to take 10th in 10:51 and Lennon Bates turned in a 19th-place time of 11:14. Sara Coker was 24th in 11:19 and Samantha Wirzfeld finished 25th in 11:23 to complete the Bryant scoring. Westbrook noted that M’Kenna Moore (11:27) and Brittany Dunlap (11:30) who finished right behind Coker and Wirzfeld in 26th and 28th respectively, contributed to the team’s effort.
“We really had some girls step up today,” Westbrook said. “Last week, Pulaski Academy beat us by a lot more and that was with Chelsea running. I’m very proud of all of our junior girls. They work extremely hard every day.”