Lady Hornets verify their No. 1 ranking
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FAYETTEVILLE — The Bryant Lady Hornets, already the consensus No. 1 team in Arkansas, proved their ranking accurate and then some at the annual Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival in Fayetteville. The Lady Hornets finished second in a field of over 50 teams from all over the central part of the country at the annual event, one of the oldest and largest cross country meets in the region which always draws college and high school teams from all over the country.
Bryant was the top Arkansas team, finishing only behind Ruston, La., which took the team title with 38 points. The Lady Hornets finished with 72 followed by Guthrie, Okla., with 83.
“With our second-place performance in such a prestigious field of teams, I think it proves that our girls team is one of the best in this region of the country,” asserted Lady Hornets head coach Danny Westbrook.
The Lady Hornets were paced, for the first time, by freshman Nicole Darland who finished 11th overall with a time of 15:30. She was followed in by a pack of Bryant runners. Brooke Higgs, still recovering from injury, placed 20th in 15:53 followed by Jessica Sowell (21st in 15:55), Mary Edwards (23rd, 15:57) and Chelsea Mansfield (25th, 16:00).
The race, which included each team’s top eight runners, had 214 competitors. Bryant’s contingent also included Nicole Sample who finished 78th in 17:00, Lennon Bates (83rd, 17:07) and Kim Bergen (103rd, 17:34).
“Nicole Darland just had a fantastic race,” Westbrook said. “She is showing tremendous strength and confidence for a freshman. As a team, we are still recovering from a few injuries, but we are starting to come together for the final push into the State meet. If we keep working hard and stay healthy, we can ride this wave of confidence all the way to a conference and State title.”
Bryant will host the conference meet at Longhills Golf Club on Oct. 28. The Junior Lady Hornets will conclude their season at the Wal-Mart Junior High Invitational in Cabot on Saturday, Oct. 30.
The Chile Pepper meet also included open races for senior girls and junior girls. In the former, Bryant finished seventh. Freshman Amber Westbrook garnered a top 15 medal with her 11th place finish. She ran a 17:16. Sam Montgomery took 26th in 18:03 with Michelle Ford (30th, 18:15) and Sarah James (32nd, 18:24) close behind. Cecily Davis finished out the scoring with her 117th place in 20:45.
In the latter, Bryant brought home the runner-up trophy despite racing without three of their top runners who are now running for the high school team. Rogers Elmwood won the meet. Brittany Hairston led Bryant with her 13th place finish in 16:51. Sarah Coker took 20th place in 17:17 with Melanie Bergen at 27th place in 17:29. Sam Wirzfeld came in at 43rd place in 17:56 with Lola Fleming finishing out the scoring at 51st place in 18:07. Also for Bryant, Mikayla Speake finished 54th in 18:15, M’kenna Moore (55th, 18:17), and Sarah Finley (74th, 18:48).