Hornets make it three in a row
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).
By ROB PATRICK
Despite losing one of the runners that usually scores for them during the race, the Bryant Hornets placed all five scoring runners in the top eight as they cruised to their third consecutive AAAAA-Central Conference cross country championship at Mills Park on Thursday.
Ethan Blakley set a new record for the Mills Park course and captured the individual conference crown, by out-kicking rival Raven Fuller of Conway down the stretch. Blakley ran a 16:02 over the 5K course.
Josh Harrison finished third for the Hornets in 17:14 with senior Chris Robinson fifth in 17:20. Joey Fuoco was seventh in 17:23 followed by Cody Fiser who stepped up to finish eighth with a time of 17:25, taking up the slack after Ben Higgs suffered an ankle injury forcing him to drop out of the race.
Bryant finished with 24 points. Conway was second with 49, followed by Catholic (60), Little Rock Central (106), Little Rock Parkview (152), North Little Rock (158) and Little Rock Hall (162).
“What a spectacular performance,” stated Hornets coach Steve Oury. “That was a true team effort. Ethan ran a great race, which is what you have to do if you are going to beat Raven Fuller. We had several guys not only set new personal records, but some of them cut as much as a minute off of their previous best times. This is what we have been working for all year, so it was very satisfying to see the guys run as well as they did. I thought we would be very fortunate to win the race, so I never dreamed we would win by such a large margin. Josh Harrison, Chris Robinson, Joey Fuoco, and Cody Fiser did a tremendous job of pack running and that made the difference. I was worried early on when I saw the Ben Higgs was hurt, but the guys did a wonderful job of stepping up.”
Regarding the duel with Fuller, Blakley said, “Usually, the strategy is to try to stay with him because he’s always been really good. He’s finished in the top four in the state for three years in a row but I knew he was probably going to run off of me and try to beat me at the end so I had to take control of the race and if I don’t lose him during the race then I’d have a good enough kick at the end and I did.
“I went out pretty hard,” he continued. “Our first mile’s a little bit short and he doesn’t know that so I kind of used that to my advantage. It felt like we were going faster than we were. I just tried to keep pushing it because, usually, I’ve been slowing down the second mile. I have to try to stay consistent and run as even as I can. I did a better job of that today.”
Blakley credited a new training method the Hornets have used this season, saving their speed work until the end.
“The training’s paying off,” he said. “The past two years our training, it’s worked out where we peaked at the wrong time, in the middle of the season. We completely changed it starting this summer and it’s paying off. We keep running faster every week.
“I’m still surprised it wasn’t closer than it was because Conway’s really good this year,” he added. “I’m proud of the team. Cody and Todd stepped up.”
Todd McAdoo was just off the pace of the Hornets’ scoring group. He finished 13th in 17:44. Alvin Rapien was close behind, finishing 16th in 18:09 with Zack Orick 28th in 19:02 for the Hornets.
“We are going to try to take the confidence we earned from this race with us into the State meet,” Oury asserted. “We have to focus on executing our race plan and work together as a team. Fayetteville is the overwhelming favorite to win and Rogers is probably the next best team, but after that everything is up for grabs. If we have a good day who knows where we can finish.”
The Hornets enter the Class AAAAA State meet which will be held Saturday, Nov. 5, at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, ranked fifth in the state behind Fayetteville, Rogers, Bentonville and Lake Hamilton. Oury indicated that Higgs should be ready to return for the meet.