Bryant runners shine in final meet
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MAUMELLE — The Bryant Lady Hornets cross country team appears to be primed for a run at the top teams in the state after their performance at the Central Arkansas Christian Invitational meet Saturday.
The Lady Hornets put five runners in the top 10 to blow away the 12-team competition, their final regular-season meet of the season. Bryant’s 26 points far out-distanced second-place Mountain Home (71). (Though the Lady Bombers were without their top runner.)
This Saturday, the Lady Hornets, ranked third in the state — second among Class AAAAA schools — will compete at the AAAAA State Championship meet on the campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
The favorite at State will be top-ranked Bentonville, the defending titlist. Bryant is expected to contend for second along with a group that includes Fayetteville, Mountain Home, Russellville, Rogers and Conway.
Sophomore Gina Messina paced the Lady Hornets at the CAC meet. She was the top individual overall, running a 15:41.
Bryant’s senior boys finished fourth, just nine points behind the rival Conway Wampus Cats. Russellville took top team honors with 45 points followed by Mountain Home (53) and Conway (77). Eleven teams and 140 runners competed.
The Hornets were led by Graham Linder who ran a 17:27 to earn 10th place overall.
The Bryant Junior High teams competed as well. The Lady Mustangs, running without top performer Sarah Smith who was running with the senior team, wound up fourth. The Mustangs were runners-up to rival Russellville.
Messina took the lead early in the senior girls race. She never relinquished the lead and the quick early pace allowed her to get the best of Watson Chapel’s Amber Dean. (Dean had defeated Messina at the annual Bryant Invitational earlier this season.)
“I’m glad I had the opportunity to run against her again and beat her,” Messina said. “She’s a good runner. But most of all, I was proud of how our team did. Our ladies ran extremely well as a team. Melanie Steele and Johnna Harrison ran fantastic. I’m excited about next week’s state meet.”
Mandy Medlin was Bryant’s second runner. She finished in 16:37 to place 4th overall. Freshman Candice James, who has been the Lady Hornets’ second runner in recent weeks, was slowed by illness but still managed to finish 6th overall with a time of 16:59.
Usually, there’s a gap after those top three before another Lady Hornet runner crosses the finish line. But at CAC, Steele came through with a 7th place finish in 17:06. Harrison was right behind her at 17:08 to finish 8th.
Denise Whitworth finished 13th overall for Bryant with a 17:30. Brooke Sutton ran an 18:04 to place 19th. She was followed by Angela Garner (18:24), Smith (18:48), Whitney Hall (18:55), Amanda Young (21:08) and Amy Griffin (21:30).
Of the Hornets, Westbrook said, “I was happy with the overall team effort and, individually, Graham Linder had a great day. If we can put together a total team effort next week, we will surprise some teams at state.”
Casey Jacuzzi was Bryant’s second runner. His 17:51 clocking was good for 17th. Chris Brewer ran an 18:02 to place 20th with Joe Holland’s 18:16 good for a 27th place finish. Nick Taylor completed Bryant’s scoring group, finishing 29th with a time of 18:17.
David Stafford ran an 18:37 to place 41st. He was followed by Stephen Heasley (18:45), Jonathan Hensley (19:47), Matt Burbank (20:20), Jason Mazurek (20:25), Justin Cochran (21:14) and Chris Moore (21:32).
The Mustangs placed three runners in the top 10 in their final meet of the season. Cody Walker led the way with a time of 11:49. He finished 6th overall. Josh Wylie was 8th in 12:16 and Greg Prewett’s 12:22 was good for 9th.
Geoffrey Edwards and Steven Saenz completed the Mustangs’ scoring group. Edwards was 11th with a time of 12:32, and Saenz was 17th in 13:14.
“It was nice to bring a trophy home the last meet of the year,” Westbrook noted. “I thought Walker, Wylie, Prewett and Edwards ran strong today.”
Johnathan Tebbetts finished 23rd for Bryant with a time of 13:14. Jared Dehan was 26th in 13:42 with Cody Burton 28th in 13:45.
Joseph Ginn’s 14:03 was good for 33rd with Brad Denman a place behind in 14:07 and Zac Robertson 35th in 14:09. Eric Bain’s 14:17 was good for 39th.
After that, it was Mike Parker (15:14) followed by Derek Carver (15:40), Daniel Price (16:11), Adam Moore (16:42) and Scott Ramos (17:30).
Melanie Smith paced the Lady Mustangs with an 11th-place finish. She ran a 10:30. Judy Manna’s 10:59 was 20th with Jamie Waldron trailing her at 11:01 (21st).
Cally Short ran an 11:36 to place 34th and collect points for Bryant. Jennifer Pierce was right behind in 35th with a time of 11:36. And Ashleigh McCorkel was 36th in 11:37.
Jillian Lucas, Jessica Finley and Jessica Green finished as a group for the Lady Mustangs. Lucas and Finley were clocked at 12:00 with Green finishing in 12:01.
Brittney Boyer ran a 12:21. She was followed by Melissa Robinson (12:43), Lacie Sarlo (12:54), Amy Whitworth (13:03), Gracy Swaty (13:25), Courtney Fletcher (13:26), Rebecca Dixon (13:36), Reaghan McCorkel (13:55), Amanda Williams (14:13), Felicia Russell (14:23), Lindsey McConnell (14:46), Deanna Felkins (15:05), Sarah Carson (15:19), Ashley Harrison (15:42) and Haley Eudy (15:42).
“Our junior girls ran strong,” Westbrook noted. “But team-wise, we couldn’t overcome Sarah’s absence. I was really proud of Melanie Smith’s 11th-place finish.”
The high school teams will travel to Fayetteville on Friday to prepare for Saturday’s State meet. The boys race begins at 10:30 a.m. with the girls starting at 11.