Lady Hornets remain best in Arkansas
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).
RUSSELLVILLE — This time, there were no teams from other states for the Bryant Lady Hornets to contend with.
At the Russellville Invita-tional cross country meet, the Lady Hornets underscored their No. 1 ranking by pacing a field of 12 Arkansas teams, placing five runners in the top 13 positions to easily win the team title.
In junior high competition, Bryant’s Lady Mustangs were denied a team title for the first time this season, finishing fourth. The Mustangs, meanwhile, were expecting a big showdown with Russellville and Lake Hamilton, but all three teams were surprised by Van Buren which won the team title. Bryant was third, besting Lake Hamilton by a large margin but finishing just two points behind second-place Russellville.
The Lady Hornets finished with 33 points. Russellville was second with 65.
“Our five scorers packed together at the front of the race and all five were together through a very respectable 6:10 first mile,” mentioned head coach Danny Westbrook. “Senior team captain Candice James and Brooke Higgs worked together throughout the remained of the race and finished third and fourth, respectively.”
James finished in 15:26, Higgs in 15:30.
Westbrook said that freshman Mary Edwards (15:48) battled the last mile with Ashley Dixon of Pulaski Academy and finished sixth overall. Jessica Graham (16:03) surged late in the race to hold onto seventh. Freshman Kim Bergen (16:33) closed out the Lady Hornets’ scorers in 13th.
“We ran a great team race today,” Westbrook commented. “Our strategy each week is to run together through the first mile and then hang on and have as small a gap as possible between our scoring runners. We did that pretty well today. Our first to fifth gap at the finish was 1:07 seconds and we only lost six actual places to opponents.
“I can’t say enough about Candice and Brooke,” he added. “Each week they work together and lead this team. They have finished in the top 10 in every race so far this season. Jessica Graham is just so consistent. You can count on her doing her job every meet. Also, our two freshmen Mary Edwards and Kim Bergen are doing great each week. I’m pretty hard on them and I think I forget sometimes they’re only ninth graders. Nicole Sample and Tonya Fowler had good races today. They continue to close the distance between them and our scoring five.”
Sample was 24th overall in 17:28. Fowler finished 28th in 17:52.
The previously unbeaten Lady Mustangs had one of those days where things just didn’t go their way, Westbrook said.
The Russellville Lady Whirlwinds put three runners in the top 10 to win the team title with 33 points. Pulaski Academy finished second (83 points) and Harrison (104) was third. Bryant finished fourth with 113 points.
With lead runner Cari Odle sick and out of Bryant’s top five, Nicole Snyder took over the leadership role and finished with a strong fifth-place overall (10:28). Jesse moved up in Bryant’s order to finish as the team’s second runner. She was 13th in 10:47. Eighth grader Sarah James finished 14th in 10:48 with Samantha Montgomery (18th, 10:52) and Mikki Eichenberg (22nd, 11:00) completing the top five.
“Today just wasn’t our day in the junior girls race,” Westbrook said. “I’m not taking anything away from Russellville, but we just had some bad luck things happen today that took us out of the race early on. I think next week at Lake Hamilton, we will be back in the thick of the team competition again. I was extremely happy with Nicole Snyder and Jessie Sutton. They really stepped up today. Eighth graders Sarah James and Tori Pearson both had good races today.”
Pearson finished 30th, matching Odle’s 11:21 (which was good for 29th).
In the junior boys event, Bryant eighth grader Ethan Blakley and Russellville’s James Roach battled for the individual title but Van Buren won the team competition with 55 points, finishing with five runners in the top 20.
Roach edged out Blakley for individual honors. Blakley ran an 11:45 to finish second. Chris Robinson also got into the top 10 for Bryant, running a 12:25 to finish sixth.
The Mustang’s scoring quintet also included Allen Trotter (16th in 12:54), Robert Graham (18th, 12:58) and Andrew Linder (22nd in 13:11. Ryan Hills was just off Linder’s pace, finishing 24th in 13:13.
“I was pretty disappointed in our overall performance as a team today,” commented boys coach Bodie Nance. “I thought Ethan and Chris did an outstanding job, but the remaining team members did not come to race. Each week you have to get yourself ready to race, or someone will hand you your head on a platter and that is what happened to us today. We will make a better showing next week at Lake Hamilton.”
The Lake Hamilton Invitational to be contested at Oaklawn Park, the site of the State championships to be held on Nov. 9, will also mark the return to action of the Bryant senior boys team which did not compete at Russellville.