Hornets 3rd at Lake Hamilton
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 — With an eye on bigger things down the road and running on a rain-soaked course, the Bryant Hornets cross country team finished third in a 20-team field at the Lake Hamilton Invitational at Oaklawn Park Saturday, Oct. 9.
The Junior Hornets, meanwhile, finally got the best of their rivals from Russellville earning top team honors with 52 points. Russellville was second with 63 and Lake Hamilton third with 119 in a field of 16 teams.
Though ultimately a bit of a disappointment because it was the Hornets worst finish of the season, the high school race was highlighted by an exciting neck-and-neck-and-neck finish in which Bryant’s Ethan Blakley finished third, just two second behind Rex Hamel of De Queen and one second behind Conway’s Raven Fuller.
Chris Robinson was Bryant’s second runner. His 17:35 was good for 11th with Steven Bright 14th in 17:59. Alvin Rapien ran a 19:06 to finish 36th and freshman Joey Fuoco, running his first high school race, jumped into the scoring group. He finished right with Rapien, 37th overall.
Those five combined for 90 points for the Hornets, just two behind second-place Lake Hamilton. Russellville won the meet, which included a whopping 223 runners, with 49 points.
“This was a tough meet for us,” commented Hornets head coach Steve Oury. “The course was sloppy from all the rain and we were a little sluggish because of some of the workouts we’ve been having. We knew that we would probably not have our legs completely under us for this meet, but at this point in the season we have to get in some good training. We can’t afford to rest up for every meet. Our main concern is reaching our conference meet and the State meet in peak condition.”
Andrew Linder was Bryant’s sixth runner with a time of 21:14. Will Wilson turned in a 21:17 and Jeremy Acord a 21:24.
“Ethan ran a very gutsy race considering his legs were very tired,” Oury mentioned. “Chris ran a solid race and Steven hung in there pretty good considering he has been sick all week. Alvin and Andrew were both not at full strength but Joey was very impressive in his first 5k race. He looked as if he could have kept going for another mile.”
The Hornets, ranked third in the State in the coaches’ poll on arkansastrackstats.com, will get a chance to test themselves against the top two teams Rogers and Fayetteville at the prestigious Chili Pepper Invitational in Fayetteville on Saturday, Oct. 16.
“It will be interesting to see how Russellville fares against them because I think Russellville is really running strong right now,” Oury said. “While we would love to go up there and run well, we understand that it’s just another meet. Granted, it is one of the biggest meets in the region in terms of the number of participants, but we’re not going to ease off our training for it.
“Several of the ninth graders are running in the Chili Pepper and will be running the 5k distance for the first time,” mentioned the coach. “We are using that meet to help determine who will make up the senior high squad at conference and State, where only nine runners can compete per team. Some of these ninth graders have a good shot at making the team, so it should be really exciting.”
At Hot Springs, Josh Harrison, Todd McAdoo and Cody Fiser all finished in the top 10 to lead the Junior Hornets to victory, which came despite Fuoco moving up and injuries to Ben Higgs and Tyler O’Neal, two of the team’s prime competitors.
“What a sweet victory this was,” Oury said. “We talked all week about the need for some other runners to step up and pick up the slack for the guys who aren’t running, and that is exactly what they did.”
Harrison was fifth overall with a time of 12:57. McAdoo was seventh in 13:05 and Fiser finished ninth in 13:15. Preston Adami and Zach Graham completed the scoring quintet. Adami’s 13:29 was good for 16th and Graham’s 13:53 garnered a 27th place finish.
“Preston had a breakthrough performance,” Oury said. “He has really been working hard so it’s nice to see all that hard work pay off. Matt Gray also showed a big improvement this week.”
Gray finished right behind Graham with a time of 14:00.
“The sign of a good team is the ability to handle adversity and these guys are learning how to do that,” Oury noted.
Gray was followed by Cameron Whaley (14:11), Ben Griffin (14:31), Danny Powell (14:37), Jeremy Cox (15:54), Trenton Palmer (15:21), Chandler Mansfield (15:35), Bryce Whitfield (15:49), Jacob Pultro (16:17), Dustin Waymon (16:50), Chandler Nelson (17:16), Jarad Helms (17:19), Nick Pultro (17:45), and Joey Battisto (18:07).