Short-handed girls teams find a way
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 — Despite the fact that they were without their top runner and conditions that were downright soggy, senior Brooke Higgs, the No. 1-ranked Bryant Lady Hornets cross country team paced the packed field of 14 teams and 148 runners at the Lake Hamilton Invitational held at Oaklawn Park on Saturday, Oct. 9.
Likewise, the Junior Lady Hornets, with three of their top runners running moved up to run with the high school team, closed ranks and forged a team victory in a field of 18 teams and 151 runners.
With Higgs out after minor surgery and Mary Edwards, usually the team’s second runner last season, just returning after being out since the first of the year, the Lady Hornets got a big lift from junior Jessica Sowell and freshman Nicole Darland. Sowell turned in a fifth place finish overall with a time of 21:13. Darland, running a high school race for the first time, finished right with Sowell, taking sixth in 21:17.
“Jessica just took it upon herself to lead this team to victory,” commented head coach Danny Westbrook. “I was extremely proud of her. I was also very pleased with Nicole. In her first race in high school, she responded well above my expectations. Her performance today proves that she can run with the best in the state and she can really help this team as we start into the big meets.”
Those big meets begin with the prestigious Chili Pepper Invitational in Fayetteville on Saturday, Oct. 16, when the Lady Hornets will run against teams from northwest Arkansas that figure to provide their chief competition at State.
Edwards, despite her long layoff, came through with a 10th place finish, running a 21:38. Chelsea Mansfield was 11th with the same time and Nicole Sample completed Bryant’s scoring group, finishing 24th in 22:48.
“It was great to see Mary running again,” Westbrook said. “It will take her some time to adjust back into racing but she is a very important component of our team.”
Bryant finished with 40 points. Mount St. Mary’s, a AAAAA-Central rival, was second with 64. Pulaski Academy was a distant third with 122.
Freshmen Lennon Bates and Amber Westbrook were the Lady Hornets sixth and seventh runners. Bates was 27th in 23:04 and Westbrook 29th in 23:09. Kim Bergen ran a 23:28 to finish 35th with Sarah James 39th in 23:47 and Sam Montgomery 40th in 23:53. Michelle Ford’s 24:11 garnered a 43rd place finish.
The junior high team was paced by eighth grader Brittany Hairston. Her time of 14:26 was good for seventh overall. Melanie Bergen was 11th in 14:37 with Samantha Wirzfeld (14:57, 18th), Sara Coker (15:07, 21st) and MiKayla Speake (15:08, 22nd) completing the team’s top five.
“Our girls really surprised everybody today by winning so easily after losing three of their top runners to the high school team,” Westbrook commented. “Four of our top six runners on this team are eighth graders.”
Bryant finished with 74 points. Monticello was second with 102. Conway White and Heber Springs tied for third with 123.
The Junior Lady Hornets runners also included Lola Fleming (15:16, 25th), M’Kenna Moore (15:20, 28th), Sarah Finley (15:35, 30th), Mellanie Johnson (16:04, 36th) and Martha Swaty (16:34, 48th). In addition, Sarah Davis ran a 16:54. Christen Kirchner a 17:53, Paula Barrientos a 17:56, Veronica Heatherly an 18:10, Tiffany Rogers an 18:16, Kimberly Womack an 18:43, Lori Williams an 18:59, Leslie Walker a 19:03, Taylor Henley a 19:06 and Briana Ginn a 19:44.