Hornet harriers host biggest Bryant Invitational ever
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
The annual Bryant Invitational cross country meet got huge on Saturday, Sept. 16. Held for the first time at Bishop Park, the event attracted the largest field of teams and individual runners in its history. In all, 36 teams and over 700 runners competed on the course which was laid out in the newly-acquired park located on Boone Road.
Twelve of those teams and 121 of those runners finished the senior girls competition but, once again, none could match the pack-running Lady Hornets for top team honors. With just a 46 second gap between their first runner and fifth, the Lady Hornets finished with 62 points to second-place Mount St. Mary’s 85.
In junior girls competition, Bryant also prevailed in a field of 13 teams and 142 runners. The Junior Lady Hornets finished with 74 points to second-place Arkadelphia’s 86.
“Our Sr. Girls team just keeps surprising me every week,” declared Lady Hornets coach Dan Westbrook. “They won both the OBU meet last week and our home meet this week by executing almost flawless packing strategy. We don’t have the runners that have shown they can run with the leaders of the race, but these ladies know that staying close together and working as a group is how to win team championships in this sport. Melanie Bergen really stepped up today and senior Chelsea Mansfield is providing outstanding leadership.”
Junior Nicole Darland led the Lady Hornets, covering the new course in 22:19 to finish ninth individually. Junior M’Kenna Moore was 12th in 22:33 and junior Lennon Bates was 13th in 22:48, earning top 15 medals. Mansfield, a senior, was 18th in 23:04 and Bergen, a sophomore, was 19th in 23:05 to complete the scoring quintet.
“It’s a lot different than Mills Park because we don’t have the advantage of the hills anymore,” Darland said of the course and the meet’s former home. “We still worked really hard and we got it done. It was outstanding. M’Kenna Moore really stepped up and Chelsea, Lennon and Melanie did an amazing job.
“And It was very difficult,” she continued. “My time was actually a minute longer than it was last week just because it’s really hot out here and there’s not much shade. This is probably one of the hardest courses we’ll run this year.”
Other finishers were Sara Coker (22nd, 23:14), Amber Westbrook (30th, 23:51), Sam Wirzfeld (40th, 24:35), Lola Fleming (45th, 25:00) and Paula Barrientos (59th, 25:55).
In the junior girls race, freshman Sammy Cyz paced the Bryant contingent, finishing fifth overall in a time of 13:16. Eighth grader Kaytlyn Stracener also earned a top 15 medal with a time of 13:42 which garnered an eighth-place finish.
“Our junior girls ran great,” Westbrook said. “Sammy Cyz is nursing some injuries, but she hung in there and did what she had to do to help the team. I thought Kayla Randolph and Shelby Wyatt both stepped up and ran great races.”
Karlee Porter was Bryant’s third finisher, placing 20th in 14:31 with fellow freshman Andrea Savage 25th in 14:53 and Randoph 27th in 15:00 rounding out the scoring group. Wyatt finished in 15:01.24 and Jessica Shepard ran 15:27.20.
“This was a great place to host a meet,” Westbrook noted. “It is all grass trails and the course is designed to be very spectator friendly. We had a lot of favorable comments from visiting parents, coaches, and athletes about the course and the hospitality provided during the meet. I want to thank all the many volunteers who helped make it a very successful day.”
The Lady Hornets will run at Rebsamen Park in Little Rock in the UALR Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 23.
There was a huge field for the annual Bryant Invitational Cross Country meet on Saturday, Sept. 16. Literally.
Because the meet could be held on the wide-open spaces of the new Bishop Park off Boone Road, more teams could be involved and it turned out that a whopping 23 teams and 225 runners competed in the senior boys run.
But not one of them could stay with Bryant senior Ethan Blakley who won individual honors covering the 5k (3.1 miles) in 16:23 despite the heat, dust and a deceivingly difficult course. Blakley finished nearly a full minute ahead of the second-place finisher, Cabot’s Nathan Johnson.
Unfortunately, Blakley’s individual performance wasn’t enough to lift the Hornets, who came into the meet ranked third in the state. Conway, which placed four runners in the top 10 and all five scoring runners in the top 15, took team honors with 40 points. Heber Springs surprised the Hornets by finishing second with 92 points with Bryant at 101 and Cabot at 109.
In the junior boys competition, Bryant took top honors in a field of 14 teams and 194 runners. The Junior Hornets accumulated 57 points to Conway’s 80 and Russellville’s 86.
“Ethan is just getting stronger and stronger,” stated Hornets head coach Steve Oury. “He looked much better than he did last week at OBU and ran almost the same time as last week on a much tougher course.”
“I felt really good, a lot better than last week,” Blakley acknowledged. “My training’s starting to come through. Usually, at the beginning (of the season), I train really hard so my time’s aren’t really all that good. But I work my way up as my training starts kicking in.
“This is a really, really tough course,” he added. “It’s been a pasture for a long time. This is the first year there’s been people walking on it much so it’s really thick, the grass is think and it sinks down. It’s a really tough course and it’s hilly and really hot.”
“We have several guys who really struggle in the heat, and it was definitely hot out there,” Oury added. “Conway ran a great race. They have three newcomers to their program who can really go, so we are going to have to step it up to run with them. Right now, they are the team to beat in this area and they will be the favorites when the conference meet comes around. We just need to get healthy, keep training hard and get ready for the UALR meet next week.”
Other finishers for Bryant were Todd McAdoo (17th in 18:33), Joey Fuoco (24th in 18:52), Cody Fiser (25th in 18:53), Josh Harrison (34th in 19:19), Ben Higgs (42nd in 19:46), Preston Adami (50th in 20:00), Brandon Mueller (74th in 20:41), Homer Coleman (83rd in 20:54), Nick Pultro (94th in 21:16), Remell Allen (99th in 21:28), Brandon Barnes (104th in 21:34), Kiere Marshall (114th in 21:49), Daniel Hall (117th in 21:58), Trenton Palmer (145th in 23:15), Ben Griffin (158th in 24:00), Jacob Pultro (181st in 24:49).
In the Junior Hornets’ victory, Jacob Clark led the way, finishing fifth overall by covering the two-mile course in 11:33, a new personal best.
Devon Norris also finished in the top 10. His 11:38 was good for eighth. Chris Dubose was 13th in 12:00 and Dillon Rhodes 15th in 12:11 to also earn top 15 medals. The scoring group was completed by Jacob Goff who ran 12:14 to finish 16th.
“That was a great performance by our junior boys,” Oury commented. “We had eight finishers in the top 25, along with two in the top 10. Jacob Clark and Devon Norris really ran super races. Chris Dubose, Dillon Rhodes, Jacob Goff, Austin Benning, Tyler Webb are all really stepping up. If we can continue to get a presence up in the front of the pack, our depth will give us a chance to win any meet we compete in. Hopefully we can make a habit of bringing home these first place trophies.”
Benning was 18th in 12:20 and Webb was 20th in 12:25. Luke Lindsley placed 25th in 12:33 followed by Matt Hill (34th in 12:56), Johnathan Chapman (35th in 12:58), Ian Russell (38th in 13:05), Kevin Nalley (45th in 13:19), Colton Branson (52nd in 13:30), Logan Howard (54th in 13:31), Ben Ackley (55th in 13:32), Wayne Hall (69th in 13:44), Ken Vega (91st in 14:10), Daniel Tucker (100th in 14:18), Ashton Arnoldy (109th in 14:34), Levi Lindsley (116th in 14:46), Nathan Breeding (122nd in 15:02), Spencer Arendt (124th in 15:04), Michael Ma (126th in 15:05), Tyler Nelson (127th in 15:07), Austin Kimbrough (131st in 15:15), Dylan Ball (134th in 15:20), Nick Love (159th in 16:49), Tanner Morris (166th in 17:25), and Travis Ferguson (170th in 18:02.)
“I would like to thank all of the parents and others who volunteered their efforts to make this meet a success,” Oury noted. “This was a great venue for a cross country race. The only thing that would have made it better would have been cooler temperatures. A meet of this size is quite an undertaking. The positive comments from other coaches, athletes and parents makes it all worth it. Coach (Dan) Westbrook especially has practically lived out at the course the last couple of weeks, so I know he was pleased with how well everything went.”