Good news, bad news: Bryant teams finish 2nd
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).
The second-ranked Bryant Lady Hornets cross country team was upset by the fifth-rated Lake Hamilton Lady Wolves at the annual Bryant Invitational at a jam-packed Mills Park Saturday.
Russellville swept the senior boys and both junior high competitions at the meet. Among the senior boys, the third-ranked Cyclones had five runners finish in the top seven to dominate the team competition. Bryant, ranked fifth last week, stepped up to finish second, besting sixth-rated Lake Hamilton, 10th-ranked Conway and eighth-ranked Cabot.
The event turned into one of the largest meets ever in central Arkansas, according to Lady Hornets coach Dan Westbrook. “An Arkansas Activities Association official who attended the meet said it was one of the largest meets in terms of participants she has seen,” he said. “There were 187 total senior boys, 176 senior girls, 110 junior boys and 109 junior girls representing 37 schools.”
The senior boys teams including five ranked in the state’s top 10. There were four top 10 girls teams among the field.
It was the first time the Lady Hornets had not won their home meet since 1993, Westbrook mentioned.
“We have no excuses for our disappointing team performance today,” said the coach. “We talked all week about how Lake Hamilton would be much tougher since they moved one of their junior girls up to their high school team. We lined up ready to race, but Lake Hamilton just took it to us. They beat us on our home course and in front of our home fans. They went out hard and we didn’t respond to the challenge. Today’s lack of intensity has me a little concerned about our team’s competitiveness.”
Beth Madson and Erin Smith of Lake Hamilton paced the field, finishing 1-2, with the Lady Wolves’ Patricia Bradbury sixth. Bryant’s Mandy Medlin was third with teammate Candice James seventh and Gina Messina 10th.
Sarah Butler and Melanie Steele completed Bryant’s scoring quintet. Butler was 13th in 17:24 and Steele ran a 17:50 to finish 20th.
Also for Bryant, Denise Whitworth ran a 19:11 with Melissa Robinson finishing in 20:46, Amanda Young in 21:19 and Amy Griffin in 21:27.
“On the positive side, we have not done any speed work yet,” Westbrook noted, “so we are going to get faster. Hopefully, speed-type workouts will help us close the gap on Lake Hamilton, because after beating us today they become a definite threat to stand in our way toward a state championship in November.”
The Hornets, meanwhile, continued their recent improvement. Though none of them finished among the top 10, they were able to group run effectively enough to garner second.
David Stafford was Bryant’s top finisher, running a 17:28 to come in 11th. Nick Taylor and Graham Linder were 14th and 15th, respectively. Taylor ran a 17:40 with Linder at 17:41.
Joe Holland’s 18:06 was good for 22nd and Cody Walker completed the scoring group with an 18:34 to finish 34th.
Josh Brooks turned in a 19:46 clocking with Ethan Thompson at 20:07 and Michael Parker at 23:33. Senior Chris Brewer was unable to finish and junior Stephen Heasley did not run.
“We ran well today to finish second behind Russellville,” said Hornets coach Bodie Nance. “We have made up some ground since we last saw them at UALR.
“Before the season, this team was not picked in the top 10,” he noted. “We’ve climbed up to No. 5 since then and beaten teams such as Conway, Cabot and Lake Hamilton who have beaten us in recent years.
“David Stafford is really starting to come around in workouts and it’s paying off in races,” Nance mentioned. “Our time gaps are coming down to 30 seconds between our first to fifth runners. We just need to keep working and believing in ourselves. We will not race next week, but we will see Russellville and (top-ranked) Mountain Home in two weeks. Hopefully, we will break up their scoring and move another step closer to the top.”
Cabot’s Chris Behrens was the individual medalist among the senior boys with Chase Feltner, Travis Feltner and Eric Brock, all of Russellville taking second, third and fourth, respectively. Russellville’s Jon Shirron and Brian Garner also finished in the top 10.
In the junior high competition, Bryant’s boys finished third behind Russellville and Cabot. The Lady Mustangs were fifth behind Russellville, Magnet Cove, Cabot and Sheridan.
Russellville’s Zach Lee earned individual medalist honors among the junior boys. Bryant’s Matt Arnold was seventh in a time of 11:58.
J.P. Snyder was 13th for the Mustangs with a time of 12:31. Thomas Howell, Leon Howell and Zach Roberson completed the team’s scoring quintet. Thomas Howell was 17th in 12:37 with Leon Howell 21st in 12:49 and Roberson 23rd in 12:52.
Matthew Wilder was the next Bryant runner finishing 31st in a time of 13:19. He was followed by Jared Dehan (40th, 13:35), Eric Bain (43rd, 13:38), Adam Moore (50th, 13:51). After that group came Derek Carver (14:11), Josh Wright (14:13), Paul DeGarmo (14:19), Kevin Bunch (14:56), Taylor Sorrows (15:39), Jeremy Neugent (15:50), Zach Melton (15:55), and Cole McAllister (16:45).
“The junior boys missed getting the runner-up trophy by one point,” noted Westbrook. “That’s just one runner out of our top five passing one opponent at the finish. We’ll see both Cabot and Russellville at the Russellville Invitational next week. We’re going to reach down and give them all we’ve got. I thought Matthew Wilder worked hard this week and it paid off today with a positive performance.”
Lyndsey White of Russellville was the top junior girls runner. Russellville finished with four girls among the top seven. The Lady Mustangs were paced by Jessica Graham who ran a 9:53 to finish 25th. Jamie Waldron was right behind her with a 9:55 clocking, good for 28th. Tonya Fowler’s 9:57 was good for 31st with Megan Bradshaw 33rd in a time of 9:58. Laura Mackey was the fifth finisher for Bryant, running a 10:12 to place 44th.
“I think our junior girls were a little intimidated by the huge field in their race,” Westbrook said. “We packed fairly close, but we were too far back in the pack to accumulate a good team score. Jessica Graham ran strong.”
The Lady Mustangs’ finishers also included Danielle Bush (10:20), Jessica Finley (10:26), Tiffany Smith (10:27), Britain Owens (10:29), Jennifer Long (10:47), Rachel Pack (10:51) and Felicia Russell (11:02).
“I want to thank all the volunteers who helped to make this meet work,” Westbrook mentioned. “We had over 600 athletes competing today and along with all the parents and fans who came to watch, the park was full. I thought the whole organization process from parking to results tabulation went like clockwork. I truly believe if you were at the park Saturday and saw the huge number of athletes competing you would agree that cross country is definitely alive and well in central Arkansas.”