Edwards returns to lead Lady Hornets’ winning effort
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).
LITTLE ROCK — After sitting out the Bryant Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 17 with a painful shin injury, Lady Hornets senior Mary Edwards returned to competition at the UALR Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 24, and turned in a personal best 5K time of 20:34. Her sixth-place finish overall, paced six Bryant runners in the top 15 and, in the largest meet of the year to date, the team remained unbeaten, accumulating just 29 points to ease past Russellville (with 79 points) and the rest of the 12-team, 127-runner event.
Likewise the Bryant junior girls kept their unbeaten string alive. But it was uncertain if they had done so until the awards ceremony so close was it between the Lady Hornets and Batesvilles junior girls. edging Batesville 58-65 in the 13-team, 160-runner competition.
The teams are scheduled to run at the Russellville Cyclone Invitational on Saturday, Oct. 1.
“Our Sr. Girls only had a time gap of 1:14 seconds first through fifth,” noted Lady Hornets head coach Danny Westbrook. “That’s pretty good, but we still need to improve before the end of the year. I thought all our top five ran great today especially Mary, Jessica (Sowell), and Lennon (Bates).”
Sophomore Nicole Darland and senior Kim Bergen finished right behind Edwards. Darland was seventh overall with a time of 21:05. Bergen was so close, she was credited with the same time. Jessica Sowell was a close 10th in 21:11 with Bates 14th in 21:48 to round out the scoring group. Chelsea Mansfield was right there as well, finishing 15th in 21:59.
“The main thing is I ran pain free,” Edwards said. “That’s a good sign that I’m on the right track to recovery. I thought, as a team, we ran awesome.”
Amber Westbrook led the next group of Bryant runners, finishing 35th with a time of 23:15. M’Kenna Moore was right with her, turning in a time of 23:19 to finish 35th.
Sam Montgomery ran 23:43 followed by Sara Coker (23:50), Sam Wirzfeld (24:01), Paula Barrientos (24:40), Cecily Davis (24:53), Kimberly Womack (26:54) and Lori Williams (33:34).
A wild cheer erupted from the Bryant fans when the announcer called out that Batesville would receive the runner-up trophy during the junior girls awards ceremony. Batesville wound up with 65 points to Bryant’s 58.
Brittany Hairston finished the two-mile course in 11:56 to place fourth overall, tops among the Junior Lady Hornets. Eighth grader Samantha Cyz was sixth in 12:15 followed by Mikayla Speake (14th in 13:09), Lola Fleming (18th in 13:15) and Mellanie Johnson (19th in 13:16). Jessica Shepard was close behind the scoring quintet. She finished 22nd in 13:30.
“The junior girls race was very exciting,” Westbrook said. “It came down to one or two places making the difference. Batesville is a very good team and they will be after us for the rest of the season. I thought Brittany and Sammy did a great job up front today, and Mikayla Speake and Mellanie Johnson had awesome races.”
Also competing for Bryant were Catherine Fletcher (13:53), Melanie Bergen (14:05), Meredith Scott (14:08), Andrea Savage (14:11), Martha Swaty (14:26), Jessica Salyers (14:31), Christen Kirchner (15:24), Shelby Wyatt (15:30), Kayla Randolph (15:31), Michelle Goodson (16:01), Karlee Porter (16:12), Maria Pinkerton (16:15), Madison Smith (16:17), Kelsey Caddy (16:42), Hailey Walker (16:55), Tiffany Rogers (17:33), Courtney Hodge (18:31), Emily Gathright (19:10) and Alisha Gathright (19:31).
“The guys found out that persistence pays off,” stated Hornets coach Steve Oury.
The Junior Hornets had finished a close second in two meets and third in the previous week’s UALR Invitational.
Freshman Drew Persinger stepped to the fore with a sixth-place finish overall to lead the way. The Hornets finished with 78 points to Russellville’s 83. Lake Hamilton, Conway and Vilonia completed the top five squads in the 14-team meet.
Meanwhile, the Junior Lady Hornets remained unbeaten, finishing with 56 points. Lake Hamilton was runner-up. Bryant was led by freshman Brittany Hairston and eighth-grade Samantha Cyz. Hairston finished fourth overall in a time of 13:54 with Cyz in fifth in 13:56.
“I thought our girls ran great today,” said Lady Hornets coach Danny Westbrook. “Brittany and Sammy packed together and ran at the front today and I like that strategy. They can pace off each other and then go after opponents in the closing stages of the race. Lola Fleming ran strong today as well. Our fourth thru sixth girls packed well, but we still have some big gaps we need to close down.”
Fleming was Bryant’s third runner, finishing 12th overall in 14:37. Mikayla Speake was 17th in 15:00 and Jessica Shepard 18th in 15:00 to complete the scoring group. Mellanie Johnson also earned a top 20 medal, finishing 19th in 15:04.
For the boys, Dillon Rhodes was the second Hornets across the finish line. He was 15th overall. Danny Powell was 16th and Cameron Whaley 20th to earn medals. Austin Benning was the fifth scoring runner followed closely by Brandon Mueller, Jacob Clark and Tremelle Overton.
“We finally broke through and earned a victory,” Oury said. “After so many close calls I knew the guys were hungry to taste victory, and they did what they had to do. Drew Persinger was the difference maker for us. I have been preaching to them about how important it is for us to have a presence near the front of the pack, and Drew got off to a fast start and was able to hold his position throughout the second mile.
“Austin Benning, who is usually our frontrunner, hurt his right hamstring early in the race and gave a heroic effort to hang in there and help us,” Oury noted. “Hopefully he’ll be okay for next week’s race at Lake Hamilton. I’m very proud of all of these guys. They gave a great effort and hopefully this won’t be the last time we bring home the first place trophy.”
The Lake Hamilton Invitational will be run at Oaklawn Park, site of the Class AAAAA State Championships. All four Bryant teams will be competing.