Bryant girls pace daunting field to remain unbeaten
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RUSSELLVILLE — The power of pack-running continued to keep the Bryant Lady Hornets cross country team out front this season.
Against an imposing field that included six of the state’s top 10 teams, the fourth-ranked Lady Hornets placed all five scoring runners in the top 20 to remain unbeaten on the season.
Bryant finished with 63 points to edge third-ranked Fayetteville (72). Seventh-rated Mount St. Mary’s was third (111 points) in the 14 team, 129 runner Cyclone Invitational.
“This was a huge victory for our senior girls,” declared Lady Hornets coach Danny Westbrook. “Not only did we knock off third-ranked Fayetteville and beat four other ranked teams, we had several fantastic individual performances. Brittany Hairston and Lennon Bates ran great up front and Sara Coker had an awesome breakthrough race finishing as one of our scorers for the first time this season. Melanie Bergen and Chelsea Mansfield continue to race so consistently. You can count on them giving their all every Saturday.”
Hairston, a sophomore, finished seventh overall in a time of 22:16. Bates, a junior, was not far behind. Her 22:22 was good for ninth with Coker’s 22:48 taking 12th, Bergen’s 23:02 16th, and Mansfield’s 23:07 19th.
Other Bryant finishers were Nicole Darland (22nd, 23:16), Amber Westbrook (28th, 24:14), M’Kenna Moore (30th, 24:21), Sam Wirzfeld (39th, 25:07), Lola Fleming (43rd, 25:23), and Paula Barrientos (53rd , 26:09).
In the junior girls race, the fast-developing rivalry between Bryant and Lake Hamilton added another chapter.
“With both teams putting several runners at the front of the race early, it became obvious that Bryant and Lake Hamilton were the only two teams vying for the meet title,” Westbrook noted.
In the end, however, the Junior Lady Wolves thwarted Bryant’s opportunity to avenge the previous week’s loss, finishing with 82 points to the Junior Lady Hornets’ 99. In all, there were 11 teams and 132 runners in the event.
“Our junior girls ran good today but we seem to be chasing Lake Hamilton every week,” Westbrook said. “Next week we go to their home meet and it would be great to upset them at their home invitational. We may get Sammy Cyz, who has been out with an injury, back next week. She will definitely help us up front against their lead runners.
For the second meet in a row eighth-grader Kaytlyn Stracener led Bryant finishing 11th overall in a time of 15:10. Ninth-grader Karlee Porter also took a top 20 medal with her 18th place in 15:30. Ninth-graders Andrea Savage (21st, 15:50), Shelby Wyatt (24th, 15:58), and Kayla Randolph (25th,15:59) packed close together and finished out Bryant’s scoring five.
Other finishers for the Junior Lady Horents were Callie Smith (33rd, 16:17), Maria Christman (49th, 17:00), Sarah Cockerham (61st, 17:32), Natalie Graham (62nd, 17:32), Nikki Perez (65th, 17:34), Madison Smith (68th, 17:40), Amanda Martin (71st, 17:48), Allison Evans (85th, 18:30), Emily Pilcher (112th, 20:32), Ashley Johnson (120th, 21:20), and Mary Nance (125th, 21:55).
“ I thought Nikki Perez, Amanda Martin, and Emily Pilcher all had good races today,” Westbrook said.