ARKANSAS STATE MEET PREVIEW
November 6, 2002
The 2002 edition of the Arkansas State Cross Country Meets once again returns to the race track at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs National Park on Saturday, November 9. Oaklawn, the home of first-rate thoroughbred horse racing each spring, provides a scenic grass course with rolling hills amid the backdrop of the towering grandstands. The course features a loop course that is fan-friendly and a combination of short hills, turns and long straight-aways. If the weather cooperates, a day of fast times could be in the offing.
Cross country Arkansas style can be viewed in two sharp segments. First, the largest 32 schools that are in Class 5A bring teams to the meet that are known quantities and fierce competitors fighting for both state-wide and regional bragging rights. These schools dominate the ArkansasTrackStats Top 100 in both the Boys and Girls. For instance, both in the Girls and Boys about 75% of the Top 50 are from 5A schools. Second, all the other classifications often bring complete surprises that is possible in a sport where 1-2 runners can take a team from the bottom to the top, and vice versa. A school that can muster depth in their 4th and 5th positions can often rise from obscurity to a championship. This year is no different.
While much of the fan attention is placed on individual races, the team races almost always are decided by the 4th-5th runners and occasionally by the 6th place as a tie-breaker. Teams with long winning traditions have a knack for putting together depth that can go a long way toward negating other’s top athletes.
GIRLS INDIVIDUAL RACES
The Girls 5A race promises to be a dandy as Beth Madson of Lake Hamilton and Ashley Williams of Little Rock Mount St. Mary’s have dominated this fall. Williams commanded the early attention as she literally ran away with races while achieving a season best of 14:28 for 2.5 miles at the Bob Gravette Invitational at Arkadelphia in early September over the mostly flat and fast course. Williams took a convincing win over Madson on that warm morning. Meanwhile, Madson has steadily gotten stronger and turned in an outstanding 14:37 for 4K at the more ambitious Chile Pepper in Fayetteville in late October. This could be one of the better races in recent years. Behind the leaders a pack of talented young runners who have all run under 15:30 for 4K during the season, including: Jessi Barnes of Bentonville (15:05), Andrea Peerson of Rogers (15:10), Patricia Bradbury of Lake Hamilton (15:12), Niki Williams of Fayetteville (15:24) and Candice James of Bryant (15:27). Barnes, Peerson and James are more apt to push the early pace and build leads while Bradbury and Williams have ferocious kicks reflecting their 800m track speed. Behind this group is another wave of 6-7 at 16:00 or under. The finish should be exciting.
In Class 4A a quartet of runners seemed primed to race for the win. Tia Young of Harrison has the fastest 4K time of the season with a 15:41 at Chile Pepper with Kazmyn Bailey of Vilonia (16:02, Bob Gravette), Hayden Wood of Marion (16:08, Bob Courtway) and Dianne Miller of Siloam Springs (16:10, Chile Pepper) next in line.
Class 3A features Ashley Dixon of Pulaski Academy with a seasonal best of 15:49 at the Cyclone Invite. Dixon won last year’s 2A while running for Harding Academy so she knows how to race from the front. Jessica Neely of DeQueen has the next best time at 16:18 (Bob Gravette) while Dover’s Megan Metz at 16:40 (Chile Pepper). Jana Derlikowski of Pulaski Academy posted a 16:49 at the Bob Gravette Invite as Lauren Ellis of Berryville tallied a 16:51 at the Siloam Springs meet.
In Class 2A the best known time so far has been Kristen Kennerly of Magnet Cove who posted a very solid 15:41 at the Bob Gravette Invite. Erika Wardlaw of Eureka Springs has the 2nd best time with her 16:02 at Chile Pepper. Becca Wallis of Eureka Springs posted a 16:51 at Chile Pepper.
Class 1A is often a mystery as talented runners sometimes emerge from the basketball court and other environs to surprise the field. Based on reported times, Shannon Vaughn of Oark, a talented multi-purpose track runner, owns a 16:26 at Chile Pepper to lead the field. Little Rock Lutheran has two runners, Janine Hanssen and Megan Bradshaw, at about 17:15.
BOYS INDIVIDUAL RACES
In 5A Chase Feltner of Russellville is the class act with a swift 15:07 at Chile Pepper over the challenging 5K course. Feltner starts fast, runs the middle hard and finishes strong although he may try to control the pace to help pull his teammates along as the Cyclones try to repeat as 5A champs. Feltner has plenty of speed to outkick anyone in the field over the last 600-800m. Brother Travis Feltner and Lake Hamilton’s Burt Hicks have battled in cross country and tack the last two years and 2002 promises more of the same. Travis has posted a 15:45 season best at the Bob Courtway Invite on the flat trails at the Hendrix College course in Conway while Hicks put up a solid 15:35 at Chile Pepper. Hicks can secure 2nd with a strong first two miles while Travis will hope to put his sub-1:55 800m speed to good use down the stretch. The next group will likely tell the tale in the team race as 16 runners have best times between 15:52 and 16:35. Derek Curry of Mt. Home (15:52,Chile Pepper) and Brian Garner of Russellville (15:54, Chile Pepper) are in the clear lead of this pack that has six Rogers runners and five Fayetteville racers.
The 4A race has Taylor Munro of Vilonia with the best time of 16:35 at the Harding Invite while Valentin Ahumada of North Little Rock Oak Grove posted a 17:12 at the Bob Courtway Invite and Quincy Goog tallied a 17:19 at the Lake Hamilton Invite on the State Meet course. Others in the Top 5 best times are Cory McDade of Warren (17:34, Bob Gravette) and Cole Johnson of Hot Springs with 17:43 at the Orange Crush.
In Class 3A the competition looks to be tight as DeQueen’s John Lagunas posted a 16:36 at Chile Pepper and teammate Rex Hamel put down a 16:54 in the same race. Drew Ray of Berryville is close behind at 16:56 (Holiday Island Invite) with Derek Sherwood of DeQueen in pursuit at 16:58 (Chile Pepper). Cesar Lemus of Berryville rounds out the Top 5 at 17:26 (Holiday Island Invite).
Class 2A leaders are J. D. Buchholtz (17:39, Chile Pepper) and Matt Buchholtz (17:46, Mountie Classic) of Little Rock Christian.
Class 1A is led by Little Rock Lutheran who has three of the Top 4 times posted …. Adam Becker at 17:14, Justin Vanlandingham at 17:38 and Brett Phillips at 17:49, all from the Harding Invite. Jason Dupree of Emerson crossed in 17:48 at the Lake Hamilton Invite.
GIRLS TEAM RACES
The Bryant Lady Hornets have to be the pre-race favorites as they couple two solid upfront Top 10 times with good depth. Led by Candice James (15:27, Cyclone Invite) and Brooke Higgs (15:34, Bob Gravette), the Lady Hornets boasts three other Top 30 times (Mary Edwards, Jessica Graham and Kim Bergen) which should be good enough for 80 or fewer points. Lake Hamilton should grab two of the Top 5-6 spots with Madson and Bradbury but need a couple of closers to make a run for a trophy. The same goes for Mt. Home and Mount St. Mary’s as they each have good upfront strength (Laura Broderdorf of Mt. Home and Ashley Williams for MSM). Fayetteville is defending champions and is coming off a narrow 47-48 win over Rogers at the Mountie Classic last week. Niki Williams should be in the Top 5-6 but the Lady PurpleDogs are going to need lots of help to challenge Bryant and maybe even to take home a runner-up trophy. However, 5A West teams know better than to take Fayetteville for granted. Rogers could turn into the surprise of the meet. Should Bryant falter, the Lady Mounties will be all too eager to capitalize. Led by junior Andrea Peerson, Rogers has the potential to place four in the Top 20. The issue is where their 5th will finish. A Top 30 finish for all five could well spell trouble for Bryant.
Favorites in the other classifications are:
Class 4A …………Vilonia has the upfront and depth to win….
Class 3A ………….DeQueen, Berryville and Pulaski Academy all appear to be in the running
Class 2A ……..this looks to be shaping up as a race between Magnet Cove and Eureka Springs
Class 1A …….Little Rock Lutheran is favored
BOYS TEAM RACES
The Russellville Cyclones are hungry to repeat as champs but not so fast says Rogers and Fayetteville. The Cyclones certainly have the upfront power as they should take three of the Top 5 spots behind Chase Feltner, Travis Feltner and Brian Garner. The Cyclones have been inconsistent this year at the vital 4th and 5th spots and need to have a couple of Top 30 places to go with their lead trio to take the trophy home again. On paper Fayetteville, led by J. T. Reinert, has the firepower on a good day to dethrone the Cyclones if they get some help from the rest of the field. The PurpleDogs could have two Top 10 and all five in the Top 20 and could potentially score only 65-70 points which may just be good enough. However, they have little or no margin of safety as evidenced by their thorough defeat by Rogers last week, 27-47. Rogers wishes the rules could change to score all nine runners as the Mounties bring perhaps their deepest team ever to State. No fewer than nine Mounties boasts Top 30 times and, even more remarkable, 16 have Top 50 times. One of Rogers’ biggest decisions may be to decide who will be their Top 9 for State. Rogers’ weakness is their inconsistency upfront. Unlike typical Rogers team with a front runner fighting for the individual championship, they would likely be pleased to get a single Top 10 finish. Luis Flores, Caleb Gordon and Michael McCullough all could be there which, if the case, could put the Mounties over the top to displace the Cyclones It is entirely possible for Rogers to place five in the Top 18 or better.
The other Boys races are highlighted below:
Class 4A …….Vilonia has been tough all fall
Class 3A ……. DeQueen and Berryville should duke it out
Class 2A ……..Little Rock Christian appears to have the edge
Class 1A …….Little Rock Lutheran is favored