“Promoting participation in and support for cross-country and track and field in Arkansas secondary schools.”  

 

Arkansas 2003 High School Cross Country State Meet Preview

 

November 5, 2003

 

This has been a terrific year for cross country in Arkansas secondary schools.  The weather has been phenomenal for the most part.  Competition has been tough.  There have been many outstanding individual and team performances.  Even for those not in the “Top 10” there have been many PRs and improvements.  Over 250 runners have qualified for inclusion in the ArkansasTrackStats.com Best Performances so far. 

 

Before getting to the Preview, stop and think about all the efforts it takes to pull off a great season.  Runners start in the summer with their training program, attend distance camps (if you have not done so, you might want to find a good camp for next summer), many have persevered through early morning runs, most have survived the Arkansas humidity and kept their school work current.  Coaches have put in hours and hours in  supervising workouts, driving buses through the many construction delays on Arkansas highways to get their teams safely to and from meets, organized and directed meets, attended to injured runners and the like in addition to their “real” jobs as teachers, counselors and administrators.  Athletic Directors help find the money to provide the programs and give support to the coaches.  Principals and teachers support the runners even though meets sometimes require missing classes.  Parents and other fans should not be forgotten.  Local businesses that provide extra financial support are a valued part of the team.  Sports writers who cover the sport are much appreciated.  Did we leave anyone out?

 

This is a one of a kind sport where we sometimes train side by side runners we try to defeat on Saturdays and walk away with friends from across the state.  This is a sport where the athletes are taught to hope that everyone does their very best and there is only honor in winning when we are at our best and outrun our fellow competitors who run their best.  This is a sport where talent is often outdone by persistence while those of us who are less talented admire rather than envy the most talented.  This is a sport where runners of all talent levels make it to the field of competition.   What other sport does the JV get to go head to head with the varsity and there is really no limit on how many members a team can field?  At the end of the day, we each know how we did. There is no panel of judges deciding who “ran the best”, as our finish tells us exactly the outcome.  There is a certain satisfaction that each runner can leave with in knowing they did their very best no matter where they finished and knowing what they have to do to move up.  After all, how many people are willing to put in the hours in the heat and humidity, purposely finding hills to run up and heading out in the cold and rain for a long training run?  Those of you who do are among the few and should know you have accomplished something of importance that most people will never tackle.

 

Enough of the mushy stuff, how are the State Meets going to come out?  Who knows? If we knew the outcome already, there would be no need to run the races.  Favorites will falter and surprises will arise.  Many will step up and run their best races ever, when it counts the most.  Some will face disappointment and need to find a way to overcome. 

 

GIRLS

 

Arkansas girls have turned in a terrific 2003 season with 19 runners breaking the 16-minute barrier for 4K.  Ashley Williams (Mount St. Mary’s) has led the way with a salty 14:27 clocking but others are posting great times also.  Staci Papageorge (Rogers) and Lake Hamilton’s dangerous duo Patricia Bradbury and Beth Madson have posted sub-15:10 times. Another group is not far behind with best times of 15:20-15:30.  These are excellent performances.  There are others on the verge of breakout times just waiting for the right time at State.  Overall 142 runners have bested the 18 minute mark.  The chart below shows the pre-race favorites at the State Meets:

 

 

Class 1/2A

Class 3A

Class 4A

Class 5A

Teams (alpha order; 2002 finish/2003 rank shown)

Eureka Springs (2nd; 1st)

Harding Academy (1st; 3rd)

Little Rock Lutheran (4th; 2nd)

Berryville (1st; 2nd)

DeQueen (5th; 1st)

Dover (3rd; 3rd)

Heber Springs (7th; 4th)

Greene County Tech (4th; NR)

Harrison (3rd; 1st)

Siloam Springs (1st; 2nd)

Vilonia (2nd; NR)

 

Bentonville (9th; 7th)

Bryant (1st; 2nd)

Lake Hamilton (5th; 3rd)

Rogers (1st; 2nd)

Individuals (reported best times)

Erika Wardlaw, Eureka Springs

 

Melissa Arnold, Decatur

 

Lauren Hagans, LR Christian

 

Robyn McCloud, LR Christian

 

Kimberly Peek, Eureka Springs

 

Ellen Davis, Harding Academy

 

Lindsey Cloutier, LR  Lutheran

 

 

Tamara Phillips, Berryville

 

Anabel Trujillo, Berryville

 

Courtney Moore, Berryville

 

Cassie Cornett, Heber Springs

 

Alisha Tucker, Dover

 

Jessica Neely, DeQueen

 

Rochelle Emerson, Clinton

Dianne Miller, Siloam Springs

 

Tia Young, Harrison

 

Kazmyn Bailey, Vilonia

 

Hayden Wood, Marion

 

Brittany Knight, Vilonia

 

Brianna Greene, Harrison

 

Becca Davis, Siloam Springs

Ashley Williams, Mount St. Mary’s

 

Staci Papageorge, Rogers

 

Patricia Bradbury, Lake Hamilton

 

Beth Madson, Lake Hamilton

 

Brooke Higgs, Bryant

 

Leigh Ann Moore, Jonesboro

 

LeAnna Peerson, Rogers

 

 

The Class 1/2A meet is a toss up.  Eureka Springs and Harding Academy have tradition in their favor while Lutheran is the up-and-comer making a serious bid to take the title home to Pulaski County.  Lutheran needs to step a notch from front to back but they boast a nifty 38 second spread for their first five that could be hard to beat.  Wardlow, Arnold and Hagans look to battle down to the wire for the individual crown.

 

Class 3A also offers a barn-burner as DeQueen is ranked 1st and Berryville has the best set of times this fall and brings a long habit of taking trophies home from State.  The race could go to any of four teams depending on who can get that all-important 5th runner home first.  Berryville’s 1:09 spread opens the door to a challenger who can squeeze their spread down.  Any of the Top 7 individuals could win the race with a good day.  This should be a great race.

 

Class 4A often comes down to Harrison and Siloam Springs and this year may be nothing new.  Vilonia could challenge with a good day from their 3rd-5th spots and Greene County Tech could surprise the field.  Dianne Miller (Siloam Springs) has the experience to win the individual race and has the best time by far. Tia Young (Harrison) and Kazmyn Bailey (Vilonia) could challenge for the top spot if Miller has an off day. Is there a south Arkansas team that has been hiding?

 

Class 5A promises not to disappoint.  Bryant and Rogers have traded the top ranking all season. Last year Rogers nearly upset a heavily favored Bryant.  The Lady Mounties started out strong in 2003 but have struggled as of late while finishing a disappointing 5th at Chile Pepper behind both Bryant and Lake Hamilton and a very disappointing 2nd behind Benton County rival Bentonville at the Mountie Classic.  Rogers will go with a young team with two of their Top 5 from 2002 hobbled with knee surgeries.  To win, Rogers has to move their 5th runner up sharply to help out their strong front line.  Bentonville’s Lady Tigers ran lights out at the Mountie Classic and looked to be peaking at the right time.  However, similar to Rogers, the Lady Tigers must close ranks in the rear to have a hope to take a trophy home.  Lake Hamilton has a terrific first two and some solid depth; however, the Lady Wolves need better than a 1:51 spread to pull an upset and take a trophy back to Pearcy.  Bryant once again finds themselves the object of the rest of the field, no matter the pre-race rankings.  Their 62 second spread is pretty good and with a solid team the Lady Hornets have the talent and depth to win it all again.  It is conceivable that all four of these teams could end up with less than 75 points with the 5th runner making the decisive edge.

 

BOYS

 

The Class 5A boys led the way in 2003 with eight performances, including three from Rogers, meeting the national DyeStat Elite standard of 16 minutes for 5K.  Burt Hicks (Lake Hamilton) has steadily improved over his career and is poised to take the individual title as he has posted a swift 15:14.  The next group of runners is close together about 30 seconds behind. The chart below highlights the favorites:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Class 1/2A

Class 3A

Class 4A

Class 5A

Teams (alpha order; 2002 finish/2003 rank shown)

Acorn (6th; 2nd)

LR Christian (2nd; 3rd)

LR Lutheran (1st; 1st)

 

Berryville (3rd; 3rd)

DeQueen (1st; 1st)

Heber Springs (2nd; 2nd)

Greene County Tech (7th; NR)

Harrison (6th; NR)

Siloam Springs (2nd; 1st)

Bryant (8th; 4th)

Fayetteville (2nd; 2nd)

Lake Hamilton (7th; 5th)

Rogers (1st; 1st)

Springdale (5th; 3rd)

Individuals (reported best times)

Adam Becker, Lutheran

 

Steven Hooper, Acorn

 

Ryan Robertson, Lutheran

 

Chris Clark, Lutheran

 

Kevin Ray, Lutheran

 

Jacob Kauffman, LR Christian

 

Matt Buchholtz, LR Christian

Josh Bruno, Heber Springs

 

Derek Sherwood, DeQueen

 

Rex Hamel, DeQueen

 

Justin Cajero, DeQueen

 

Manuel Arrizon, Berryville

 

Joker Lagunas, DeQueen

 

Mitchell Holland, Heber Springs

Daniel Haney, Arkadelphia

 

Quincy Googe, LR Fair

 

Scott Iiams, Siloam Springs

 

Luke Brown, Siloam Springs

 

Cody Vondermehden, Harrison

 

 

Burt Hicks, Lake Hamilton

 

Raven Fuller, Conway

 

Michael McCullough, Rogers

Alex Nimmo, Fayetteville

 

Eric Harris, Conway

 

Luis Flores, Rogers

 

Patrick McGowan, Springdale

 

Class 1/2A looks to be a mostly Lutheran showcase as they try to repeat as champions but never count out Acorn.  LR Christian has been competitive all season and has Matt Buchholtz back after a mid-season injury.  With four of the Top 5 times, Lutheran appears headed back to the rotunda at Oaklawn Park.  Adam Becker (Lutheran) has the best time by about 15 seconds set at Chile Pepper.

 

Berryville has a steep hill to climb to get past defending champion and top ranked DeQueen.  Heber Springs also stands in the way of the Bobcats as the this could race could see a repeat of the Top 3 order from 2002.  DeQueen has dominated Class 3A so far in 2003 and has thumped several good 5A teams along the way.  DeQueen has solid five and will have to have a bad race to allow Heber and Berryville an opening. The real race could be for runner-up.  Josh Bruno (Heber Springs) and Derek Sherwood (DeQueen) has near 16 minute bests for 2003 and DeQueen teammates Rex Hamel and Justin Cajero could make it a four way race. 

 

Class 4A could be in play.  Siloam Springs brings great Benton County CC tradition and Harrison is improving with both teams putting in a pretty good showing at the Mountie Classic.  However, neither team has shown it can close the gap firmly and there is a chance for a surprise. Greene County Tech could pull an upset if they put together a lights out meet.  Beware of out state teams that may have been lying low.  Daniel Haney (Arkadelphia) ran a strong race at Chile Pepper while Quincy Googe (LR Fair) ran well at the Harding Invitational. If Scott Iiams (Siloam Springs) returns to mid-season form, this could be a three-way sprint to the finish.

 

Rogers surprised Russellville last year with a young team. Two things are for sure in 2003. Rogers has worn the bulls eye all year and they have everyone back from 2002.  The Mounties have carried the No. 1 ranking all year and have earned impressive wins at Chile Pepper and Mountie Classic plus a hard fought 3rd at the OSU Cowboy Jamboree behind two of the best teams in the Midwest.  Rogers needs to only have a solid performance to take home another state meet win but they can take nothing for granted.  The Mounties have posted 11 of the Top 32 5K times this season which is a tribute to their depth.  Fayetteville always runs well at State and they have a talented crew this year.  Lake Hamilton and Bryant could be surprises especially for runner-up and Springdale expects to field a solid team that could bring home a trophy.  It is not inconceivable that the 5A West could take the three top spots.  Burt Hicks (Lake Hamilton) should take home an easy win but it should be a dogfight for the next 10-12 palaces.  Conway’s Raven Fuller and Eric Harris figure to be in the Top 5.

 

©ArkansasTrackStats.com 11/2003