Commentary.......Message from the Publishers: State Meet Previews ... Girls
Well, the State Meets are fast approaching and the weather is almost perfect for cross country. The course at Agri Park in Fayetteville should be in fine shape for Saturday's races. We started out the season with a preview that by necessity was based heavily on last year's results. Now we know who is doing what and have seen a lot of great competition so far. There are new names among the leaders and a number of familiar teams as well. All in all this has been a successful season with excitement and great sportsmanship. Many of the runners Saturday will be graduating and, hopefully, moving on to college cross country careers. Others will be running their last race. Whatever the case, may the wind always be at your back and all the paths run downhill.
Click here for the Final Coaches Poll and here for the Best Performances Listings
Based on reported results it would seem that four teams are in the hunt for the 1A/2A crown.....Magnet Cove, Decatur, Shiloh Christian and Harding Academy. The Final Coaches poll has Decatur ranked one spot higher than Magnet Cove. Trying to predict cross country finishes at State Meets is by no means a science and cannot take into account the surprises which always occur. Looking at reported times we have these four teams all within a 25 point spread. Decatur and Magnet Cove look to have four each in the Top 20 with the all important 5th runner shaping up to make the difference. Magnet Cove's 5th has run noticeably faster than Decatur's 5th although not on the Agri Park course. Watch for this place to make a difference. Shiloh looks to have a solid first three and if their 4th and 5th can improve, they can make a run for a trophy. Never count Harding Academy out when it comes to the big meet but they have to show some markedly faster times to move up into contention.
In the individual race, six runners have times for 4K on known courses at about 17 minutes or better......Megan Bradshaw of Lutheran leads at 16:45 with Annie Miller of Shiloh (3rd in 2000) close behind at 16:49 and Kristen Kennerly of Magnet Cove (10th in 2000) at 16:50.....Decatur's Melissa Arnold (13th in 2000) posted a 16:57 while Ashley Dixon of Harding Academy follows at 16:59 and Andrea Hobbs of Decatur at 17:04. Dixon and Hobbs are past champions in 2000 and 1999, respectively, and winning a state meet is good experience in a close race.
Last year Berryville won in a close three team finish and they look to have the inside position again in 2001. While nothing is a given, the Lady Bobcats (ranked No. 1 all season in the Poll) have six of the Top 23 best times with half of those times run on the challenging Agri Park course at the Chile Pepper. Consistency and depth often prove to be powerful combinations in cross country and Berryville has a good chance at repeating. Eureka Springs (ranked 3rd in the Poll) would look to be chasing the runner-up trophy and have to move their 4th and 5th runners up considerably to catch Berryville. Batesville Southside (ranked 2nd in the Poll) and DeQueen (6th in the Poll) look to be fighting it out for 3rd, each with a chance to grab a trophy with a really good day. There could well be some surprises here in the race for 2nd but it would be a shocker for someone to topple the Lady Bobcats.
The individual race should be a good duel between defending champion Sheena Metz of Dover and Becca Wallis of Eureka Springs who posted a 16:53 time at the Chile Pepper. Several runners could also challenge the leaders including Megan Metz of Dover (3rd in 2000) and Jana Derlikowsky of Pulaski Academy (2nd in 2000) who ran a terrific race last year. The Top 10 could be a very exciting race as 16 runners are within 45 seconds.
This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Harrison Lady Goblins after winning in a convincing manner last year over Siloam Springs. Well, they seemed to have rebuilt posting six of the Top 16 times so far. The Siloam Springs Lady Panthers have yet another solid team with seven in the Top 25 best times while Vilonia looks to field a very competitive team having four in the Top 20. The race would seem to hinge on who can run a complete race and it could come down to the 5th runner to determine the outcome. Harrison is ranked 7th in the Final 4A/5A Poll, their highest ranking of the year, while Siloam is ranked 10th after being as high as 6th earlier. Although unranked in the Final Poll, Vilonia had been ranked 9th earlier. Look for these three teams to be close at the end.
The race for individual honors could be the most competitive of the day. Dianne Miller of Siloam placed 2nd at State in the 2000 1A/2A race while running at Pea Ridge and posted a terrific 16:32 clocking as a freshman. Laura Insell of Batesville is the experienced distance hand in the race having placed 4th each of the past two years and ran an excellent 16:01 on the Agri Park course at Chile Pepper this season to best Miller's 16:21 and Dodson's 16:26 in the same race. Look for Insell to try to wear Miller and Dodson down with her methodical style while Dodson is no one to let be in the race the last 400m with her sub-2:20 800m speed. Miller can go out fast and force the pace if she chooses. This could be a race with all three near 16:00.
Unless Bentonville gets lost on the short drive down the interstate they should be the heavy favorite to win yet another 5A title. In spite of their talented first five, the Lady Tigers (ranked 1st in the Final Poll) do have a weak spot should their 5th runner not do well. However, short of a total collapse, the AAA office could be pretty safe in engraving the trophy. The Lady Tigers better not be looking back as Fayetteville (ranked 2nd in the Final Poll), Mountain Home (3rd in the Final Poll) and Rogers (4th in the Final Poll) will be in hot pursuit. The Lady Bulldogs are improved up front over last year's runner-up team and Mountain Home has a solid first four. Rogers, ranked 1st for two weeks until a late season slump set in with illness and injury, needs a total team effort to slip by the others but certainly has the talent to do so. While most eyes will be on the individual race, the team race will be played out between 20th and 25th place as Mountain Home and Rogers will have their eyes targeted on Fayetteville's 4th and 5th runners. Any slippage by Fayetteville in the last two scoring positions will give the Lady Bombers and Lady Mounties the opening they need to grab the runner-up trophy.
The race for the individual trophy should be a real dandy as Senior Jamie Owensby of Bentonville returns to defend her title for 2000. Owensby who ran 15:36 on the Agri Park course at Chile pepper will be challenged by two sophomores, teammate Jessi Barnes (3rd in 2000 and 15:44 at this year's Chile Pepper)) and Lake Hamilton's Beth Madson who ran with the flu last year in the cold rain at Oaklawn Park for 29th, and Mount St. Mary's freshman, Ashley Williams (15:54 at Chile Pepper). All of these runners have legitmate times of less than 16 minutes this year. Look for Madson to be ready to go this year and make a strong challenge. This could be a terrific Top 10 with Andrea Peerson of Rogers (5th in 2000), Nikki Williams of Fayetteville(10th in 2000), Alicia Owensby of Bentonville, Julia Masotto (34th in 2000) and Brittany Beck (19th in 2000) of Mountain Home, Jessica Winters (35th in 2000) of Russellville, Katie Howard (15th in 2000) of Fayetteville and Erin Turrentine of Bentonville (9th in 2000) battling it out.
We are always interested in hearing from you, so please do not hesitate to send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.