Commentary.......Message from the Publishers: State Meet Previews ... Boys
With a forecast for absolutely terrible cross country weather this weekend at Agri Park in Fayetteville ....that is, low 70s and fair conditions....where will we get mud and wind and icy rain? Oh well, maybe next year. Until then the teams will just have to persevere. The season has been wonderful so far with good competition and some surprises. If the wind cannot be at your back for the race, then, in keeping with old Irish runner proverbs....may the wind blow into the other guys face!
Click here for the Final Coaches Poll and here for the Best Performances Listings
Last year Acorn won easily over runner-up Pottsville and is looking to repeat the visit to the awards stand. However, the gap may have closed as both Pottsville (9th in Final Coaches Poll) and Lutheran High appear positioned to take advantage of any Acorn (3rd in Final Poll) falter. All of the teams have a first four who have run solid times this year and, as is so often the case, the 5th position may be the deciding difference. This may be a race that is won by whoever is the most fired up when they toe the line.
The individual race should be competitve with three runners posting sub-18 times for 5K so far this year. If Joey McGarrah of Winslow (6th in 2000) can run as he did in mid season at Siloam Springs, he will be a definite contender. Acorn's Brandon Cross (5th in 2000) and Heath Phelps were close together at Chile Pepper on the Agri Park course in about 17:55. Is there a sleeper in the crowd that could slip up on the leaders?
Berryville (1st in Coaches Poll all season) won by a couple furlongs last year in a decisive 37-87 win over runner-up Heber Springs. Believe it or not, the spread could be even bigger this year. The Bobcats have five of the Top 10 times in 3A going into the meet and four of those times were on the Agri Park course at Chile Pepper. If one or two of the their Top 5 should fall off, their next three are still in the Top 25 times! DeQueen (2nd in Final Poll), Heber Springs (5th in Final Poll) , Eureka Springs (6th in Final Poll) and West Fork (4th in Final Poll) appear to be ready to rumble for the runner-up trophy. Heber and DeQueen look to be pretty well matched for their Top 5 and may offer spectators an exciting team race. West Fork's chances ride on their 5th runner's ability to close the gate soon enough since their first runner is favored to tie down the top spot.
Two-time defending William Prettyman of West Fork is the solid favorite to repeat as champ. Prettyman ran with two of the top 5A runners at the Mountie Classic and recorded a 16:23 for 5K which is far ahead of the other 3A runners. The next group is comprised of three Berryville runners....Michael Simkins (3rd in 2000), Miquel Gil ( 4th in 2000) and Cesar Lemus (7th in 2000) ....Jeremy Haley of Heber Springs and Ashton Thurman of Eureka Springs (6th in 2000). .
Last year's blow out by Siloam Springs (35-114 over Hot Springs) is history and this year's race promises to be more competitive. With over half of last year's Top 20 lost to graduation, there are plenty of holes upfront looking to be filled. The Panthers have been hot and cold this year but are still the only ranked team in 4A this year in the Final Coaches poll. Siloam will have to do well in the 3rd-5th slot to nail down a win. The 30+ second gap in their last three exposes them but their 4th-8th runner are only about 10 seconds apart. Fair could offer a serious challenge if their 5th position can close up the ranks about 20 seconds and break up the crowd from Siloam. Fair is favored to have one of the Top 2 positions and possibly another Top 10 finisher. Hot Springs could figure in the mix, especially in the runner-up chase, as they boast three of the Top 10 times this year. To have a chance, their 4th and 5th runners need to get down under 19 minutes.
Two runners .....Quincy Googs of Fair and Steven Helmick of Robinson (6th in 2000) ....appear to be the favorites with times under 17:30 this season. Helmick might have a slight advantage as his best came on the Agri Park course at Chile Pepper. The next group of Lucas Hanson of Hot Springs, Nate Tubach of Siloam, Chris Pentracosta of Hot Springs (5th in 2000) and Tyler Dees of Siloam (10th in 2000) should expect a tough race and fans should benefit as this will be important to each of the teams as they chase the trophy.
Is it true that Russellville got a special invitation to the State Meet to be run at Oaklawn Park this weekend? Maybe it's only rumor but a lot of 5A coaches would be thrilled if the Cyclones took Highway 7 south instead of I-540 north. Unless something happens, the AAA might want to just drop off the championship trophy on the way up to Fayetteville and save time after the meet. Let's face it, Russellville (3rd in 2000) not only has terrific front runners but also terrific depth. Russellville has the potential to put their first five in the Top 10. While fans can bet that Fayetteville, Rogers, Lake Hamilton and Mountain Home will not concede anything to the Cyclones, there will certainly be a mighty race for runner-up. Fayetteville upset defending runner-up and perrenial power Rogers at the Mounties' home meet last week and have been improving steadily all season. The Bulldogs should have plenty of reasons to be motivated to run at their peak in their hometown. Lake Hamilton and Mountain Home (1st in 2000) are both long shots but each are well-coached and have solid teams. Expect them to be ready to run at State. Rogers is the big unknown. The Mounties have been hampered by illness and injuries all season and have yet to run at full speed. To take home a trophy this weekend the Mountie underclassmen must step it up and run a complete team effort. The race will hinge on Rogers' ability to get three of their young runners to move up another notch into the 18th-25th range and put some distance between themselves and Fayetteville's 4th and 5th. This should be a terrific team meet for the top 3-4 slots.
The individual race should see a great race involving 5-6 runners.....Chase Feltner of Russellville who holds the season's best 5K time at 15:49 (20th in 2000), Burt Hicks of Lake Hamilton (8th in 2000), Eric Brock of Russellville (6th in 2000), Jake Conley of Rogers (7th in 2000), Travis Feltner of Russellville and Tyler Harlan of Fayetteville (25th in 2000). This race could be anything from a fast first mile and "hang on" to a slow tactical race with a torrid sprint the last 800m. The latter plays into the hands of the Feltners who are both top 800m runners. The remainder of the field would likely want to avoid having to play Michael Johnson at the end and push the pace harder the first 2.5 miles. Someone will have to take the lead and quicken the tempo if the Russellville twins hang back. Whoever leads the race will have a heavy burden. All of these runners best times on good courses are within 10-12 seconds of one another which is too close to call. Harlan upset Conley at the Mountie Classic last week and could edge into the Top 5 with another big improvement. Look for Conley to be back at the 16 minute or below level as he was at Chile Pepper. If the race goes well, this race could see the Top 6 all under 16.
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