5A State Championship, Oaklawn Park, Hot Springs, Friday, Nov. 3
Defending 5A state champion Jillian Jones led the Batesville Lady Pioneers cross-country team to a strong third place finish Friday in the 5A State Championships at Oaklawn Park. The boys finished eighth. The Pioneers shift classifications to 4A next year, but went out on top, winning the 5A East titles Oct. 24 at Crowley’s Ridge College.
The girls dueled to the wire Friday at Oaklawn with Vilonia edging them 101-104 behind Little Rock Christian’s winning low total of 46.
Jones, bothered by injuries and limited in practice, nevertheless ran in the top five most of the race, hanging on for seventh and all-state honors in 21:36. That is nearly two minutes slower than her winning time last year as a freshman.
Coach Diane Treadway praised the performance, saying “She ran on guts and natural ability. Nobody else could have run that well with limited training and nagging injuries. She left it all out there; I wasn’t sure she had enough left to cross the finish line.”
The top 10 percent of the field earn all-state recognition, and classmate Lauren Cowden outkicked several competitors over the last quarter mile to finish 14th in the field of 140 at 22:29 on the 5K course.
Overall finishes determine all-state honors, but places are recalculated for team scoring, with runners on teams of fewer than five dropped out, as are eighth or ninth runners on teams of more than seven. Jones finished sixth and Cowden 13th for team scoring, with overall champion Ruthie Ryan of Harrison representing a short-handed team.
Pioneer freshman Kaylee Clark had a three-way fight in the last hundred yards, finishing 19th/17th with the identical time to the tenth of a second with Rebecah Ortega (18th/16th) of LR Christian at 22:39.70.
State 5A 800 meter-champ Lexi Edwards finished 32nd/29th in 23:40. Freshman Tori Roddy (43rd/39th) dropped a minute off her senior high 5K debut on the same Oaklawn course Oct. 14 to round out the scoring, also in a dead heat with DeQueen’s Catherine Ousse (44th/40th) in 24:21.7.
5A East rival Valley View matched the Batesville score at 104, but the tiebreaker went to sixth runner Madelyn Cunningham, moved up to senior high just Oct. 14 with Clark and Roddy. Valley View only had five runners. Batesville’s seventh runner, recent Lyon College softball signee Celsey Wood, ran her personal best 27:08 for 81st/70th place.
The Lady Pioneers had edged Valley View 28-32 at district, with Jones defending her 2016 title, Cowden taking third, Clark fourth, Edwards ninth, and Cunningham clinching the win in 14th place.
The Pioneer boys also had dominated at 5A East, placing five in the top 10 and eight in the top 15 to easily outrun host Greene County Tech, 28-56. The competition was tougher Friday at state, with junior Alex Keister leading the Pioneers in 26th overall at 18:39. With a field of 160, only the top 16 earned all-state recognition. The Pioneers improved on their performances on the same course a couple of weeks ago, however, with Keister a minute faster and freshman Gunner Shell, 46th in 19:33, improving by 1:30. Junior Aubrey Shell, Gunner’s brother, 55th place in 22:05, dropped two minutes. Freshman Kaden Shaw, 65th in 20:29, and sophomore Peyton Fowler, 69th in 20:31, filled out the scoring five.
First-year boys Coach Stan Fowler thanked the squad for bringing home the fourth consecutive district title in his debut season. “I admire their commitment to the hard work — there’s no place to hide in this sport. You get what you put into it, and I’m proud of their progress and their success. But we’re a young, deep team with room to improve, and I’m excited about our finish and being even better next year.”