Heber Springs showed its superiority over the rest of the 2-4A conference as the Panthers nearly tripled the score of runner-up Lonoke while the Lady Panthers nearly doubled the score of runner-up Southside Batesville for a dominating sweep of Thursday’s meet at Panther Stadium.
This marks the fifth straight conference title by the defending state champion Panthers, dating back to 2007 when Lonoke captured the crown. Meanwhile, the Lady Panthers have won every 2-4A meet since the league’s inception and beyond. Their streak dates back to the late 90’s.
Heber’s Sr. Boys amassed 267 points, 174 ahead of runner-up Lonoke (93) and 179 points in front of third-place Newport (88.)
In some races, Heber toyed with its competition. The athletes already qualified for state pulled up, allowing other teammates a chance to finish in the top 2 and earn a spot in Thursday’s state meet in Nashville.
“They did that on their own,” said Panther Coach Dale Cresswell when asked about the unselfish nature of his team. “I just tell them I want as many points as we can get. Overall, I was pleased with everybody’s performance. We probably could have scored more than we did but Ethan Bly had a hamstring issue and Jordan Peterson had blisters. We did what we needed to do. Our conference is not stellar in track.”
The Panthers have qualified 13 athletes for state and will have an opportunity to score 32 times in 17 events.
Leading the way individually Thursday was junior Clint Ligon, who racked up a meet-high 43 points while winning the 110 hurdles (15.22), long jump (21’ 11”) and high jump (6’ 2”). Ligon also placed runner-up in the triple jump (40’ 7.75”) and 4th in 300 hurdles (42.99) – despite cruising to the finish line.
Ethan Bly added 24 points, winning the 100 (11.29), placing 2nd in the long jump (21’9”), and 3rd in shot put (40’9”). Teammate Nate Hills won the shot put with a heave of 44’ and Zach Rasmussen placed 8th (37’ 11.25”.)
Heber racked up an event-high 29 points in the 3200 as Jake Sanders won the race by a large margin with a time of 10:49.79. Fellow Panther distance runners Aaron McKellar (2nd, 11:56.29), Andrew Powell (3rd, 11:59.96) and Devin Redding (4th, 12:02.70) finished behind Sanders.
The Panthers also dominated the 1600 with 28 total points as Powell took 1st place with a time of 4:47.94, Redding was runner-up (4:56.60), Sanders placed 3rd (4:57.39) despite slowing down towards the end and Brock Ballard finished 5th (5:05.72).
Austin Schmidt won the 400 with a time of 51.32 and Ballard placed 3rd (54.98). Blake Leonard won the 800 (2:07.83) and Zach McArthur took 2nd (2:08.15). Jordan Peterson placed 3rd in the 100 (11.48) behind Bly, while Jessie Hood was 6th (11.76).
Following Ligon’s first-place finish in the 110 hurdles, Chance Donaldson (3rd, 18.66) and Jorge Garcia (4th, 18.50) also picked up points in the event. Garcia also finished runner-up in the 300 hurdles (42.25), in front of Ligon and Donaldson (7th, 47.03).
Heber compiled 26 points in the three relay races as the 4 x 800 team (Schmidt, Ballard, Leonard, Sanders) won 1st with a time of 8:46.94, the 4 x 400 team (Hood, Schmidt, Logan Henley, Garcia) finished 1st with a time of 3:39.01 and Heber’s 4 x 100 team of Tylor Alaniz, Daniel Henley, Dylan Bly and Logan Henley placed 3rd (46.47).
Hood placed 4th in the triple jump (40.7.75”), Garcia was 5th (37’ 6.75”) and Daniel Henley took 6th (36’ 7.5”). Cody Ellis tied for 4th in the high jump with Hood, both clearing 5’8”, while Dylan Bly finished 5th in the long jump (20’3”).
Rounding out Heber’s point total, Logan Rolleigh tied for 4th in the pole vault (9’) and Jon Ogle placed 6th (8’6”), while Mason Schroeder took 6th in the discus throw (102’).
The Lady Panthers cruised to 1st place with a total of 226.5, ahead of runner-up Southside Batesville (131.5) by 95 points and third-place Stuttgart (83) by 143.5 points.
Goldman said she is proud of the girls, including several underclassmen. “Keleah Maples won the conference 300 Hurdles and earned her a trip to Nashville. Being a freshman, there is much nervousness. She will do fine, once she focuses on her speed. Another freshman, Alyssa Uphoff, will be running a leg of our 4x400 relay. She is a blessed athlete. We hope this helps her realize her gift. Taylor Eaton will also be part of this relay. She will do a good job, as she has for many seasons.”
Goldman continued, “Paige Vandivor has gotten after it at the end of this season. We trust she will have her best performance yet in both the hurdles. Madison Fires has juggled softball and track this spring, so did not get to attend a lot of meets. The ones she did attend, she made worthwhile, as she qualified in the 1600 and the 3200. We are looking for a good performance in both. Grace Bodron making it in the 3200 is a blessing. She has struggled with so many health issues since her freshman season, it is exciting for her to earn a spot in state.”
Hard work paid off for Mary Simmons. “While others were playing during spring-break Mary Simmons got after it. She was determined to get better and put in the work to make it happen. Her confidence has improved and that has made a huge difference. Savannah Thomas is a woman on a mission. Once she sets her goal, consider it done. She will be pole vaulting, 1600, 800, and anchor the 4x400 relay. She has worked hard to state qualify, overcoming her nagging ankle surgery,” Goldman said.
The team is pumped up for state. “We are very excited for all those that are state bound, as well as, those who helped win the conference championship. We have some great kids to work with this season and look forward to seeing their hopes come to reality at Nashville on Thursday.”
“We would also like to thank all of those who helped us with our home season this year. It was truly a challenge to fill the work spots, but athletes, students, parents, elementary teachers, administrators, youth groups, track fans and visiting teams filled the gaps. We have several meets which allow our athletes more opportunities to compete to improve. We sincerely appreciate every sacrifice that was made to make these opportunities possible,” said Goldman.
The Lady Panthers compiled a total of 25 points in both the 400 and 300 hurdles. Savannah Thomas won the 400 with a time of 1:03.3, while Mary Simmons (2nd, 1:06.14), Uphoff (5th, 1:07.59) and Kortney Davison (6th, 1:10.24) also placed. Maples won the 300 hurdles (53.64), Vandivor was runner-up (54.29), Tabetha Ridgway finished 5th (56.33) and Eaton was 6th (56.84).
Mary Simmons won 1st place in the 800 with a time of 2:32.20, while teammates Adrianna Simmons (7th, 2:56.23) and Samantha Wood (8th, 3.00.55) also earned points.
Much like the boys, the Lady Panthers dominated the distance races as Madi Fires won 1st in the 3200 with a time of 13:51.87, Grace Bodron placed runner-up (13:56.26) and Amanda Matthews finished 4th (14:41.44) for a combined 23 points. In the 1600, Fires led the way with a runner-up finish (6:06.80) despite cruising to the finish line while trying to help a teammate place in the top 2. Matthews took 4th (6:09.09), Wood was 5th (6:24.93) and Mattie Cannon took 6th (6:32.66) as the Lady Panthers racked up 21 points in the event.
Anna Engler won the discus by nearly six feet with a heave of 93’ 6” and she placed 5th in the shot put (29’10”), while McKenzie Cresswell was 8th (26’8”). Vandivor placed runner-up in the 100 hurdles (17.64), while Ridgway (18.66) and Maples (19.49) also earned points.
Kaitlyn Music placed 3rd in high jump (4’6”), ahead of teammates Shelby Clark (4th, 4’6”) and Kortney Davison (7th, 4’2”). Music also took 6th in the long jump (14’11.5”), while Ridgway (3rd, 29’1.75) and Hannah Mangum (5th, 28’7.75”) both placed in the triple jump.
Thomas finished runner-up in the pole vault (8’), Mangum took 4th (7’6”) and Kelsi Davison tied for 5th (7’6”). Kelsi Davison also finished 3rd in the 200 (29.15), while Thomas was 4th (29.16) and Hannah Johnson placed 5th (29.89). Rounding out Heber’s individual scoring, Clark finished 7th in the 100 (14.0).
Heber’s three relay teams combined for 21 points, led by the 4 x 400 team (Mary Simmons, Uphoff, Eaton, Thomas), which took 1st place with a time of 4:28.74. The 4 x 800 team (Savannah House, Bodron, Adrianna Simmons, Mary Simmons) placed 3rd (11:40.23) and the 4 x 100 team (Vandivor, Music, Eaton, Clark) finished 4th (54.43).