Two-time defending state champion Heber Springs opened its track and field season in style on Thursday by winning the Searcy Lion Invitational, which featured 13 schools from higher classifications than the 4A powerhouse Panthers.
Heber piled up a total of 105 points, edging 6A Lake Hamilton (100.5) by 4.5 points as the 4x400 relay team made the difference, beating the Wolves by just under three seconds to seal first place. Ethan Bly, Jorge Garcia, Daniel Henley and Brock Ballard completed the decisive 4x400 race with a time of 3:34.71.
Heber also won the 4x800 relay as Austin Schmidt, Garcia, Zach McArthur and Ballard posted a time of 8:34.94, nearly six seconds in front of Russellville.
Senior Clint Ligon, who is headed to ASU to compete next season, racked up a team-high 26 points, winning the 300 hurdles (40.55), while placing runner-up in both the 110 hurdles (15.97) and High Jump (5'10”). Garcia (5th, 45.43) placed along with Ligon in the 300 hurdles, while Chance Donaldson took seventh in the 110 hurdles (15.97).
Bly won the 200 with a time of 23.02 and Ballard racked up 14 individual points, finishing runner-up in the 800 (2:07.05) and third in the 1600 (4:48.67).
Rounding out Heber's scorers, McArthur was fourth in a close 800 race with a time of 2:07.78, Malachi Cannon took fifth in the 1600 (4:54.09), Dylan Bly placed sixth in the Long Jump (17'7”) and Derrik Fisher placed seventh in Shot Put (42' 7.5”)
Class 7A Conway placed third as a team with 99 points, 5A Vilonia finished fourth with 83 points and 6A Russellville was fifth with 77 points.
Class 7A Cabot won the girls' meet with a point total of 104, which was 20 points ahead of 6A Little Rock Parkview.
Mary Simmons led the Lady Panthers to 10th place by finishing runner-up in the 800 with a time of 2:33.21. Heber's 4x800 relay team of Grace Bodron, Adrianna Simmons, Isabella Creasey and Mary Simmons placed third with a time of 11:16.08.
Also for Heber, Paige Vandivor placed fourth in the 100 hurdles (18.52), Kelsi Davison took fifth in the 200 (29.29) and the 4x400 relay team of Davison, Alyssa Uphoff, Mary Simmons and Vandivor placed sixth (5:03.42).
Heber is scheduled to host the Panther Relays on Thursday at Panther Stadium. Field events begin at approximately 3:30 p.m.