Competing against primarily schools from larger classifications, Heber Springs proved once again that it has the ability to hang with the big boys and girls in track and field.
The two-time defending 4A state champion Panthers finished fourth with 47 points at Friday's Lake Hamilton Invitational, while the Lady Panthers took fifth with 65 points.
Texarkana (129.5), Lake Hamilton (112) and Marion (85.5), all three 6A schools, placed 1-3 in the boys' division, while 6A Pine Bluff (130) won the girls' meet, edging Lake Hamilton (112). Class 3A Jessieville took third with 74 points and 5A Vilonia finished fourth with 74 points – 11 ahead of the Lady Panthers.
Ethan Bly, who had already qualified for state in the 100, 200, 400 and Long Jump, ran his personal best time of the year in the 400 with a mark of 49.74, which was good for first place. Bly also placed second in the 100 (11.08).
Plus, Bly contributes for Heber's state bound 4x400 relay team, which improved on its top 4A time of the year, winning first place with a time of 3:27.35. Jorge Garcia, Daniel Henley and Austin Schmidt, who placed seventh in the 400 (52.30), join Bly on the 4x400 team.
Brock Ballard improved his personal best and top 4A time by over one second in the 800 on Friday, finishing the race with a time of 2:00.90 while earning fourth place.
Rounding out the Panthers' scorers, Malachi Cannon finished seventh in the 1600 (4:46.67) and Derrik Fisher placed eighth in the Shot Put (44'4”), while the 4x800 relay team of Ballard, Garcia, Zack McArthur and Schmidt placed runner-up with a time 8:25.58, which beat their previous top 4A time by just over 14 seconds.
Mary Simmons paced the Lady Panthers with a runner-up finish in the 800 (2:31.09), while Paige Vandivor took third in the 300 hurdles (53.91) and fourth in the 100 hurdles (17.50).
Shelby Clark placed fourth in the High Jump (4'7”) and seventh in the 100 (13.55), while Hannah Mangum finished third in the Pole Vault (8'3”) and Madi Fires finished the 1600 with a state qualifying time of 5:48.35, which was good for fifth place.
Christina St. John took fifth in the Discus (86'5”), Alyssa Uphoff placed seventh in the 400 (1:06.83) and Sarah Peeler was eighth in the Triple Jump (29' 9.75”).
Heber's 4x800 relay team consisting of Grace Bodron, Adrianna Simmons, Fires and Mary Simmons placed runner-up with a state qualifying time of 10:45.56.
Heber Springs is set to host the Eagle Bank Sr. Relays on Friday at Panther Stadium.