Heber Springs Coach Dale Cresswell said, “I am not trying to win this meet. I am trying to win the next two … conference and state,” as the back-to-back defending state champion Panthers competed in their final regular season meet on Friday at Panther Stadium.
Senior Clint Ligon, who scored 46 points alone at last year's state meet, has been hampered by a lingering injury and returned with less than usual production. With Ligon struggling to get back to his usual dominance and with the Panthers already qualified for state in 11 events, Heber cruised at the Eagle Bank Relays, using all of its best athletes in limited roles.
As a result, the Panthers finished fourth as a team behind senior standout Ethan Bly, who compiled a team-high 26 points by winning the 100 (11.15) and placing runner-up in the 200 (22.51) and Long Jump (21'3”). Bly outran runner-up Derrance Smith of Monticello in the 100 (11.48), while Searcy's Victor Black won the 200, edging Bly with a mark of 22.45. Searcy's Karonce Higgins won the Long Jump (22' 10”).
Class 6A Marion won the boys meet with 110 points, just ahead of 6A Lake Hamilton (104). 5A Vilonia took third with 78 points, one point in font of Heber (77). 6A Benton posted 56 points for fifth place.
Bly, who unfortunately was injured early in last year's state meet, has picked up the slack with a stellar senior season. Bly also helped the 4x400 relay team finish second (3:26.96) along with Jorge Garcia, Daniel Henley and Austin Schmidt. Marion won the 4x400 with a time of 3:26.96.
Panther junior Brock Ballard won the 800 with time of 2:01.87, nearly three seconds in front of Marion's Darrius Hill.
Also racking up points for Heber, sophomore Malachi Cannon placed fourth in the mile run with a time of 4:42.88, while Schmidt placed fifth in the 400 (52.61), senior Andrew Powell finished fifth in the two mile (10:39.43) and junior Nate Hills took fifth in the Shot Put (42' 2.5”).
Ligon tied for sixth in the High Jump (5' 6”) and the 4x100 relay team of Daniel Henley, Dylan Bly, Eddie Irvin and Ethan Bly placed fifth with a time of 45.34.
The Lady Panthers placed fifth as a team with 50 points at the Eagle Bank Relays as 4A Crossett ran away with the meet, posting 156 points. 6A Lake Hamilton took second (92), 5A Vilonia was third (77.5) and 5A Beebe placed fourth (61). Heber edged 4A Monticello (45.5) by 4.5 points for fifth place overall.
Junior Mary Simmons registered the top performance of the day for the Lady Panthers, upping her 4A best time in the 800 to 2:27.45, which was good for third place in a stacked race. Lake Hamilton sophomore Breana Darnley won the 800 with a time of 2:26.21.
Heber's 4x800 relay team consisting of Grace Bodron, Adrianna Simmons, Hannah Johnson and Mary Simmons placed runner-up with a time of 10:47.04. Lake Hamilton won the race (10:20.90).
Page 2 of 2 - Heber junior Madi Fires placed third in the two mile (12:37.70) and fifth in the mile with a time of 5:43.58, while sophomore Christina St. John placed third in the Discus (90' 3”).
Senior Paige Vandivor took fifth in both the 100 hurdles (18.02) and 300 hurdles (53.50) and classmate Shelby Clark finished seventh in the 100-meter dash (13.56). Rounding out Heber's point total, sophomores Sara Peeler and Kelsi Davison tied for fifth in the Pole Vault (7' 6”), while the 4x100 relay team of Vandivor, Clark,
Mary Lawrence and Davison placed eighth with a time of 55.55.
Heber is scheduled to host the 2-4A Conference track and field meet today at Panther Stadium. Preliminaries begin at 2:30 p.m.