The Heber Springs Lady Panthers outscored six-time defending 4A champion Nashville in the 4A state track and field meet on Thursday at Panther Stadium. However, the Crossett Lady Eagles, who recently dropped down from Class 5A, dominated the meet with 189 points as junior Kelsey Herman led the way with a meet-high 52.5 points.
Herman, reportedly headed to LSU after next year, set four 4A state records while winning the 100 (12.22), 200 (24.81), 100 hurdles (15.05), Long Jump (19'4.5”) and tying for first place in High Jump (5'5”).
Herman set the 4A record in Long Jump, 100, 200 and helped the Lady Eagles' 4x100 relay team set a state record with a time of 47.31.
Herman's exceptional performance along with the Heber Springs boys winning their third outdoor title and record second Triple Crown, plus the young Lady Panthers' runner-up performance made the 4A meet a huge success despite wet conditions throughout much of the day.
“This has been a very stressful year knowing what could happen, but not knowing if it would happen,” said Heber Coach Johnette Goldman. “It was so wonderful to leave campus Thursday night with so many wonderful things for which to thank the Lord. Many had rallied together to make the day itself like none other. There is no way to list or thank every one enough for that. Though we had cold drizzle, we were never stopped, thankfully. I don't think any of those coaches can recall leaving a state meet before 8 p.m. as they did on May 2, 2013.”
Heber sophomore Sarah Peeler won an individual state championship in the Pole Vault, clearing 9'0, while junior Madi Fires took second in the 1600 (5:39.24) and fourth in the 3200 (12:57.15.
The Lady Panthers' 4x800 relay also won a state title with a time of 10:34.06. Senior Grace Bodron, sophomore Adrianna Simmons, junior Hannah Johnson and junior Mary Simmons comprised the 4x800 team, which earned a spot along with Peeler and Fires in Saturday's Meet of Champs at Lake Hamilton.
Mary Simmons also placed runner-up for the Lady Panthers in the 800 (2:29.97), while freshman standout Alison Thomas tied for third in the High Jump (4' 10”) and placed seventh in the 100 hurdles (17.22).
“We are just very thankful to our athletes for all their efforts,” said Goldman. “We are also thankful for the enormous number of people that decided to be God's hands and feet by contributing in so many varied ways to give our kids the opportunity to accomplish this at home. It is so special to have so many past Panthers work the meet and be able to celebrate with these present Panthers.”
Heber's 4x100 relay team of senior Paige Vandivor, senior Shelby Clark, freshman Erin Rezanka and sophomore Kelsi Davison placed fifth with a time of 52.80. Clark also took seventh in the 100 (13.55), while Vandivor placed eighth in the 300 hurdles (53.18).
Rounding out Heber's point total, sophomore Alyssa Uphoff finished eighth in the 400 (1:06.86) and sophomore Christina St. John took seventh in the Discus (88' 1”).
Page 2 of 2 - Goldman could not have been prouder of Heber's overall showing.
“I don't know how many people have told me how well our kids competed. They each gave their all. It was so neat. Coach [Dale] Cresswell and the boy's team deserve many accolades for making history for Heber Springs and for athletics in Arkansas by winning the second Triple Crown.
It is just awesome. But at the same time, there are some senior girls that deserve some of those accolades. These young ladies were cross country 4A state champions, they were track and field 1-4A indoor state runner-up and now track and field 4A outdoor state runner-up. This small group of ladies got as close as they could to a triple crown without attaining it. Coach Cresswell and I are extremely proud of their showing.”
Goldman added that attaining such lofty goals does not come easy.
“This didn't just happen for the boys or the girls. We have some true workhorses in cross country and track and field. We have kids that could have called it quits due to injuries, illness or conflicts that just kept on keeping on. Some for years, some months, and some just weeks, but they fought through it.
“We are thankful for the many medical folk that helped them be able to do so. We are grateful for these athletes' fortitude and desire to excel. We hurt for those who worked so hard and maybe did not see the individual benefits, but hope they know their efforts were recognized and they have ownership in the teams' success. They are better people for what they did and will be respected for it,” concluded Goldman.
The Lady Panthers outscored six-time defending state champion Nashville (44) by 18 points and could have won their second state championship of the season had Crossett not dropped down from 5A for the current cycle.