Heber Springs senior Clint Ligon won the 300 hurdles and the Panthers' 4x400 Relay team edged Marion for first place in a tight race as the three-time defending 4A outdoor state champions showed they can compete with anybody in Arkansas despite less than half the enrollment of many 6A and 7A schools competing at Saturday's Meet of Champs.
“It was a neat night for everyone involved,” said Panther Coach Dale Cresswell, who has led the boys cross county and track programs to 10 state championships since 2006, including eight over the past three years.
The Panthers tied for third place as a team with 42 points, nine points behind winner Lake Hamilton (6A), which collected 51 points while hosting the prestigious meet. Rogers Heritage (7A) took runner-up with 43 points and Little Rock Catholic (7A) tied Heber for third.
“Last year we scored 31 points for third, so 42 points for us is pretty good especially when first is only 51,” said Cresswell. “They don't give out team trophies and team stuff but it's always good to see how you compare against the larger schools.”
Ligon, who is headed to ASU to run track in the fall, chased down first place in the 300 hurdles (39.80), ahead of second place Houston Cotton of Vilonia (40.04), and Ligon placed runner-up in the 110 hurdles with a time of 14.87 ¬ just behind winner Tiwayne White of 6A Texarkana (14.80).
Heber's 4x400 relay team completed their race with a time of 3:23.55 to win first place, edging 6A Marion (3:24.35) by less than one second while setting a new school record.
“The highlight was when the 4x400 Relay came around,” said Lady Panther Coach Johnette Goldman, who also helps with the senior boys team.
“Ethan Bly, Jorge Garcia, Daniel Henley, and Austin Schmidt won a competitive race. It was exciting and the crowd loved it. Folks came up to express how awesome and enjoyable it was to watch the competitiveness of our guys,” added Goldman.
“Ethan Bly started the relay with a 48.12 400,” said Cresswell. “The second runner Jorge Garcia ran a 51, then Daniel Henley ran a 51 and Austin ran a 52, but he has a longer leg than the rest of them. They all ran pretty good and it's a new school record. It broke the school record from last year at the Meet of Champs,” added Cresswell.
Cresswell said beating Marion in the 4x400 was extra special because the Panthers had split two previous races against the Patriots.
“It's pretty cool that we beat Marion because one time Marion beat us here at our Eagle Bank Relays and we beat them at the Lake Hamilton Invitational. It was a neat race for them to be in and for me to watch.”
Heber junior Brock Ballard, who placed seventh in the 1600 with a time of 4:47.68, carried the Panthers' 4x800 Relay team to second place by running a sub two minute leg (1:58.46).
Page 2 of 2 - The 3200 relay team, consisting of Schmidt, Garcia, Zack McArthur and Ballard, finished their race less than two seconds behind 7A Springdale Har-ber (8:12.55).
Senior Ethan Bly, who earned high point honors at last week's 4A state meet with 40.5 points, placed seventh in the 100 (11.42) and seventh in the 400 (50.73) while helping the 1600 relay team post a school record.
The Lady Panthers, who placed runner-up to Crossett in last week's state meet, also had a positive showing at the Meet of Champs as the 4x800 Relay team placed seventh with a time of 10:39.47.
Heber's 4x800 Relay team consists of Grace Bodron, Adrianna Simmons, Hannah Johnson and Mary Simmons, who finished ninth in the 800 with a time of 2:30.28.
Ligon, Bly and Ballard will compete at the state decathlon, which starts today at Fayetteville High School.