With the heat index soaring near 100 degrees, the Heber Springs Panthers made Josh Park and Seth Decker proud on Tuesday at the Josh Park Memorial cross country meet held at Dam Site Park in Heber Springs.
Park, a cross country and track athlete who was tragically killed in a car accident while traveling back from a basketball game during his sophomore year, is remembered by many throughout the community along with Seth Decker, a football and track athlete who also died in the wreck.
The defending 4A state champion Panthers and defending state champion Lady Panthers won their division (1-4A) of the 5K, while the Junior Panthers and Junior Lady Panthers won their division (1-4A) of the 3200-meter as Heber swept all four races.
Heber Springs senior Madi Fires, who placed runner-up individually in state the past two seasons, burned a path through Dam Site Park, finishing with a time of 22:38.36, which was tops among all athletes competing in the senior girls’ 5K race.
Junior Mary Simmons placed runner-up overall with a mark of 22:43.86. Senior Amanda Matthews (14th, 25:23), sophomore Korl Cusick (22nd, 26:31.87)), junior Adrianna Simmons (25th, 26:44.29), junior Hannah Mangum (27th, 27:12.27) and junior Sarah Archer (47th, 30:24.57) helped the Lady Panthers finish with a combined time of 2:04.02.
West Side junior Abby Turney (18th, 25:51.28) and Rose Bud junior Isabella Creasey (24th, 26:38.98) also finished in the top 20 in the 1-4A division.
“It was so nice for all four of our teams to win the 1-4A division of the 15th Annual Josh Park Memorial Cross Country Invitational,” said Lady Panther Coach Johnette Goldman. “The JPM meet is the kick-off for the schools that attend. Our junior high had several athletes who had never been in a race, so it was neat to see the anticipation and the satisfaction in knowing that they could actually handle it in their faces from the starting line to the post meet recovery. On the other end, it was wonderful to see the seniors win their last JPM. Some were not happy with their times, but considering the conditions, Coach Cresswell and I are very proud of each of our runners, boys and girls.
“The heat and dust made the day concerning,” Goldman continued. “We appreciate NorthStar for their services for helping should someone get too hot. We are appreciative of the cooperation of the Corps of Engineers for allowing us to take over the trail for the race. The Corps has worked to improve the trail area through the timber management and repair work for our community and visitors. We are blessed to benefit from such. Our school was very supportive, especially by involving the JAG program and the business department. We thank each and every person who helped. The success of the JPM is due to the wonderful volunteers we have. We appreciate the individuals and businesses that sponsored us.”
Page 2 of 3 - Goldman said she looks forward to another exciting season.
“It is great to get the season started after the summer practices. We are excited to see how the 2013 season unfolds. It has been great working with these great athletes. We appreciate the time and effort they put in to compete for the Panthers,” added Goldman.
Senior Brock Ballard led the Panthers’ charge with a time of 18:50.90, which was good for fifth overall and fourth in Heber’s division. Junior Malachi Cannon finished fifth out of 1-4A athletes with a time of 19:03.58, while senior Brandon George (20:02.55), who transferred from Clinton, was seventh in the Panthers’ division.
Sophomore Patrick Hill (12th, 20:28.15), junior Jonathan Ogle (13th, 20:28.66) and senior Austin Schmidt (20th, 21:07.93) each placed in the top 20 of the 1-4A division, while junior Alex Rubio (29th, 21:54.74) served as the Panthers’ displacer.
“It was very warm with the heat index probably over 100 and the wind wasn’t blowing too much either up in those trees. We didn’t have a direct sun on us but it was pretty hot,” said Panther Coach Dale Cresswell.
“The senior boys I think did fairly well. I was very surprised, pleasantly surprised with a couple of kids. One was Brandon George who came in last year but couldn’t compete. He ran fairly well. Brock didn’t do as well as he wanted to, but he was our No. 1 runner. I think the heat got to him a little bit after running in Memphis a week ago. Other than that I am pretty sure we have five or six pretty good runners that will compete well for us.”
Valley View’s Carter Shelton, who dropped out of the meet in which Ballard placed fifth in Memphis, won the senior boys’ race with a time of 17:25.27. Notably, West Side sophomore Jake Lawson (18th, 20:58.70) also finished in the top 20 in the 1-4A division.
Concord eighth-grader Kaleah Davis posted the top time among area athletes in the junior girls’ 3200-meter race. Davis placed runner-up overall with a time of 14:46.16, which was good for first place in 1-4A.
Eighth-grader Ali Jones led the Jr. Lady Panthers’ first place finish by placing fourth overall and second in the 1-4A division with a time of 14:48.63, while Serena Pruitt (3rd, 15:00.27) and Grace Lehfeldt (5th, 15:38.47) also finished among the top 10 runners in the Jr. Lady Panthers’ division.
Hannah Richardson (11th, 16:47.87), Daisy Owens (15th, 17:02.09), Ashley Patchell (16th, 17:05. 42) and Hailey Southerland (20th, 17:43.39) rounded out Heber’s top competitors. Notably, Concord freshman Mallory Benton placed 17th with a time of 17:26.72.
Heber’s junior boys won their division as seventh-grader Parker Ables led the way with a 3200-meter time of 13:03.88, which was good for third overall and second in the 1-4A division.
Page 3 of 3 - Jesse Applewhite (13:11.99) placed fourth in Heber’s division, while Richie Matthews (11th, 13:59.90), Max Schroeder (12th, 14:04.31), Ethan Hackworth (13th, 14:14.43), Lane Carter (14th, 14:17.88) and Isaac Briley (15th, 14:29.72) rounded out the Junior Panthers’ total time of 1:08.34
West Side’s Cain Besson (6th, 13:31.78) and Gage Hewitt (7th, 13:35.30) also placed in the top 10 among area runners.
Heber will compete at West Side’s meet on Tuesday.