Playing host to over 30 schools across all seven classifications, the Josh Park Invitational Cross Country meet saw local athletes turn in strong performances in all four races held (junior girls, junior boys, senior girls, senior boys).
The event kicked off with the Jr. Boys race, where West Side freshman Travis Gentry took home a fourth place finish with a time of 12:27.73, with Quitman’s Nic Shue following behind in tenth (12:43.49). Teammate Tate Stacks took eleventh (12:51.64), while Mason Harris turned in the best time for Heber Springs with a 13:07.73, good for thirteenth. Following Jaden Tate of Quitman’s tally of 13:18.51 (fourteenth place), the Eagles of West Side got back on the board thanks to Preston Story (13:34.65, sixteenth) and Asa Carr (13:36.51, eighteenth). Chayce Pierce (43rd) was the top finisher for Rose Bud with a 14.71.41. Bald Knob’s Braden Davis was the race’s top finisher overall with a 12:04.67. A grand total of 269 runners competed in the event, which was won by West Side.
Following was the junior girls contest, whose top area finisher was freshman Taylor Hooten with a time of 14:12.58, winding up in third place. Heber Springs athlete Maygan Jarvis clocked out at 15:06.20, seizing nineteenth. Sonny Campbell (17:57.10, 112th) competed for Rose Bud. Greenbrier’s Presley Roberts took the gold medal with a 13:01.63. The Melbourne Jr. Lady Bearkatz locked down the team title, as 232 runners in total took on the course.
Heber Springs senior Parker Ables, who has dominated the cross country and track and field circuits since arriving as a freshman, grabbed the silver medal in the senior boys race (16:31.99), placing behind Luke Walling of Cave City (16:22.46). Quitman junior Zac Shue finished in ninth (18:51.65), as Trenton Barnes of Heber Springs was right behind in tenth (18:56.74). Also finishing strong for the Bulldogs and Panthers were Jaden Hagens (20:11.48, sixteenth, Quitman) and Chancey Ivener (20:26.42, eighteenth, Heber Springs). Cave City, the defending Class 4A state champions of the sport, knotted the top score for the team title with ease, topping runner-up Green Forrest 29-66. Heber Springs took third with 87 points, while Quitman finished in fourth with 109.
The final race of the day involved senior girls action, where defending Class 1-2A individual state champion and West Side sophomore Haley Gentry secured a fourth place showing with a time of 21:06.67. Following her was the Quitman Lady Bulldog duo of Haley Trawick (22:31.86, sixth) and Halle Bennett (23:01.27), with Heber Springs junior McKenzie Becerra taking ninth with a 23:15.93. Behind Becerra was teammates Sydney Buffalo in twelfth (23:15.93) and Taylor Hammons in fifteenth (23:30.79). Alex Southerland provided West Side with another top finish with a 23:29.56 for fourteenth. Melbourne’s Kiley Webb, who will serve as the biggest threat in Gentry’s defending of the state crown, finished right ahead of Gentry in third (20:58.48). Webb won the Class 3A individual state title last November, and will compete in the 1-2A race this season after Melbourne moved down in classification from 3A to 2A. The gold medal winner was Green Forrest’s Karina Maravillas (20:40.93), with Valley View edging Green Forrest for the team championship 94-47. Quitman, the reigning two-time Class 2A state champions took the final podium spot in third with 104 points, topping Heber Springs’ total of 108. The Lady Eagles of West Side finished back in ninth with 256.
Up next on the schedule for area runners is the West Side Eagle Invitational next Tuesday in Greers Ferry, where the junior boys will begin at 4:00, followed by the junior girls, senior boys and senior girls races.