The junior high girls cross country race at last week’s Caveman Open started with the traditional bang of the pistol, but ended in cries of pain as a swarm of yellow jackets attacked after more than 140 runners had passed.
Batesville’s Taylor Bishop, an eighth-grader, got the worst of it with dozens of stings before spectators and parents could get the girls out of danger and get help from the ambulance crew on site.
Meet officials led by host Cave City Coach Brandon Haling halted the event to hunt down the nest and secure the course. With no certainty the swarm was eradicated, officials and coaches agreed to divert the course to avoid the nest area. The resulting detour shortened the races to roughly a mile and a quarter for junior boys and 2 1/2 miles for senior high.
The day began with promise of excitement, with 36 schools entered in the various races. The junior girls led off with a tight battle as Emma Akins of Mountain View held a 10-second edge over Paragould’s Starlyn Edwards to win in a fast 9:33. Teammate Maggie Tyrone was another dozen seconds back in third as Mountain View took the team title with four runners in the first 16 scoring positions in the field of more than 160.
Cave City’s Britney Mahan led the local runners in 19th place at 10:43. Victoria Nelms led Batesville in 53rd at 11:50, followed closely by a trio from Southside: Bailey Caddy (59th, 12:03), Breanna Lopez (61st, 12:04), and Ally Braswell (66th, 12:07).
The junior boys started after a half hour delay on the shortened course, with cloud cover and fading sunlight giving a break from the typical high heat at this annual event.
An even tighter lead pack than in the junior girls race had fans roaring, with Wade Harris of Heber Springs separating a bit to win in 7:07, with the next five runners bunched between 7:15 and 7:18. Batesville’s Ryan Barber earned a top 10 medal in fifth at 7:17, with Cave City’s Brock Smith right behind at 7:18. Cave City showed the value of team depth as they narrowly won the team title with 105 points to Maumelle’s 113. The Cavemen had five runners in the first 36 scoring positions, while Maumelle’s fifth scorer finished 62nd. Carson Crispel, Southside’s only entry, finished in 14:06 in the field of 199.
Familiar names topped the charts for the senior girls as Mountain View’s Ellie Akins pushed away late to win in 17:38, with Kate Provence of Cedar Ridge second in 17:47 and Melbourne’s Kaitlyn McCarn third in 17:49. Southside’s Brett Gardner finished 16th in 19:59 in the field of 106. Cave City’s Mackenzie Milligan soloed for the host squad in 26th at 20:50, while Batesville’s first four ran in a close pack separated by less than 40 seconds: Maggie Walton (37th, 21:30), Kate Moody (39th, 21:43), Clara Nikkel (43rd, 21:50), and Kinley Dorris (46th, 22:07).
Quitman grabbed the team title with five in the top 15 scoring places. Harding landed five in the top 25 for second.
Searcy’s Mason Sciba clocked the day’s largest margin of victory, winning the senior boys race in 14:58, but it was a photo finish just behind him as teammate Elijah Linderman ran 15:18.12 to nip Mountain View’s Jack Newton at 15:18.21, Tate Stacks of Quitman in 15:19.00, Braden Cox of Sloan-Hendrix in 15:19.32, and Highland’s Preston Wright in 15:20.57.
Batesville’s Trey Moody finished 14th in 16:06 in another pack of four led by Harding’s Rocky Stone in 11th at 16:03.97, Kyler Caraway of Melbourne in 16:03.98, and Dominic Sellers of Flippin in 16:04.73.
Cody Chappell of Cave City took 59th in 18:39, with Batesville’s Tanner Queary chasing in 61st in 18:44. Southside’s Jonathan Calhoun ran 19:23 for 68th ahead of lone teammate Caleb Middleton at 22:57, 102nd in the field of 129.
Quitman swept the senior titles by finishing with six in the top 25 scoring places to comfortably beat Searcy despite the one-two finish, 64 to 99.