Dy­nasty con­tin­ues

Lady Panthers win fifth straight ti­tle

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - SPORTS - By Gra­ham Thomas Staff Writer gth­omas@nwadg.com ■

HOT SPRINGS — Siloam Springs went into the Class 5A Girls State Cham­pi­onship Cross Coun­try Meet feel­ing the pres­sure and nerves that go with be­ing four-time de­fend­ing state cham­pi­ons.

But if the Lady Panthers had but­ter­flies prior to the meet, those were not ev­i­dent in their per­for­mance.

Plac­ing all seven of its scor­ing po­si­tions in the top 35, Siloam Springs cap­tured its fifth straight cross coun­try cham­pi­onship on a chilly morn­ing Fri­day at Oak­lawn Park.

“I felt like the pres­sure was on more than it ever has been in the past,” said Siloam Springs coach Sharon Jones. “Be­cause be­fore, we’ve just have had to go out and run a con­fi­dent race like we nor­mally do. This time we had to run our best. We re­ally had to run our best and those girls stepped up. It was re­ally good.”

Siloam Springs scored 86 points, 16 ahead of a sur­pris­ing sec­ond place Jones­boro team and 38 ahead of Vilonia, which only fin­ished two points be­hind the Lady Panthers at the 5A-West Con­fer­ence meet held at the Sim­mons Course in Siloam Springs on Oct. 25.

The Lady Panthers felt like their tough­est chal­lenge would come from Vilonia, but it turns out Siloam Springs placed all nine of their run­ners com­pet­ing in front of the Lady Ea­gles’ fifth.

Jones­boro’s Sara Steimel placed first in­di­vid­u­ally at 20 min­utes, 3.5 sec­onds and the Lady Hur­ri­cane also had Jescina Droughn at 21:18.2 to place ninth.

“We were watch­ing the wrong team,” Jones said. “Ap­par­ently we should have been pay­ing more at­ten­tion to Jones­boro. Jones­boro was not even on our radar.”

Siloam Springs se­nior Chloe McGooden fin­ished sev­enth over­all at 21:09.3 and re­ceived a medal for plac­ing in the top 10.

“I just re­ally wanted to win this one be­cause I’m a se­nior,” McGooden said, “and I wanted to keep the streak go­ing for Coach.”

McGooden was also among the top 17 run­ners who made all-state, which is given to the top 10 per­cent of the field. Sopho­more Quincy Efurd, who ran a 21:43.5 and was 14th, and ju­nior Candy Dubon, who fin­ished 16th at 21:47.7, also earned all-state honors in Class 5A.

“Chloe ran tight last year, and our goal for to­day was for Chloe to run re­laxed,” Jones said. “Our two words this morn­ing were ‘calm’ and ‘con­fi­dent,’ be­cause we are run­ning from a place of vic­tory. We have been there. We won last week (at the con­fer­ence meet). We just need to do it again, so this morn­ing we just tried to get the girls calm. We tried to get them to step up to the start­ing line like they would any 5K and just run their best.”

Fresh­man Jaci­lyn Weil­nah took 24th over­all with a time of 22:25.3 and fin­ished twotenths of a sec­ond in front of ju­nior Re­bekah Rodgers, who ran a 22:25.5.

Ju­nior Clau­dia Mer­cado crossed the fin­ish line in 22:30.8, while Syd­ney Moor­man took 34th at 22:44.9. Fresh­man Lilly Cole fin­ished in 22:48.6, while se­nior Brit­tany Pilcher was 43rd at 23:04.6.

“Our goal was for Chloe and Quincy to go out and stalk those top girls and just hang there,” Jones said. “Not try and beat them in the first mile but just be there and to be ready to make move if they needed to. And then we told the pack, some­times in prac­tice we get com­fort­able in that pack and we al­most slow down. Girls you can’t get com­fort­able. We’ve got to stay close to Quincy and that’s ex­actly what they did.”

The state cham­pi­onship is the Lady Panthers’ eighth in the his­tory of the pro­gram, join­ing ti­tles in 2001, 2002, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

“I feel blessed,” Jones said. “I feel blessed to have that tro­phy this year, be­cause it could have gone any way.”

Efurd, who was run­ning cross coun­try for the first time this year, said the Lady Panthers were go­ing to leave it all out there no mat­ter the re­sult.

“We had a big group dis­cus­sion be­fore the race, and we were all like, ‘win or lose we’re all in this to­gether,’” Efurd said. “Even if sec­ond place is our best, it doesn’t mat­ter be­cause we all know that we did the best we could.”


Siloam Springs had two un­der­class­men place in the top 10, and the Panthers fin­ished fourth for the sec­ond straight sea­son.

Lake Hamil­ton won its sixth straight state ti­tle with 57 points, fol­lowed by Mountain Home with 93, Maumelle 107 and Siloam Springs in fourth with 141.

Jones said the Panthers had two goals go­ing into Fri­day’s race. The first was they wanted to get third place, which they fell 34 points shy of. But the sec­ond was the Panthers wanted to de­feat Rus­sel­lville, which fin­ished ahead of Siloam Springs last week in the 5A-West Con­fer­ence Meet on the Panthers’ home course.

“We wanted to beat Rus­sel­lville be­cause we know we could have beat them at our place at con­fer­ence,” Jones said. “We re­ally wanted to get Rus­sel­lville back. We thought we might be able to sneak back up into third.”

Sopho­more Michael Cape­hart led the Panthers with a sev­enth-place fin­ish 17:26.1, just three sec­onds in front of ju­nior team­mate Ker­rig Kelly, who took ninth at 17:29.1.

Both Cape­hart and Kelly re­ceived medals and earned all-state honors in Class 5A.

“I wanted to go out and beat Ker­rig and re­ally try and get into the 17s, but that didn’t quite hap­pen,” said Cape­hart, who did de­feat his team­mate in what has be­come a friendly ri­valry.

“Oh yeah, def­i­nitely we’ve been push­ing each other back and forth the whole time,” Kelly said. “We both got faster be­cause of it.”

Both Cape­hart and Kelly have strug­gled with some in­juries this year that has led to them not run­ning in ev­ery race. It paid off in the fi­nal race for the boys.

“Nei­ther one of them have com­plained one bit,” Jones said. “They just do what they’ve got to do. And if I would have asked them to run hurt, they would have ran hurt. But they were smart.”

Jones said she in­structed Kelly to take a week off run­ning

and just swim and bike for one week.

“Man it made a dif­fer­ence for us, be­cause if we had lost ei­ther one of those guys, it would have been dis­as­trous for our team,” she said.

Jones laughed at the thought of the sopho­more Cape­hart who didn’t have any nerves be­fore the race, she said.

“Just a sopho­more, he doesn’t get ner­vous,” she said. “We were just laugh­ing at how ner­vous the girls were and how loose the boys were. The boys just, we’re go­ing to go out and run our hard­est and see what hap­pens. Noth­ing to lose.”

Se­nior Sa­muel Gran­der­son placed 29th over­all with a time of 18:16.8, while fresh­man Javier Chavez placed 49th at 18:53.0, ju­nior Adam Kennedy 58th at 19:02.8, and sopho­more Blake Mor­ri­son 60th at 19:03.0.

Fresh­man Jor­dyn Bask­ins placed 65th at 19:12.0, while sopho­more Luke Fields was 113th at 20:23.9 and sopho­more Ben Humphries 126th at 20:44.6.

“Adam (Kennedy) told me af­ter the race, ‘Coach I don’t think any of us could have done any more,’ and I was like, ‘I don’t ei­ther,’ Jones said. “I think they gave it ev­ery bit of what they had.”

Gra­ham Thomas/Siloam Sun­day

The Siloam Springs girls cross coun­try team and coaches cel­e­brate on the win­ner’s podium Fri­day af­ter win­ning the Class 5A Girls State Cross Coun­try Meet at Oak­lawn Park in Hot Springs. The state ti­tle is the Lady Panthers’ fifth straight af­ter win­ning the pre­vi­ous four in the former Class 6A clas­si­fi­ca­tion.

Gra­ham Thomas/Siloam Sun­day

Siloam Springs se­nior Chloe McGooden, mid­dle, runs stride for stride with Vilonia’s Lau­ren Mil­likin, left, with Lady Panthers sopho­more Quincy Efurd close be­hind Fri­day morn­ing at the Class 5A State Girls Cross County Meet at Oak­lawn Park in Hot Springs. The Siloam Springs girls won their fifth straight state ti­tle.

Gra­ham Thomas/Siloam Sun­day

Siloam Springs sopho­more Michael Cape­hart, fol­lowed by ju­nior team­mate Ker­rig Kelly, run dur­ing the Class 5A Boys State Cross Coun­try Meet at Oak­lawn Park in Hot Springs. Cape­hart fin­ished sev­enth over­all and Kelly was ninth with the Panthers fin­ish­ing fourth over­all as a team.

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