Local runners ready for championships in Hot Springs

Friday, November 6, 2015

The race they have been waiting for all year is finally here. The cross country state championships begin Saturday morning at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs and all three Carroll County coaches think their teams have chances to bring home trophies.

"We have been No. 1 for a long time in the boys division," Green Forest coach Bradley James said. "We would have to be considered one of the favorites."

James said the Green Forest girls have worked hard all year and a top-five finish would be great.

"I would think we are right around sixth right now," James said. "If we were to get a few PRs, (personal records) then a top-five finish is possible."

Heading into the state championships, Berryville coach Andrew Killingsworth said a few of his runners have been battling illness or injuries recently, but are ready to go now.

"We have been running pretty light for the last week or so," Killingsworth said. "We won't know for sure until they run, but I know they will give it their best."

Coming into the season, Killingsworth said Berryville's main competition would be Heber Springs. After the Bobcats defeated Heber Springs on its home course, he felt much better, but a few races ago, Heber Springs added a freshman runner, and Killingsworth said that could change a few things.

"I don't know where you find a runner that fast," Killingsworth said. "He is out there running courses in 17 minutes. It sounds weird, but it's not going to come down to our fastest guy. It will come down to our fourth- and fifth-place guys and where they can finish. That will be the difference in gold and silver."

The Lady Bobcats have finished in fifth place for three years in a row. They are ranked second in the state and Killingsworth believes they will break the curse of finishing fifth.

"It is really unknown," Killingsworth said. "It will be us, Ozark, Gravette and Gentry fighting for it, but we have a legitimate chance to bring home some hardware."

Killingsworth is glad to see the Lady Bobcats in this position.

"This is the first time we have really been in the conversation since I have been here," Killingsworth said. "And a lot of my girls are sophomores and juniors, so that is promising moving forward."

Eureka Springs coach Kathy Manus is glad that the success her team had last year has carried over to this year.

"We have had a lot of new runners and a lot of young runners," Manus said. "I feel like it has been a work in process all year, but we are peaking at the right time."

Manus added she is glad her team has had the opportunity to compete against bigger schools.

"We have been to meets with teams who have much more depth than us, and to see that we have been able to hang in there with them has given our kids confidence," Manus said.

The only Carroll County team that has seen the Oaklawn Park course this year is Green Forest. The Tigers drove down for the Lake Hamilton Invitational on Oct. 17. James said he believes that will be an advantage for the Tigers.

"It let the younger kids who hadn't seen the course get a glimpse of it," James said. "They can work on a little strategy."

Oaklawn Park isn't a very hilly course. Killingsworth said Berryville's runners enjoy running up and down the hills, so Friday evening the Bobcats will be putting a game plan together.

"We will hit the course, strategize, and create different places throughout the course that are mental hills," Killingsworth said. "We are hill runners and that is how we have to think."

Class 3A will start things at 9 a.m. and the 4A race will follow at approximately 10 a.m. The Highlanders will have to wait until approximately 3:15 to take to the course for the Class 2A race.

James is glad the Tigers will be racing in the morning.

"It's what they are used to," James said. "Staying in the same pattern is always nice. It should definitely be a bit of an advantage."

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