Area teams hope to win titles in Hot Springs
The state cross country championships will be held Friday in Hot Springs and all three area schools have a legitimate chance to bring home a state title.
The Green Forest boys and girls are both favored to win Class 3A championships. The Berryville Bobcats and Eureka Springs Highlanders are both expected to compete for titles in both the boys and girls divisions, too.
"The boys have looked pretty good this year and with the way they have run, they have a pretty good chance to repeat for a fourth time," Green Forest coach Bradley James said. "It's exciting to have that possibility. And the girls are doing pretty well. We have to have a good day out of them, but we have a chance to be in the top two or three schools like we were last year."
The Berryville Lady Bobcats were arguably the favorites to win the Class 4A state championship heading into the season, but injuries have hurt them as the season has gone on.
"The girls were ranked number one at the beginning of the year," Berryville coach Andrew Killingsworth said. "They were winning all the races, but now I have four of my top six runners out. That hurts us tremendously. They are still wanting to go give it their best shot. They finished second at the conference meet and we were missing one runner at the state volleyball tournament. With her, that should even things up again and you just never know at state. Some of these teams could get in there and help us. They still have a chance to go down there and bring home some hardware."
The Eureka Springs Highlanders won both the boys and girls 2A-4 conference meet. Coach Kathy Manus is optimistic her team can run well in Hot Springs.
"We have had a good season," Manus said. "It's gotten better as the year has gone on and I feel like we are running our best right now, which is what you want."
The Berryville boys graduated 11 runners from last year’s team, who have been tough to replace. The Bobcats finished third at the conference meet last week and Killingsworth hopes to better that in Hot Springs. Along with Huntsville, Killingsworth expects Heber Springs to be Berryville's main competition.
"Huntsville is going to be a tough team to beat, but it's not impossible," Killingsworth said. "We weren't supposed to do anything this year, but they are still a team that people are going to have to watch out for, so that is a good feeling."
James expects Genoa Central and Elkins to be the main competition for the Green Forest boys, while Genoa Central and Melbourne will also be competing for the girls title. The Green Forest boys are vying for their fourth consecutive Class 3A state championship.
"You never want to assume something is going to happen, but you look at our team makeup from last year to this year," James said. "Last year we had six seniors in the race and this year we have five freshmen. Our team has totally flip-flopped from an age standpoint and an experience standpoint. If we were fortunate enough to win another one, that's a big deal because of how young they are and what it takes to stay on top and continue to be on top."
There is a chance of thunderstorms on Friday. Killingsworth ran in those conditions as a senior in Hot Springs so he hopes that if it does rain, his experience can help the Bobcats.
"Being able to relay that knowledge to the kids on the day of (the race) could be a big help," Killingsworth said. "Sometimes rain can get in their head, but they have to remember it's not just raining on you, it's raining on your competitors, too. That could be just enough to get us over the edge."