Saturday, September 28, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girl takes first at Bison Stampede

Leader sportswriter

Micah Huckabee was looking for a personal-best time on a 5-kilometer course as much as she was a second cross-country victory of the year, but the Cabot junior was able to accomplish both during the Bison Stampede meet at Wyldewood Retreat in Searcy on Tuesday.

Huckabee blistered the winding 5K course with a top time of 19:44.74, nearly a minute ahead of second-place finisher Angel Crawford of Lake Hamilton. Huckabee ended up as one of three Lady Panther runners to finish in the top 10 out of 112 competitors.

Huckabee paced closely behind Crawford for the first two kilometers of the race before making her move down the long straightaway from the registration area to the back part of the course. Crawford kept stride for 50 yards or so until she had to give way approaching a left-hand corner, and Huckabee stretched her advantage quickly from there.

“I really like the course,” Huckabee said. “It was shady for the most part. There was one hill, but I think it was great work to be able to run up that. I felt strong the whole time, and I took advantage of that and went my hardest. I’m proud of how I did.”

Huckabee had Bible verses from Philippians 4:13 and Hebrews 12:1-2 written on the sides of her running shoes, and gave credit to her savior following the victory.

“Finishing that first big loop, I just felt that I could surge and go,” Huckabee said. “At first, she surged with me, and we kind of hung together for a while. I surged again, and I was able to get away, but I was afraid she was right behind me the whole time. I felt strong, and it was all through the glory of God.”

The course was laid out with an initial square loop that was ran twice before transitioning to the back part of the course, which made an oblong loop that held the registration area and finish line on the front side. It was there that Huckabee overtook Crawford, and by the time the two came back through the initial loop a final time, she had built a commanding lead of over 30 seconds.

“I didn’t know that,” Huckabee said. “I was tempted to look behind me, but I knew I couldn’t, because if I didn’t see her, I would just slow down. I was really going for time today. I’ve been trying to break 20, so my main motivation was to beat my time instead of beating her, but it’s great to have competition to pace yourself.”

Crawford’s second-place time of 20:39.78 gave her a comfortable edge over third-place finisher Kaylin Turley of Harding Academy, who finished with a time of 21:16.99. Monticello’s Sara Claycomb was fourth with a 21:51.48 time, while Lake Hamilton’s Cassidy Turner took fifth with a time of 22:02.53.

Lady Panther Samantha Nickel finished sixth with a time of 22:21.06, while teammate Rachel Murtishaw was 10th with a 23.03.28 time.

The victory was Huckabee’s second cross-country win of the season.

“I’m excited for her, because she’s been working hard,” Cabot coach Leon White said. “And today, she didn’t let the front runner get away from her. She got up on her shoulder and stayed with her, and then she took control of the race, and that’s what we were wanting her to do. I’m excited about it, plus, she ran under 20 minutes on a hard course, so that’s pretty awesome right there.”

On the boys’ side, Lake Hamilton’s Hunter Usdrowski paced the field to win with a time of 16:58.53 in front of Zach Rail of Vilonia and Wolves teammate Cain Farnam. Cabot senior Parker Dey was the highest finishing Panther with a fourth-place time of 17:28.90. Other notable finishes for Cabot included Nick Davis in 14th place, Kris White in 23rd and Logan Boyer in 25th place.

Huckabee, who is also a standout in long-distance track and field events, said the challenge presented by cross-country running makes it just as rewarding.

“It’s different, just because it’s hard to compare times between other races,” Huckabee said. “Because the courses can slow you down or make you faster. I like it, because it’s always throwing something new at you. It never gets boring.”