Wednesday, October 30, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot teams take second in Central

Leader sportswriter

The 2013 cross-country season has been a year filled with new personal bests for Cabot’s Micah Huckabee, and the 7A-Central Conference meet was no exception as the Lady Panther junior runner bested the field of 69 competitors with a time of 18:55.03 at Rolling Hills Country Club on Monday.

The smooth turf of the golf course and long straightaways, combined with the brisk, cool temperature, aided Huckabee in her quest to clock under 19 minutes. Her quick start and flawless second mile put an immediate gap between she and second-place finisher Alex Ritchey of Mount St. Mary’s, who clocked in at 19:27.07.

The Belles took the overall team championship with 22 points, while their Catholic Rockets counterpart was tops in the boys division with a dominating 17 points. Mount St. Mary’s claimed six of the Top-10 finishing positions, including second through fourth. Samantha Nickell gave Cabot another Top-10 result with a ninth-place time of 20:54.22.

The Lady Panthers were second overall with 66 points, followed by Conway, Fort Smith Southside, North Little Rock and Little Rock Central.

The Panther boys team did not have a top-10 finisher, but had enough runners finish in the top half of the field to also take a runner-up team finish with 74 points. Conway took third, followed by Fort Smith Northside, North Little Rock, Fort Smith Southside and Little Rock Central.

Huckabee completed the first mile in 5:44 to create separation from Ritchey, and turned it up in the second leg, clocking in at 11:58 after two miles. That was all Huckabee needed to hit the final leg and finish the course under 19 minutes. Huckabee’s previous personal best was 19:26.

“My goal for this season was to break 19,” Huckabee said. “I really felt like this would be the race to do that. I knew I couldn’t give up this race, so knowing (Ritchey) was right behind me really helped me to keep going.”

Nickell finished less than a second behind eighth-place  Lauren Campbell of Conway, and while it wasn’t Nickell’s best time all year, it was still over 20 seconds to the good for solidifying a Top-10, earning her an All-Conference medal.

“A lot of the kids today ran their best time all year,” Cabot coach Leon White said. “So even though we didn’t win the meet, we still had a good meet. We were runner-up in both divisions, but we’re rebuilding. We know next year, we’ve got a lot of good young runners coming up, most of the girls we have this year we’ll keep, and so it’s going to be a real strong team next year.”

Other notable finishes for Cabot included Rachel Murtishaw in 18th with a 21:54.82 time and teammate Ashley Gore a spot behind her in 19th with a time of 22:07.67.

There were no surprises on the boys’ side as Catholic’s Brendan Taylor scorched the circuit in 15:23.23.

That was more than a minute faster than second-place finisher and teammate Kieran Taylor, who finished in 16:28.25. Rocket runners claimed the first four finishing spots, followed by Conway’s Toler Freyaldenhoven in fifth.

Cabot’s Parker Dey held a top-five spot early in the race before falling back in the final half. Teammate Nick Davis overtook him during that time for an 11th-place finish of 17:52.61. Dey ended up 13th with a time of 18:02.59.

Kris White took 15th place for Cabot with an 18:04.64 time while Caleb Schulte finished 17th with a time of 18:17.13. Adam Stivers rounded out the Panthers’ top-20 performances with an 18th-place time of 18:19.51.

“You have to understand, the Catholic team is ranked third in the state,” White said. “They have about 10 or 12 guys that are as good or better than our best people.

“Parker Dey is our best one, and he went out a little fast and kind of hurt himself there. He didn’t run his best race today, but we’ve talked about it, and I think he will be ready at the state meet.

“You can get caught up with those faster runners and go out too fast and not run your race.”

Catholic had a scary moment at the finish when seventh-place runner Jake Allison collapsed immediately upon crossing the finish line due to fatigue. Allison was unconscious for several minutes, but was awake by the time paramedics arrived to take him for observation, and was able to give the crowd a thumbs up upon being loaded into the ambulance.

Huckabee will lead a contingent of nine Lady Panther runners at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs for the 7A state track meet on Nov. 9.

With another year of running high-school cross country still to go for Huckabee and most of her teammates, and a talented group of incoming sophomores expected to join in 2014, her strong junior campaign may be a sign of even better things to come in the future.

“We hope,” White said. “We’re going to make sure her training stays on target, and make sure she doesn’t get lazy or anything, which I don’t think she would. She wants to get some scholarships. The big thing is that she’ll be a great leader for those young girls.”