Tuesday, May 20, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panther jumps 14’

Leader sports editor

Another meet and another state record gone to the wayside as Cabot’s Lexi Weeks shattered her own record in the pole vault that she set just last week at the class 7A state meet.

Competing Saturday in the Meet of Champions at Heber Springs, Weeks, a junior, became just the second high school girl this year to clear 14-feet, shattering the record she set last week by 5.5 inches.

She then tried 14-3.5 to break the national record set just last month by Desiree Freier of Justin Northwest High School in Dallas, but had to settle for another state record. Freier, a senior who has committed to the University of Arkansas, went 14-3.25 at the Texas Relays in April. She also cleared 14-9 last week, but that event was moved inside due to bad weather and the jump was on a disputed runway.

Weeks, Freier and Kaitlyn Merritt of Santa Margarita, Calif., have all cleared 14 feet in outdoor competitions this year, but Merritt’s jump was in an exhibition. Her official high this season is 13-9.

Tori Weeks of Cabot took second in the pole vault, clearing 12-6. She has cleared 13-2 this year.

Cabot track coach Leon White has seen the quality of female jumpers in Arkansas increase tremendously over the last few years.

“It’s really amazing what’s going on here in this little state where we’re able to produce so many good pole vaulters,” said White.

“But just overall, we’ve seen a huge increase in heights among the best high school girls. Just this year we’ve got three high school girls that have gone 14 feet. That would win the SEC outdoor championships, and these girls are just going to get better. Tori is right there too, reaching heights very few girls her age have ever hit. It’s really incredible what they’re out here accomplishing,” White said.

Lexi Weeks and teammate Danielle McWilliams placed in the 400-meter dash. Amanda Dillon of Har-Ber High won the event and blew away the field with a time of 56.27. Weeks was fourth at 1:00.21 and McWilliams took seventh, finishing in 1:01.46.

Those two teamed up with Tori Weeks and Rachael Hall to take third in the 4x400-meter relay. They took second by .01 seconds to Fayetteville in the class 7A meet, but Har-Ber dominated the MOC race, winning with a time of 3:55.99. Fayetteville was second at 3:58.74 and Cabot a distant third almost four seconds behind Fayetteville.

Cabot junior Micah Huckabee bounced back from a disappointing second-place finish in the 7A state meet to beat her conqueror Katie Andrews of Bentonville in the MOC. Huckabee finished almost seven seconds ahead of Andrews with a winning time of 11:32.24.

Cabot senior Rachael Hall took fifth in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 48.75. Hall is a senior, but White believes was the most improved athlete on the team.

“I told her that when she raced with all the best of the best and placed in there with them,” White said. “She has worked so hard and gotten so much better than where she was just a year ago.”

Beebe’s Taylor McGraw took fifth in the 800-meter race behind runners from Fayetteville, Bryant, Harding Academy and Bentonville. Lady Badger senior Madison Richey finished seventh in the triple jump by going 33-8.75. Jayda Baylark of Parkview won with a distance of 37-1.

A few local athletes showed well at the boys’ meet as well. Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter sophomore Jordan McNair lost for the first time this year, but still placed in the 100-meter dash, finishing eighth.

Cabot’s Brayden Mercantel took sixth in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 4:39.62.

Jacksonville High School’s 4x100-meter relay team finished seventh with a time of 43.40. The Red Devils were exactly one second behind winner Little Rock Central in one of the most exciting events of the meet.

Red Devil Danial Curly tied for second with six others in the high jump by clearing 6-2. Demetrius Taylor of Texarkana won the event at 6-4, a mark Curly cleared in the 5A state meet.

Beebe’s Race Payne took seventh in the shot put with a distance of 49-6.25, seven feet short of winner Jeffrey Rogers of Catholic High.­