Tuesday, May 06, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panthers runners-up

Leader sports editor

A little bit of bad luck got in the way, but the Cabot girls track team still made a strong push for a conference championship Friday at Panther Stadium. Fort Smith Southside won the meet by a mere five points, 169 to Cabot’s 164. Those two teams left everyone else far behind as Conway finished third with 98 points. Little Rock Central was fourth with 80, Mount St. Mary’s 49, North Little Rock 40, Fort Smith Northside 28 and West Memphis last with 21 points.

The boys’ meet was more competitive top to bottom with North Little Rock winning with 119.5 points while Cabot finished fifth with 81. Central was second with 117 and Catholic third with 113. Conway was five points better than Cabot. Southside took sixth with 55.5, Northside had 52 and the Blue Devils finished with 36.

Cabot coach Leon White believes if injuries had not hampered his team, it could come away with the 7A-Central championship.

“We only lost by five,” said White. “We couldn’t put Micah (Huckabee) in the 800 relays because we’re still nursing her injury. Ladaysha Evans broke her leg earlier this year and she would have given us some points in the sprints and jumps. Briley Quardstrom also would have scored some points for us but she was hurt. It takes a strong team and then it takes some luck. The good thing is, all these girls that scored for us will be back next year. All the ones that missed with injuries will be back, and we’re adding some good ones from ninth grade. So we’re looking forward to a great year next year.”

Cabot won more events than Southside, piling up six first-place finishes to Southside’s five. Depth was the key issue in the Lady Rebels’ victory.

“They just had more girls than we did,” White said. “That’s what it came down to. With us just a little bit shorthanded, we just didn’t have the numbers they did.”

The top eight finishers in each event score points, while the top six in each event qualify for the state meet that will also be held at Panther Stadium on Thursday.

Junior Lexi Weeks won two of those events outright. Junior Tori Weeks won one and would have won two outright if not for a mishap in the 100-meter hurdles. The twin sisters tied for first place in the pole vault, each clearing 13 feet, three and a half feet higher than the next highest vault. Cabot freshman Sydnie Shumate had the third-highest vault and finished fourth by clearing nine feet.

Tori Weeks won the 300-meter hurdles by nearly a second with a personal best and school record time of 46.01. Molly Sampson of Mount. St. Mary was second. Tori Weeks was also just ahead of her rival Sampson in the 100-meter hurdles, but hit the ninth hurdle and finished third behind Sampson and Lexi Weeks. Despite not winning, both runners’ times in the 100 hurdles were a personal best at 15.36 and 15.57.

“They had both run it 15.7 range, but they beat that by a considerable margin,” White said.

Sampson’s winning time was 15.32.

Lexi Weeks and junior teammate Danielle McWilliams turned in personal bests in finishing first and second in the 400-meter dash. Weeks finished in 59.21 and McWilliams in 59.81.

Huckabee won the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races by wide margins, and didn’t run it hard. She finished the mile in 5:30.98, winning by five seconds over Southside’s Alondra Gomez. Cabot’s Ashley Gore finished fifth with a new personal record time of 5:45.66, and sophomore teammate Samantha Nickell took seventh.

Lexi Weeks also won the long jump with a leap of 18-2.25, a half-inch short of her personal best. Tori Weeks took third in the triple jump and Lexi Weeks was fifth in the 200-meter dash.

Huckabee won the two-mile with a time of 12:15.24, more than 18 seconds ahead of second place Elika Hamer of MSM. Nickell was fifth in that event and Gore took seventh.

“Micah pulled a hamstring and hasn’t been competing,” White said. “We just wanted her to run just fast enough to win. She didn’t really push it that much.”

Cabot didn’t get a win in the shot put, but had two athletes beat their previous best marks. Senior Lauren Backus took fifth place with a toss of 30-5.5, while sophomore Katie Wright reached 30-3.5 for sixth place.

Gore and Ashley Odom took fifth and sixth in the 800-meter run, and helped Cabot take second in a narrow loss to Conway in the 4x800 relay. Nickell and Seaton Howard were the other two competitors on that team. Cabot’s 4x100-meter relay team also took second place. The team of Rachel Hall, Lexi Weeks, McWilliams and Tori Weeks finished .53 seconds behind Southside. The 4x400 team of Hall, Miranda Walker, Marquetta Magwood and McWilliams took third place.

In the boys’ meet, Cabot senior Jordan Burke took third in the blazing fast 100-meter dash. The top three all finished under 11 seconds. Tre James of Central won with a time of 10.8. NLR’s Anthony Louden clocked 10.87 and Burke at 10.99. Senior Alley Layton was seventh at 11.29. Louden and James swapped places in the 200-meter dash while Burke was again third and Layton seventh. Louden beat James by the slimmest of margins, 22.21 to 22.22.

Junior Jake Ferguson turned in a personal best in the 400 to take fourth place with a time of 51.38. Brayden Mercantel took sixth in the 1,600 and Nick Davis was sixth in the 3,200 to qualify for state. Hayden Richey took fifth in the 300 hurdles with a time of 43.66.

Cabot showed some rising talent in the pole vault, with sophomore Rocky Burke and freshman Braxton Burton clearing the fourth-best height of 11-6 for sixth and seventh place, while freshman Dylan Smith was eighth at 11-feet.

Keith Pledger took third in the shot put with a toss of 50-3, while fellow senior Aaron Henry was fourth at 47-9.25. Henry also took third in the discus throw with a heave of 130-4. Heath Pledger took fourth and sophomore Brandon Jones fifth to all qualify for state. Keith Pledger added a point for Cabot by taking eighth place.

All of Cabot’s relay teams qualified, with the 400 and 800 teams taking fourth place and the 100 team finishing sixth.

The class 7A state meet begins at 10 a.m. Thursday.