Saturday, May 10, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Vault record falls

Leader sports editor

Several school records and one state record fell at the hands of Panther athletes Thursday at the class 7A state track meet at Panther Stadium in Cabot.

Junior pole-vaulter Lexi Weeks highlighted the day’s events for the host school, breaking the state record by a half inch, clearing 13-feet, 6.5-inches. She has actually gone 3.5 inches higher than that this season, but Arkansas rules dictate that state records can only be set in state meets.

Bentonville won the boys and girls team state championships. The Lady Tigers and Springdale Har-Ber ran away from the rest of the field in the girls’ meet, scoring 160 and 133 points respectively. Fayetteville was third with 83 points and the Lady Panthers came in fourth with 78. The Cabot ladies almost certainly would have finished third if not for some very bad luck in the 100-meter hurdles in which one runner fell and another got tripped up on the eighth hurdle and lost several places to finish seventh.

But the story of the meet was the girls’ pole vault. When Weeks cleared 13-10 at Bryant on March 19, it was the second-highest vault by a high school girl in the nation this year. It’s now the third, but after breaking the state record, she went for 14-feet.

She almost made it on her third vault, but was still very happy with the state record.

“It’s very exciting,” said Weeks. “I’ve actually gone higher than that about a month and a half ago. But it’s still very exciting to go that high here and get that record.”

Her sister Tori Weeks took second place with a vault of 13-0.75. Third place was Isabel Neal of Bentonville, who cleared a personal best 11-6. Her teammate Jade Donnell was fourth at 10-6 and Cabot freshman Sydnie Shumate took fifth with a personal best 10-feet.

The Weeks sisters are the hurdlers who stumbled in the 100. Lexi was on pace to break a school record when she fell after the last hurdle. Tori was very close behind when she stumbled and lost spots.

“Fourth place finished fast enough for our school record, and Lexi was in third,” said Cabot coach Leon White. “Tori was right there too and that hurt our points. We thought we’d easily get 10 out of that event and instead we ended up with two.”

The sisters ran the third and fourth leg of the school record-breaking 4x400-meter relay, but not without some drama.

Tori Weeks, who was slated to run the second leg, began vomiting a few minutes before the race began, and didn’t stop until after the starting gun. White decided to move Danielle McWilliams up from the third leg to the second, and was prepared to move Lexi Weeks from the anchor to third leg, but Tori gained her composure in time for the third leg.

After Rachael Hall ran the lead leg to get the team off to a strong start, Tori Weeks took the handoff from McWilliams, trailing Fayetteville by a couple of paces. She momentarily took the lead and handed off to Lexi in almost a dead heat with Fayetteville. Lexi took the lead until the final 70 meters when Fayetteville’s anchor runner pulled even and won by .1 seconds with a time of 3:56.66. Cabot’s time of 3:56.76 was still a school record by a wide margin.

“Before today we’d never run below four minutes before,” White said. “We ran a 3:59 in the prelims and then just had an outstanding race in the final.”

Cabot sprinter Jordan Burke set school records in the boys’ 100- and 200-meter dashes. He ran a 10.85 for third place in the 100 behind Central’s Tre James and North Little Rock’s Anthony Louden, who both clocked 10.74.

He ran 21.88 in the 200 behind the same two runners. Louden won that event by a wider margin with a time of 21.70, while James barely edged out Burke for second place with a time of 21.85.

Hall also ran a personal best in the girls’ 300 hurdles to finish fourth, just behind Tori Weeks. Hall finished at 47.38 and Weeks at 47.28. Payton Stumbaugh of Har-Ber ran away from the pack, breaking the state record with a time of 43.43.

Lexi Weeks also set a new school record in the long jump, breaking her old record of 18-2.75 by a quarter of an inch. That jump was good for third place.

Bentonville’s Logan Morton won with a leap 18-9 and Stumbaugh was second at 18-8.