Tuesday, August 18, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot cross-country rebuilds

Leader sports editor

The Cabot cross-country team has enjoyed a lot of success in recent years, especially the girls’ team. Two Lady Panther runners in the last four years have gone on to Division I colleges, the most recent being 2015 graduate Micah Huckabee signing with the renowned University of Arkansas track program.

This year’s Cabot cross-country squad has just one senior in Samantha Nickell, who performed well the last two seasons despite battling asthma. Coach Leon White says she has improved since last year, and leads a very young team into the season.

“It’s just a young group with a bunch of sophomores,” said White. “We only have the one senior for the girls and the boys don’t have any senior high leaders right now. We’re just sort of starting over.”

The girls’ team lost one strong runner during the 2015 indoor season. Ashley Gore injured her anterior cruciate ligament in the first indoor meet of last season. That caused her to miss the entire outdoor season, where Cabot missed out on a state championship by one point to Bentonville. It also has her out for this cross country year.

Joining Nickell this season as contenders to compete near the top of races are sophomores Casey Gore and Bailey Lebow.

“The best one is Samantha Nickell,” White said. “Casey Gore, who is Ashley’s younger sister, will help us. Bailey Lebow is another sophomore who’s going to be good. After that it’s just some other young girls that we’re trying to get in shape and see what they can do. Maybe one or two of them can come along and get up with these other girls.”

The boys’ team hasn’t been as competitive over the last few years as the girls have, but White sees some potential for this year’s young group.

The top runners on the boys’ team consists of five sophomores, including Gardener Howze, Stewart Nickell, Blake Scott, Grayson Kaufman and Wells Guyor.

“With this group of boys, and we talked about this the other day, what we’re looking at with these guys, if they stay together, by the time they’re seniors they have a chance to be pretty good,” White said.

The team has an intrasquad practice meet scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 3 at the Austin course. The first official meet will be Sept. 12 at the Army National Guard Minuteman Race at Western Hills Park in Little Rock.