Friday, May 08, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot loses track title by 0.5

Leader sports editor

FAYETTEVILLE – Heartbreak abounded for the Lady Panther track team Thursday at the Class 7A state meet at Fayetteville’s Ramay Junior High School. Clearly the most talented team at the meet, the Cabot girls could not fully overcome the sheer volume of athletes from Bentonville, losing the closest-ever state track meet by a mere half a point, 141.5 to 141.

Tori Weeks took the baton in the 4x100-meter relay trailing Bentonville’s anchor leg Katy Kotoucek by about 25 yards. Bentonville was in second place in the race and Cabot was in fourth. Weeks took the baton unsure if Cabot entered the final event ahead by 3.5 points, or 1.5. Official scorers had Cabot up 135-131.5, but many coaches on the field thought it should be 135-133.5.

Weeks did know that if Cabot’s lead was only 1.5 points, she would have to catch up to and beat the Lady Tiger who was way ahead with only one lap to go.

Weeks caught Kotoucek with about 125 meters left in the final 400 meters of the mile relay. She even briefly passed her by a couple of steps and took over second place. But she had to spend more energy than runners should that early in the race just to catch up. Kotoucek caught back up, passed her and finished second by about two meters. That gave the Lady Tigers eight points for the second- place finish and Cabot six for third. Soon after, they found out official scorers were wrong, Bentonville trailed by only 1.5 points, and the two points gained in the final race gave the Lady Tigers another state championship.

“This is a tough one to take,” said Cabot coach Leon White. “You start looking at everything, seeing if there was anything we could’ve done differently. But I think we pretty much maximized our potential. We scored more points than any scenario we figured up before the meet. That Bentonville relay team just dug down. We couldn’t put our fastest team out there because we had maxed out on events, but we still ran right at as fast as we’ve ever run that race. But Bentonville beat their best time by more than six seconds. So you have to give them credit.”

The scoring discrepancy occurred after the 18th of 18 events, the 800-meter race. It was an event White had said earlier in the day, “could be a backbreaker.” Bentonville qualified five runners for the event and all five entered the race with one of the top nine times in the state. Cabot, before that race, led 120-97.5, but all five Bentonville runners finished in the top seven, going 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7, for a total of 24 points and a 1.5 point lead over Cabot. But judges failed to count the two points for the seventh-place finish, and didn’t correct the error until the 18th event had started.

Cabot won eight events while Bentonville won just two, but Bentonville qualified almost three times more athletes for state than Cabot has on its team. It’s an advantage Bentonville will have for one more year before the school of 4,000-plus students splits into two high schools.

Lexi Weeks broke her own state record of 13-feet, 6-inches in the pole vault by clearing 14-feet on Thursday. Tori Weeks also broke the old record, clearing 13-8 for second place. That was more than two feet higher than third place Jade Donnell of Bentonville, but Lady Tigers finished third, fourth and fifth to minimize Cabot’s advantage gained in the event.

Lexi Weeks also won the long jump with a leap of 17-6, while Tori Weeks was second and teammate Danielle McWilliams finished fourth. Lexi Weeks’ third win came in the 100-meter hurdles, while Tori Weeks finished fifth.

Tori Weeks won the triple jump with a personal best and school record leap of 37-6 1/2 inches, and she needed that half-inch. Fayetteville’s Lauren Holmes leaped 37-6 on her final jump.

Tori Weeks also won the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 45.4 while McWilliams finished third at 46.62. Lexi Weeks finished second in the 400-meter dash with a time of 58.09, just short of her mother’s Cabot school record time of 57.24 set in 1985. She’ll have one more chance to break her mom’s record in the Meet of Champions next week in Russellville.

Senior Micah Huckabee won the mile and two-mile races to collect 20 points for the Lady Panthers. She won the mile easily with a time of 5:10.61, but did not approach her personal record of 4:59.99.

“She needed someone to push her to get that record and there just wasn’t anyone here that could do that,” White said.

Alex Ritchey of Mount St. Mary pushed Huckabee in the two-mile, striding step for step about two paces behind until the last lap, when Huckabee made a push to win by 2.82 seconds with a time of 11:21.72.

Huckabee was also the focus of the only thing White felt he could have done differently in who he entered into events. With the 800 coming up and with the knowledge that Bentonville would score big, White and assistant coach Chris Beavert talked about entering Huckabee in the 800. Only one event separated the 800 from the 3,200, and White was worried the half-mile race would fatigue his star distance runner for the two-mile. Ultimately the decision was made to enter Huckabee into the 800, but officials had already re-seeded the race after the preliminaries and would not allow the new entry.

“It’s tough to say what would’ve happened,” White said. “She would’ve gone out there and run her heart out and picked up a few points for us, but then she may not have had enough to win the two-mile, and it would’ve cost us points there. Of course, now I wish we would’ve done it because we would’ve been second either way if it didn’t work out.”

Senior Caytee Wright jumped a personal best 5-0 in the high jump, finishing fifth and picking up a few more points than expected.

The Cabot 4x800-meter relay team set a school record and finished higher than expected at third. The team of Alyssa Hamilton, Casey Gore, Samantha Nickell and Huckabee finished in 9:53.72. It won one of the two events Bentonville won. The other was the 100-meter dash, won by Taylor Mahone. Cabot did not have an entry in that event.