Tuesday, May 03, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers win conference

Leader sports editor

It was a close battle, but the Cabot Panthers prevailed as 7A-East/Central Conference champions over the Conway Wampus Cats last Thursday at Panther Stadium.

The boys’ track team outscored Conway 175-161 to earn the crown. The two teams have been in many of the same meets this season, and it was Cabot’s fourth time in six meetings to outscore Conway.

The Lady Panthers finished third with 62.5 points, but did establish some personal records and broke one school record.

The Lady Panthers’ 4x800-meter relay team shattered the old school record of 9:53.72 set just last year. Samantha Nickell, Lauren Turner, Hadley Dickinson and Casey Gore finished with a time of 9:44.96 to win the event.

A boys’ school record fell as well. Junior Jarrod Barnes leaped 21-feet, 11.75-inches on his first jump to beat the 17-year-old record set by David Fowler by 1.75 inches. But Barnes didn’t win the event. North Little Rock’s Nick Lewis, the next-to-last competitor in the event, sailed 22-0.75.

Barnes, who had already passed on two of his next three attempts, still had a jump remaining, but had left the area. He was finally found and notified that he was now in second place, but after a run from one end of the stadium to the other, he could only muster a 20-foot jump on his final attempt.

Senior Mark Odom won the high-point trophy after winning or placing in five events, including three PRs. Odom won the 110-meter hurdles with a personal record time of 14.69. Chris Boles finished sixth in that race for Cabot.

Odom won the 300-hurdles with a 40.15. He also finished fourth in the shot put with a PR of 44-8.25, cleared 6-0 in the high jump for another PR and fourth place. He finished fifth in the discus and seventh in the 100-meter dash to finish the meet with 36 points.

Junior Brandon Whitley achieved a huge PR in the long jump as well. He leaped 20-10.75 for fourth place for five big points the team was not expecting.

Barnes won the triple jump with a leap of 43-3. Another junior, Matt Stanley, won the high jump. He and Conway’s Xavier Hicks cleared 6-4, but Stanley did it on an earlier attempt, giving him the 10 points for first place.

Rocky Burke set a personal record of 13-8 to win the pole vault. Teammate Dylan Smith cleared 12-8 for second place while Braxton Burton went 11-6 to tie for third.

The Cabot 4x100-relay team ran its best time of the year to win that event. Alex Roberts, Whitley, Connor Daigle and Conley Hillegas finished in 43.29.

The Panthers’ 4x800 team of Landon Vaught, Jack Moore, Stuart Nickell and Greyson Kaufman finished second.

Britton Alley ran his fastest 100-meter dash of the year for third place while Whitley finished fifth with another PR. Alley was also second in the 200-meter dash with a season-best time of 22.74, while Hillegas was seventh.

Hillegas and Alley teamed up with Burke and Austin Swackhammer to finish second in the 4x400-meter relay. They were .33 seconds slower than Bryant with a time of 3:24.65.

Gardner Howze set a personal record of 2:04.34 to finish second in the 800-meters while Moore finished fourth, Kaufman sixth and Vaught seventh in that event.

Brandon Jones finished third in the discus for Cabot and Blake Scott finished seventh in the 3,200.

The Cabot teams will take all state qualifiers to Conway on Thursday for the 7A state track meet at Conway High School.

Cabot coach Leon White said his boys have an outside shot of competing for the state championship, but that three West teams have a big advantage.

“Well Fayetteville, Bentonville and Har-Ber are all so strong, they have to be considered heavy favorites,” said White. “If we win a few events and they all have some kids slip up here and there, I think we’re the one that’s right behind them, but we’re a long shot for sure.”

The state meet begins at 10 a.m. Field event finals will be in the morning and afternoon sessions. Running finals will begin at 5:30 p.m.