From the desk of Coach John Allison:
It was another hot September evening when the Vilonia Eagles Cross Country teams traveled to Clarksville, Tuesday, for the University of the Ozarks Invitational. The 90 degree temperatures and a tough hill, that runners had to climb twice, made for a challenging course, but all four teams ran well.
The Junior High Boys' and Girls' teams both won their races, making the Junior High Girls undefeated this season after three meets. This was the Junior High Boys' first victory in 2016, but it ended in dramatic fashion, with the boys edging past a talented Van Buren squad to win by a two-point margin.
The Junior High Boys have been running as a pack all season and Tuesday was no different. Only 14 seconds separated the first and fifth place finishers for the Eagles. Chase Hawkins finished first for the Eagles, eighth overall. He was followed by teammates Tate Smithhart and Harrison Janski only four and five seconds, respectively, later. Smithhart and Janski finished ninth and tenth overall. Braden Matyja was the fourth Eagle to cross the line, while the fifth Eagle, and final scorer for the team, Cordell Palmer closed the deal. It was Palmer's finish that avoided a tie as he set his sights on the finish line and ran down Van Buren's fourth place finisher to make the final score Vilonia 52, Van Buren 54. The sixth Eagle finisher, Tyler Kelley, came in seconds later and Cade Wagner was hot on his heels. Clayton Jones, Austin Wader, Caleb Freeman, Keller Willhite, Andy Palmer, Matthew Goodwin, Nathan Freeman, Noah McBee, Gabriel Goodwin, Mason Hoover, Ethan Crawley, and Lucas Yarbrough also finished strong for the Eagles.
The Junior High Girls' team earned their third victory in three meets they ran so far this season. They also scored 52 points, but beat the next nearest opponent by 33. Bryn Westby and Lauren Millikin finished fourth and sixth overall as the first and second Lady Eagle scorers. Shelby Duncan, Laci McKay, and Emma Buck were not far behind and earned points for the Lady Eagles. Allison Ross and Brooklyn Knight were the sixth and seventh Vilonia ladies to cross the line. Lauren Goodwin, Brandie Rottman, Alexis Rhodes, Katie McKay, Mackenzie Floyd, Harlee Heath, Jorja Bell, Olivia Balentine, Evy McKissack, Kayla Luck, Aubrey Lock, Raven Garrison, and Hailey Gibson had great runs also.
The High School Boys' team placed third in a strong field Tuesday. JD Otts placed first for the Eagles and second place overall. He was soon followed by Ethan Janski who placed eighth overall. Brody Johnson and Thomas Hutchison finished third and fourth for the Eagles. Carson Willhite was the fifth and final scorer for Vilonia. Caleb Johnson and Hunter Kelley were the sixth and seventh Eagle finishers. Gage Helton and Daniel Massa also did a great job representing Vilonia Tuesday. Helton and Kelley both ran their PRs at the meet.
The High School Girls' team placed fifth behind some really talented teams. Caroline Wagner led the Lady Eagles with Jessica Hutchison only eight seconds behind her. Rose McKay, Abbie Cole, and Krista Hogan completed the scoring five for the Lady Eagles. Mary Beth McKay, Sydney Weaver, Kylee Linton, Kara Moore, Madison Loter, Kaitlyn Weaver and Macy McKissack ran strong for the Lady Eagles too. Sydney Weaver beat her previous PR by 30 seconds at this meet.
The Vilonia Cross Country teams have a few days before their next meet when they travel to Fayetteville for the largest cross country meet in the state. The Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival on October 1, will feature college races with teams from across the country and high school races with teams from across the state.