Cross Country News

Great Day at Russellville for Vilonia XC Athletes!

The Good Lord made another great day for a cross country meet Saturday, when Vilonia Cross Country headed to Russellville for the Cyclone Invitational. The flat, fast course on Arkansas Tech's campus complemented the weather. It was a day of phenomenal performances by Eagles and Lady Eagles! The most amazing performance of the day was 8th grade Lady Eagle Samantha Duff (pictured).

Duff may not have been one of the first to cross the finish line. Her 18:52 two mile finish time did not land her in scoring position for her team. But what she accomplished this day was bigger than any medal or time. This was Duff's first race of the season and she finished only nine seconds off her personal record from last season. Still not impressed? Read on.

Eleven weeks ago, Samantha was in the hospital intensive care unit, recovering from open heart surgery. She started training with Vilonia Cross Country this summer, before doctors found a hole, larger than quarter, in her heart. It was bad enough that doctors quickly scheduled her for surgery. She was devastated that her training would be interrupted, but remained determined to run again before the season ended.

Saturday, she did. All the girls on the team wore red ribbons on their ponytails with Duff's name in honor of her return to racing. The many prayers over her by teammates since her diagnosis include the prayer they prayed over her after she finished her race. Her strength and her spirit are an inspiration to the entire Vilonia Cross Country family.

And the kids in this family made an impression today.

Senior Lady Eagles won their third meet of the season, with five ladies finishing in the top twenty. Lauren Millikin (11) set a new high school record with her 19:45 finish. The previous record, 19:54, was held by Bailey Sisson and stood from 2009 until today. Bryn Westby (11), Shelby Duncan (10), Emma Buck (10), and Katelyn Ohlde (10) completed scoring for the Lady Eagles today, with Laci McKay (11) and Evy McKissack (10) finishing as displacers. Millikin, Duncan, Buck, Ohlde, and McKissack all set new personal records, along with teammates Brooklyn Knight (10), Harlee Heath (10), Jorja Bell (10), Lauren Goodwin (10), and Olivia Balentine (10).

Senior high Vilonia Eagles finished seventh at the meet, but third among 5A schools present. JD Otts (12) crossed the finish line fourth overall to score first for the Eagles. He was followed by Tate Smithhart (10), Gabe Goodwin (10), Daniel Massa (12), and Jeremiah Lowrance (12) to round out scoring for the team. Brayden Matyja (10) and Gage Helton finised next as displacers. Otts, Smithhart, Goodwin, Massa, Lowrance, Matyja and Helton all ran new personal records today, as did teammates Colin Ratliff (11) and Nathan Freeman (11).

Junior high Lady Eagles also had a great day, with an average time for scorers a 14:48, their best of the season. Kaci Buck (8), Carly Eary (8), Katie McKay (9), Payton Hawkins (7), and Avery Martin (9) scored for the Lady Eagles, while Jaslynn McReynolds (7) and Baelin Shannon (8) were displacers. Hawkins, Martin, and McReynolds, along with teammate Emily Larocca (8), all set new personal records.

Only 41 seconds separated the first and fifth junior high Eagles crossing the finish line. The five scorers had an average finish time of 12:24, their best of the season. That was enough for a sixth place finish at the meet, but second out of 5A schools present. Scorers for the Eagles were Clayton Jones (9), Cade Smithhart (8), Jones White (8), Cade Wagner (9), and Keller Willhite (9). Displacers were Caleb Hogue (7) and Mason Westby (9). Smithhart, White, Landon Mannion (7), Ethan Crawley (9), and Jake Ledbetter (7) all set personal records at the meet.

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Evan BeaversVHS, FA, VMS