Local harriers keep improving, shine at Arkansas Post meet

Saturday, both Monticello and Drew Central cross country runners competed on historic ground. The 53 local athletes who ran in the Jordan Murphy Memorial Cross Country Meet at the Arkansas Post National Memorial in Gillett just might have made some history of their own, too.   
For Monticello’s Caleb Clair, his senior boys’ individual race victory was quite likely another stepping stone to a Class 4A state title early next month. Clair was timed over the 3.1-mile course in 17 minutes, 44 seconds—nearly three minutes ahead of the second-place finisher.
The Billies and Lady Billies grabbed three of the four team championships—and would have probably competed for the fourth had they had the full complement of five senior girls’ runners.
“I think the kids needed this meet,” Monticello head cross country coach Shawn Curtis said. “All summer and all season the kids have worked hard individually which, in turn, pushes their teammates around them. It’s been our goal this season to run as a team, holding each member accountable to their teammates, dropping their time not for themselves, but to drop it collectively as a team.
“This weekend, the kids achieved that and you can see the results. Caleb Clair echoed the aspirations when, after the senior boys finished their race, he said, ‘Now that’s the way you run as a team!’ I am proud of each of them individually, but I am ecstatic to see them run as a team and for each other.
“I think it sparked something in all the kids. It’s cool to run as a team, but it’s also good to win as a team. The kids are getting stronger and a lot of them are dropping times every week, and I feel that this will just continue as we go into the SEACC meet.”    
For Drew Central senior Josh Forrest, his fifth-place individual finish (21:19) propelled him not only to a runner to watch for in the upcoming Southeast Arkansas Cross Country Championships but a likely favorite among 3A harriers at the state meet on Nov. 3 at Hot Springs’ Oaklawn Park. What has DC head cross country coach Michael Goad even more excited, though, is his talented yet young Junior Lady Pirates’ strong third-place finish at Arkansas Post.   
“I was proud of the kids that ran,” Goad said. “The majority of them improved their times and competed well. Every competition we attend will get us prepared for the SEACCC.  We look forward to it.”
Of the eight local squads in Gillett last weekend, the Junior Lady Pirates had the second most athletes competing (only Monticello’s huge junior boys’ team was bigger). And while the Junior Lady Billies won the team title, Drew Central was a mere two points behind Star City for the runner-up spot, setting up a battle royale in that division at the conference meet Oct. 28 at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.
Seventh grader Hannah Meeks led DC’s 10 junior girls across the finish line in sixth place (17:31 over 2.2 miles—a little longer than than normal two-mile course), while the “elder stateswoman” of the Junior Lady Pirates’ top five, eighth grader Saniya Durden came in ninth (17:52).
That pair was but two of 22 local runners placing in the top 10s of their respective divisions. Clair’s big win paced five Billie runners in that category; senior Ivan Buenrostro was third (20:52), junior Matt Marshall was fourth (20:52), sophomore Jackson Hollis finished sixth (21:20—fifth in scoring) and junior Carlton Talley was ninth (21:51—seventh in scoring).
Drew Central sophomore Jeremy Smith (22:03) joined his older teammate and gave local senior boys’ competitors seven of the top 10 spots when he finished 10th for the Pirates. In the junior races, both Monticello squads had all five of their runners earn top 10 slots—and the Junior Billies showed their dominance by having their sixth- and seventh-place runners also among the top 10 in that race.
DeWitt and Star City runners might have finished first and second, respectively, for the junior boys but the next seven competitors to cross the finish line all had Monticello jerseys on. Seventh grader Aaron Ray led the Junior Billies’ procession by finishing third (14:53—second in scoring) and classmate Nathan Palmer followed him in fourth (15:27—third). Freshman Kameron Fleetwood was next in fifth (15:32—fourth) and a pair of seventh graders, Shadarious Plummer (15:42—sixth, fifth) and Caleb Freeman (15:43—seventh, sixth) rounded out the Junior Billies’ scoring runners.
Seventh grader Caden Fitzgerald (15:45—eighth, seventh) and eighth grader Trae Milburn (15:48—ninth, eighth) also placed among the top 10, helping their team by pushing other scoring runners down two places. The Junior Lady Billies almost matched that.
Seventh grader Cantley Gosdin was fourth (16:49), eighth grader Fleure Perez fifth (17:16), seventh grader Kate Morgan seventh (17:33), freshman Maia Reynado eighth (17:49) and eighth grader Brook Paschall 10th (17:54) as Monticello’s junior girls pretty much dominated that race.
Lady Billie senior Samantha Pennington (seventh, 25:03) was the other local runner to finish in the top 10—and the schools had three runners finish just out of the medals. Monticello senior Kaylyn Smith (25:59), Drew Central freshman Hunter Goad (16:06) and Junior Lady Pirates’ seventh grader Edriana Hunter (17:58) each ran 11th in their respective races.
Other senior boys’ finishers were Monticello sophomores Lauro Guerrero (23:06—14th, 11th in scoring) and Braydn Curtis (24:16—19th, 14th) as well as senior Ralph Iweriebor (22nd, 27:05). The Billies won the team title 20-39 over Woodlawn in the six-team race.
Lady Billie seniors Brooke Shrum (27th, 32:11) and Holly Turner (28th, 32:53) rounded out Monticello’s senior girls’ participation, as did juniors Amaya Hunt (23rd, 29:35) and Elizabeth Donaldson (29th, 33:15) for the Lady Pirates. Des Arc scored 39 points to take the senior girls’ team title among seven teams.
Monticello’s junior boys matched their senior counterparts by scoring 20 points to win a four-team division. Seventh grader Isaiah West (14th, 16:41), eighth grader Mason Pharr 15th, 16:48) and seventh graders Jacob Akin (20th, 17:21), Tushar Nathu (22nd, 17:33), Johnny McClendon (24th, 19:30), Elijah Schell (25th, 19:49), Damirion Davis (26th, 19:50) and Gavin Wear (28th, 20:10) rounded out the 15-runner Junior Billies’ squad. Drew Central seventh graders Enrique Salazar (23rd, 19:00) and Daniel Diaz (27th, 19:55) also finished the race for the Junior Pirates.
The remainder of DC’s junior girls’ finishers were seventh graders Layna Chrabol (12th, 18:18) and Meritza Spencer (16th, 18:49), eighth grader Kelsey Johnson (17th, 19:00), seventh grader Izzy Whitehead (18th, 19:14), eighth grader Dixie Morrison (28th, 20:49), seventh grader Julia Lazofuz (32nd, 23:06) and eighth grader Makyia Spencer (33rd, 23:58).
Monticello, which won the race 34-52 over Star City with DC coming in a close third at 54, had four other junior girls’ finish the race, too—seventh graders Brinkley Taylor (19th, 19:29), Anna Morgan (20th, 19:40) and Mia Reginelli (21st, 19:46) and eighth grader Emma Horton (37th, 28:04).
While Drew Central rests up for the SEACC Championships in three weeks, Monticello will be back on the course Saturday at the Lake Hamilton Invitational, to be run over the same state championship course at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs.

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