The Batesville Pioneers and Brandon Grant earned their second titles of the year Tuesday in the Race on the Ridge in Paragould.
Seniors Grant and Gunner Shell paced steadily near the front for the first 1.5 miles of the 3.1-mile race, with Grant taking over from Jonesboro’s Steven Harrison to win by 4 seconds in 18:19. Shell worked hard to hold fifth in 19:29.
The cooler temperatures at Crowley’s Ridge College helped the Pioneers across all four races. Nearly every runner was at least a minute faster than on the easier, flat course at Sulphur Rock for the Pioneer Invitational season opener a month ago.
Trey Moody ran a smooth 20:18 in seventh, with junior classmate Noah Chaffin hanging close most of the way in 12th at 21:05 in his first race of the season. Senior Devin Rice ran a solid pace with a strong closing mile and a dead sprint to a photo finish in 16th at 21:19, a tenth of a second off the individual medal for 15th. Sophomore Tanner Queary finished 30th in the field of 70 in 22:48, with classmate Daniel Latus fighting for 45th in 24:30 in only his second race as a newcomer from swimming. Fellow sophomore Andrew Wixson continues to improve with added mileage, keeping Latus in sight for 48th in 25:07, also in only his second race at senior high distance.
Juniors Nathan Hernandez (54th, 26:01) and Jacob Dorris (61st, 28:11) battled through the hills to improve much, despite stress rivaling the heat and humidity at Sulphur Rock.
5A-East district rivals Greene County Tech put on the meet at the hilly campus that will be home to the district championship in two weeks. The Pioneers got a good look at the course and the district competition, as Jonesboro, Marion, Nettleton, Paragould, West Memphis, and Greene County Tech ran, and only Searcy not attending. (Jonesboro looks to have split their senior boys squad with their top runners resting for the Lake Hamilton Invitational on Saturday.)
The Pioneers beat runner-up Marion 32-73 for the team plaque Tuesday.
The senior girls fielded a scoring five for the first time outside a district or state championship since 2018, with junior Kate Moody and senior Becca Wehrung making their debuts. Junior Maggie Walton returned to strong form in the cooler weather to take the 11th place medal in a solid 24:41. Senior Tori Roddy turned in a steady 27:24 for 26th, with Moody, a 400-meter track star, pacing to 30th in 28:37 in her first cross-country 5K.
Senior Madelyn Cunningham dropped a minute from her Sulphur Rock race, finishing 33rd in 29:02.
Wehrung, from a Pioneer running family with an older sister who ran cross-country, a younger one who runs track, and a younger brother who runs both for the junior Pioneers, did the siblings proud after only a couple of weeks practice, claiming 38th in 31:29 among 58 finishers.
Valley View won the team title with a perfect 15 score. Jonesboro was second at 69, Brookland third at 92, and Batesville fourth at 94.
The junior boys also earned a team plaque for second place, just a few points behind longtime rival Valley View, staying back in 4A this year. Four junior Pioneers finished with top 15 medals, led by eighth-grader Grant McDonald in fifth at 9:46. Freshman newcomer (from swimming) Ethan Byler and eighth-grader Isaac Wehrung ran together much of the way, with Byler getting the edge by a step, eighth in 10:00.36 to ninth in 10:00.94.
Eighth-grader Ryan Barber, a newcomer from basketball and also in only his second race, finished 14th in 10:21. Valley View placed two runners right behind Barber and their fifth in the top 25 to edge the Pioneers 68-72, with Batesville’s freshman Alexandre Tenace the fifth scorer 42nd of 102 overall in 11:32. Seventh-grader Garrett Burton and freshman Trevor Finnie made their debuts in steady company with Burton 79th in 13:39 and Finnie 40th in 13:40.
Valley View also won the junior girls title, edging Greene County Tech 33-39.
Seventh-grader Claire Brooks was the first of three junior high Lady Pioneers, 24th in 13:19. Freshman Kinley Dorris toughed out the hills in 52nd at 14:34, with newcomer classmate Tamera Deutsch 80th in 17:45. Three girls from volleyball are expected to round out the squad for the rest of the season.
The Pioneers race next Tuesday with host Valley View in the Blazer Kid Spot Invitational at Joe Mack Campbell Park in Jonesboro.
Info and image provided by Batesville Pioneers Cross Country
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