Pioneer XC competes in 5A state at Oaklawn race track

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Six Pioneer seniors closed out their careers in a fast 5A crowd at the cross country (XC) state championships Saturday at Oaklawn.

Brandon Grant and Tori Roddy showed their veteran leadership, with Brandon 45th in 18:16 in the field of 191 and Tori 92nd of 171 in 25:06, matching her best time of the year.

Brandon raced a bold first mile with the top 20 pack in 5:20, accepting the challenge to break 18:00 trying to return to all-state status. The early pace took its toll but he held on for 18:16 to finish every race this year within seconds of his same time, piling up three firsts and a third in his four races before state.

Gunner Shell, usually swapping top finishes with Brandon, got caught in a bunch and knocked into an obstacle. He had to step off the course after trying to fight through for a mile. He had started on a sore ankle already and the injury retirement shines a light on the fighting spirit that earned him all-state status the previous two years. Devin Rice ran his best race of the year by half a minute at 20:44, not far off his career-best in only his second time ever under 21:00. Hats off to these senior boys for years of dedication and effort.

Tori also ran a strong start and maintained the aggressive pace throughout. Consistency has been her trademark and she has raced better and better as her confidence has grown through the years. Longtime running mate Madelyn Cunningham, this year’s homecoming queen, finished in 28:26, her second-best time of the year, as she looks ahead to outdoor track and her 400- and 800-meter specialties. Becca Wehrung, also a senior maid in the homecoming court, served the Pioneers well with impressive progress in a few short weeks. She finished in 28:00, more than a minute faster than 10 days before, and four minutes faster than her debut not 30 days ago Oct. 13. Older sister Anna ran cross-country a few years back, younger sister Emma was a junior high track standout in 2019, and younger brother Isaac is a leader on the junior high boys team. Isaac helped recruit Becca out of the classroom in October to give the ladies a scoring team of five runners.

Junior Kate Moody, another newcomer encouraged by a racing brother (her twin, Trey), also ran a strong race in 28:53, seconds off her best. Kate, a 200- and 400-meter track specialist and swimmer, made her debut with Becca Oct. 13. Freshman Kinley Dorris moved up to senior high as the biggest surprise of the day, running with Tori early and keeping company with her more experienced teammates in the shifting mid-pack. She finished a promising debut in 28:35, with her 5K pace a bit better than her usual junior high pace over half the distance.

Junior Maggie Walton, coming in with the team’s top time of the year, soldiered through circulatory distress to battle home in 29:17.

For the boys, junior Trey Moody steps up as the heir apparent to Brandon, recording his career-best of 18:49. The Oaklawn course and competition suits him, as his previous best came last year at state. Fellow junior Noah Chaffin adds to the returning depth, as he and Devin pushed together over much of the course, with Noah notching his year’s best at 20:59. Sophomores Tanner Queary and Daniel Latus followed in 22:56 and 23:31, respectively. Daniel is new to the team this year, prodded by swimming teammate Trey. Sophomore Andrew Wixson, already a four-year veteran of the program but in his first senior high season, smashed his best by more than a minute, clocking 24:01. Junior Nathan Hernandez, another swimmer in his first season, finished in 28:35.

Junior Jacob Dorris and freshmen Trevor Finnie and Alexander Tenace traveled with their teammates as alternates and support crew.

The athletes will not have too much rest, as the swimmers now are lobbying some of the runners to reciprocate to build their scoring team. Two meets are already on tap next week. Other runners return to basketball, but most will look to maintain fitness for spring track.

So we run down the curtain on a strange, short season with best wishes for next year and highest praise for these fine young men and women for their spirit and growth in these unusual times.

Official results can be found by clicking here.

Info via Bruce Oakley and Batesville High School

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