By Richard Sharp
Lake Area Sports
HOT SPRINGS-For the fourth time in the last five seasons, the Quitman Lady Bulldogs hoisted the Class 2A Girls Cross Country state championship trophy this past Thursday at Oaklawn, while the Bulldogs brought home a runner-up finish for the third straight year. West Side’s Lady Eagles also struck gold in Class 1A for the first time since 2007, with the Eagles coming in at third.
Beginning with the 1A Girls race, Rural Special senior Abbey Linville took the checkered flag for the individual state championship with a dominant time of 19:40.87, beating runner-up and Jasper’s Aubrey Henderson by over two minutes. Two-time individual state champion and senior Haley Gentry of West Side seized fourth (22:02.58) as teammate Kadence Dilks rounded out the top-five at 22:14.45. Ashtyn Knapp (11th, 22:35.56), Katie Davis (23rd, 24:41.49) and Sarah Carlton (24th, 24:49.20) rounded out the team scoring for the Lady Eagles, who edged out Kingston for the title by a slim 45-48 tally, the program’s first state title in the sport since 2007, the team who now Coach Megan Berry competed for, giving herself two rings, one as an athlete and one as a coach. For Gentry, this is her fourth consecutive All-State selection, moving her into the top spot for most All-State honors in state history with (four XC, four golf, two tennis).
The Eagles finished just 12 points short of hauling in some hardware in the 1A boys event, but still competed well with three top ten finishes in Travis Gentry (sixth, 19:28.37), Dax Hipp (seventh, 19:38.00) and Carson Stark (eighth, 19:39.98). Asa Carr (thirty-third, 21:15:57) and Dawson Inzer (thirty-sixth, 21:21.79) also helped West Side’s charge. Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy won the title with a score of 46, besting runner-up Hermitage’s 54 and the Eagles’ 66. Joseph Garay of Hermitage was the individual winner at 17:45.23.
Following a short break to clear the infield and prepare for 2A Girls action, the Quitman Lady Bulldogs added on to their recent dominance of the Oaklawn course with a winning score of 36, crushing Mansfield’s total of 78 to defend their 2019 title and claim their fourth state championship in the last five seasons, winning it all in 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020. Add those to the two softball, one track and field and one basketball titles the girls athletic program has accumulated, that makes for eight in a little over four years.
Quitman fans arrived at the track sporting t-shirts donning the statement: “No eXCuses”, and no excuses were given as the Lady Bulldogs placed three runners in the top ten in the form of junior Taylor Hooten (third, 21:37.47), sophomore Silver Mulliniks (sixth, 22:35.79) and junior Katelyn Black (22:58.70). Chloe Liles (thirteenth, 23:57.83) and Taylor Chapman (seventeenth, 24:16.28) finished out the scoring. Cedar Ridge’s Katelyn Provence withstood the competition for the individual title (20:49.96). With all scorers returning for 2021, the Lady Bulldogs looked poised to continue to add to their streak.
The Bulldogs took second behind a strong Acorn Tiger team 46-65, with junior Nic Shue carrying the torch with a fourth-place finish (17:53.98). Sophomore Tate Stacks (eighth, 18:45.67), senior Jacob Cantrell (twelfth, 19:27.76), senior Chase Applewhite (twenty-first, 20:06.59) and Luke Broadaway (twenty-seventh, 20:21.21) served as the other top four scores for Quitman. Jacob Tyburski of Haas Hall Bentonville presented the top time of the day with a 17:00.37.