The Pea Ridge Blackhawk track and field program hit a new high last week with the girls defending their state title while the boys picked up a runner-up trophy at the 4A State Championships in Batesville.
With the inclusion of 16 formerly 5A classified high schools into the 4A field, events were tougher to score and place in this year's meet. The two teams immediately behind the girls' finish were formerly 5A schools with the teams just ahead of the boys' squad also being former 5A schools. Had the AAA not changed the classes, Pea Ridge would have won both the titles.
Getting to attend most of the meet, I was impressed to watch the competitiveness of the 'Hawk thinclads. Most the athletes set seasonal or personal records, which is what trained athletes do in the heat of battle.
The boys' 4x100-meter relay was up against some very fast and experienced competition and were projected to place seventh. Leadoff runner Adam Trammel got the 'Hawks up into the thick of the race with second runner Connor Escajeda roaring down the backstretch to put the 'Hawks at or near the lead. Third runner Cooper Elliott handed off to the freshman anchor (and his brother) Patrick Elliott who held off the cream of Arkansas sprinters to hit the finish in an astounding 43.2 clocking.
To get an idea of how fast that was, the average split time was 10.8 seconds. Getting a running start will of course lower your time, but it takes great speed and great hand offs to get to that low a clocking for a relay like the 4x100-meter. Running your best, receiving and giving hand offs and doing it all well under great pressure in a power field that was the 4A final, well, that takes a lot of character.
Blakelee Winn's four gold medals and a silver in individual events were outstanding, and Cassidy Mooneyhan's gold (and state record) in the pole vault followed by three silver medals in sprint events were also amazing to behold.
The girls 4x100-meter relay was also something to see. The relay ran without their usual anchor but the girls ran almost their best time ever anyway. They were a hair from the gold medal, but took second in the fastest 4A final in history.
The greatest thing for me to notice watching the local athletes was that they ran with authority. Some of the athletes at the meet from other places were intimidated by the magnitude and pressure of the meet. Some runners do their best in low pressure situations, but then there are others who run to win, no matter the field, weather or situation. Pea Ridge athletes competed without fear, with confidence in their training, talent and coaching.
Student athletes who can experience this type of event and who come away with positive results are the kind of youngsters who have the potential of leadership.
The boys will now graduate a senior track class that has produced a ton of honors these past two years. With coach Asa Poteete's arrival on the Pea Ridge campus, the 'Hawk track program has grown from the second tier to the top of the state. Cooper Elliott, Connor Escajeda, Shaed Cates, Sander Van der Veen, Justin Koon and Kevin Vasquez will be sorely missed next season.
The girls will return 103 points from the 115 they scored at this year's state final. Hurdler Shelby Dunlap scored 12 points at state this year has been with the team for four years, always scoring big points in their state championship conquests.
Coach Heather Wade won the conference crown the first three years she led the team, finished second once, then won the last two. She has gathered statewide coach of the year honors and she has the bulk of her squad ready to go in 2020.
The talent for track and field is alive and well in Pea Ridge, Ark. That has likely been the case for along time, and the past few years has finally seen the fruition of the improvement of facilities and the upgrading of the staff.
Bentonville has long been the large school kingpin of the Arkansas high school track and field with Pea Ridge assuming the mantle of the cream of mid-sized school track. Being so close to national collegiate power, the University of Arkansas, it only seems fitting.
The 2020 season is not over just yet. This Saturday will see the meet of Champions at Lake Hamilton High School. By virtue of their state championship medal performances, Blakelee Winn, Cassidy Mooneyhan, Connor Escajeda, Cooper Elliott, Patrick Elliott, Adam Trammel, Shaed Cates and Josiah Small are qualified to go. Others may go based on time results, but that information was not available at press time.
The following week will see the annual Decathalon/Heptathalon event to be held at the University of Arkansas. Lady 'Hawks Blakelee Winn and Cassidy Mooneyhan are possible entrants in the seven-event program for girls.
Editor's note: John McGee, an award-winning columnist, sports writer and art teacher at Pea Ridge elementary schools, writes a regular sports column for The Times. The opinions expressed are those of the writer. He can be contacted through The Times at email@example.com.
Sports on 05/08/2019
Print Headline: Blackhawk track program hits new high