Heather Wade's Blackhawk boys and girls cross country teams made history as they brought home team state trophies after copping a team championship and a team runner-up trophy at the 2020 Arkansas 4A State Cross Country Championships held in Hot Springs Friday, Nov. 6.
"This has been a difficult year to compete in athletics (covid restrictions) and I am extremely proud of their efforts to make the most of it! I would also like to thank my assistant coaches Adam Gibby, Nico Hall and Emily Spears for all their hard work this season!" Wade said after the meet.
The boys used extraordinary team balance and depth to pull away and win the title by 59 points over runner-up DeQueen, a longtime 4A power. It was the boys' second state title, having won their first in 1985.
The girls won their third state runner-up trophy having also placed second in 2012 and 2013. Though they could not catch state champion Valley View, they used superior depth to defeat Harrison for the 2020 runner-up trophy 75-97.
Five Blackhawk runners earned All-State honors in the 5,000-meter (3.1 mile) race. Junior Liz Vasquez claimed sixth place (20:52) overall among the more than 150 runners with senior Harmony Reynolds taking 10th (21.22). Levi Schultz led a trio of All-State boys with a ninth place finish (17:49) among the 191 boys in the race. Grandon Grant grabbed 12th place (17:53) and Josiah Small captured 14th place (18:06) to earn their all-state honors.
With the team's first two runners in (Schultz and Grant), the Hawks were sitting in the fourth position, one point behind Dardanelle, two points behind Mena and 13 behind early team leader Clarksville. No. 3 runner Small finished much higher than the other teams' No. 3 men, vaulting the Hawks into the lead, 6 points ahead of Dardenelle, and 19 ahead of Mena. When Layton Powell came in at 22nd (18:37), the finish strengthened the Pea Ridge lead to 23 over Dardanelle, 40 points ahead of now third place DeQueen. Tian Grant's 24th finish was the finishing touch, as he was by far the highest finishing fifth man in race. Elijah Wiggins, 32nd (19:06) and Troy Ferguson, 36th (19:16) were the teams chasers, as their high finish added to the Hawk victory margin. Reserve runners Jacob Stein 43rd (19:33) and Sebastien Mullikin, 46th (19:39) were by far the best reserve runners at the state meet finishing 20 places ahead of any other.
The team's first and fifth runners finished 52 seconds apart, demonstrating exceptional balance and with the first and seventh Hawks runners within 90 seconds of each other, the Blackhawk depth made the title run impressive.
Pea Ridge ended the two-year reign of Huntsville who won the 2018 and 2019 championships. The Eagles fell to 19th in 2020.
Final team scores for the boys were: Pea Ridge 76, DeQueen 135, Dardanelle 185, Farmington 194, Gravette 204, Subiaco 210, Berryville 211, Clarksville 218, Mena 237, Pulaski 275, Nashville 281, Monticello 330, Heber Springs 354, Valley View 359, Shiloh 369, Highland 373, Pottsville 415, Prairie Grove, 419, Huntsville 430, Hope 483, Robinson 564, Star City 585, and Magnolia 587. Ozark, eStem, Bauxite, Westside, DeWitt and Crossett failed to score.
Valley View's girls had exceptional performances with all five scorers for the northeast Arkansas school earning all-state honors. All five finished in the top 11 individual spots with their final score of 28 being just 13 points short of a perfect score.
The Lady Hawks also demonstrated good balance and depth to take a final 22-point margin over third place Harrison to claim the runner-up trophy. Rylee Raines' 17th finish (22:26), Olivia Scates' 24th finish (22:41) and Emma Stewart's 25th place (22:42) put the five scoring runners with 1:50 of each other, demonstrating good balance. Allie Kings' 31st (22:59) and Maddyson Robinson's 36th (23:16) in the chaser positions padded the Hawk margin and kept all seven counting runners within 2:24 of each other, an amazing feat. Reserve runners Ryleigh Galbraith, 45th (23:42), and Dallice White, 64th (24:42), gave Pea Ridge the extra insurance to claim their trophy.
After the first two runners (Vazques and Reynolds) had been tabulated, Pea Ridge was in the hunt at the third position, trailing co-leaders Valley View and Clarksville who were 10 points ahead of the Hawks. Valley View took the lead after three runners, with Pea Ridge (Raines) coming a point closer to Clarksville. After Scates came in for the Hawks' fourth scorer, Pea Ridge shot past Clarksville, now leading the Panthers by 10. The Hawks' fifth runner (Stewart) crossed the line far ahead of the Panthers' fifth, icing the second place finish as Harrison made a late rush to slide by Clarksville and claim third place.
Team scores from the girls meet were: Valley View 28, Pea Ridge 75, Harrison 97, Clarksville 113, Gravette 168, Heber Springs 181, Farmington 215, Pulaski 220, DeQueen 261, Robinson 294, Prairie Grove 326, Monticello 334, Berryville 335, Hope 341, Brookland 351, Star City 448 and eStem 457. Magnolia, Pottsville, Ozark, Shiloh, Pocahontas, Lonoke, Huntsville, Bauxite, DeWitt and Crossett all failed to score.
The title gave Coach Wade her sixth team state championship, having won her previous five titles in track and field. A winner of many coaching awards, Wade previously won the honor as best track and field coach in the state regardless of classification.