The postseason has arrived for the local high school cross country runners as they will run at Saturday’s regional meets in Henryetta with the hopes of qualifying for next week’s state meets at Edmond Santa Fe High School.
At all regional meets, the top seven full teams will qualify all their members for state, while the top seven individuals who finish who are not on one of the seven statequalifying teams also will earn state berths.
The Sallisaw and Muldrow runners will be in the Class 4A Regional Meet at 9 a.m. Saturday.
“I’m excited to see how they will perform,” Sallisaw coach Zac Black said. “We’ve really worked hard these last few weeks, and I think it’s really going to make a difference. I’m hoping for a big breakthrough race. We’re looking forward to Saturday. It’s going to be a tough competition. I think my boys have a really good shot in getting into state. I’m very excited for that.”
However, Black also knows it might be easier for Black Diamonds and Lady Diamonds to make state individually.
“If that (making state as a team) does not happen, we have a couple of individual runners who have a much stronger chance going (to state) as individuals,” he said.
Just to have any state qualifiers will be the icing on the cake for Black in his inaugural season as Sallisaw cross country coach.
“That has been my goal since I started here,” he said. “I would really be happy about it. Last year, we didn’t have anybody go. This will be my first year coaching where I take a distance runner to the state meet. That is what I’m excited about.”
It almost looked like the Central Lady Tigers were going to have a shot at earning one of the top seven team finishes to earn state berth for all members, but only four runners will get to run in the Class 2A Regional Meet, which will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday. Thus, Central’s four runners trying to make state at Saturday’s regional meet will be Alyvia Warner, Paris Campbell, Ryleigh Pierce and Rileigh Ford.
“As a team, I don’t have enough to qualify as a team,” Central girls coach Courtney Bair said. We possibly could have qualified (as a team with five runners). So, individually, I’m looking at possibly a few having a chance to make it to state. I’m pretty confident in where they’ll be for Saturday. They’re really putting in the extra training these last couple of weeks. I feel like my girls are ready.”
There will be three Gore Lady Pirates who will run in Saturday morning’s Class 2A Regional Meet, including one who is a favorite to not only qualify for state but win the regional championship in Hallie Kinion.
“That’s the goal,” Gore coach T.W. Estes said about Kinion. “She’s been training really hard. We kind of expect with the three (regional) meets, where they’re at (Henryetta, Waurika and Enid’s Oklahoma Bible Academy) and who’d she be running against that she has a pretty good shot at it — as good a shot as you could ask for. She’s been running well, and she’ll have to run well — and she needs to.”
The other two Lady Pirates running with Kinion will be Amelia White and Gracie Bruce.
“This is her first year running cross country,” Estes said about White. “She actually just started running track with us last year — and loved it. She’s a good runner. She was on our 800-meter relay team that qualified for state. Hallie kind of talked her into it (running this fall for cross country). She’s really enjoyed it and liked it. She’s getting better every week, but she’s just young at it and new to it. The opportunity is there.”
As for Bruce, Estes said she is just enjoying running.
“She runs at all our meets,” he said. “She’s just out there because she enjoys it, and the opportunity is there.”
For most of, if not all, the local runners, their last meet was at the beginning of the month at the Checotah Crossroads Meet on Oct. 3. However, Black and Bair believe the time off has been beneficial for their respective runners.
“I think the break has been beneficial, but I’m also wary of that,” Black said. “We did some workout at the courses. We did some trail runs, and I think that was comparable efforts to racing (in actual meets). In some cases, I think it made them even more so (better than actual races) because we did some hills out there. I’m very happy with where everybody is, both mentally and physically, right now.”
“As a group, our practices have been very competitive, as far as the girls competing with each other,” Bair said. “I even had a junior high girl who is a very good runner, and she’s been coming and practicing with us. So, it’s been competitive practices.”