NATCHITOCHES —All season long, the Benton Tigers cross country team ran with a single goal in mind — to repeat as Class 4A state champions.
Well, the Tigers not only won their second straight state title Monday at Northwestern State University, they dominated.
Four Tigers finished in the top 10, led by state champion Drake Heinz.
The Tigers’ fifth runner in the scoring, Ryder Miller, finished 22nd. In fact, seven Benton runners finished in the top 25, a remarkable feat considering there were 161 in the field.
Benton scored 40 points. Runner-up St. Thomas More of Lafayette was second with 85 points.
Heinz, the reigning 4A state champion in the 3,200-meter run, covered the 3-mile run in 16 minutes, 17.61 seconds. Runner-up Dylan Oliver of Northwood, the 2012 champion, finished well back at 16:34.57.
Benton’s Stephen Singleton was third (16:50.19), Garrett Gibson sixth (16:57.38) and Logan Caskey 10th (17:11.31).
Other members of the state championship team who ran Monday are Josh Caskey (23rd, 18:00.26) and Alex Whittington (25th, 18:02.53).
“It’s great,” Heinz said. “We worked hard for it last year and came back and knew we had a really good shot and worked our butts off for it and it paid off.”
Heinz, whose sister Ashton was a member of Benton’s 2010 and 2011 girls state championship teams, took the lead early in the race and didn’t relinquish it.
“It’s a great honor,” Heinz said. “Last year I got third. I beat Dylan Oliver early in the season and I wanted to repeat that because I knew he’d be my main competition.”
Heinz said he didn’t go into the race with a strategy of racing in front of the pack.
“I didn’t know that was going to happen, but I did plan to get a good start,” he said. “That’s just how it went. I took off and I went with it.”
With the two girls titles, Benton coach Frank Trammel now has four in the last four years.
But he said he’s not the one that deserves the credit.
“There’s a quote by Tom Landry,” he said. “It says a team of character needs no motivation. That explains the boys. Classy, classy. Got a lot of character. Great work ethic. Parents are committed.
“It ain’t Frank Trammel out there running. There are parents out there paying money and traveling all over this state, making sure that child gets to school before six o’clock. It’s been a community effort. I never imagined I’d be here now with four state championships.”
Parkway junior Hayden Kingfisher finished fourth in the Class 5A boys’ individual competition in 15:46.37. Airline’s Jack Wilkes was 12th in 16:14.99.
District 1-5A Airline finished 11th out of 43 teams and Parkway was 13th.