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Hedges: It’s been quite a run for Bossier Parish female distance runners at the state meet

It’s been a remarkable run of success for Bossier Parish female distance runners in the LHSAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Since 2008, parish athletes have piled up 19 first- , second- and third-place finishes in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs in the Class 4A and 5A divisions.
The incomparable Kaitlin Flattmann of Benton got the ball rolling in 2008, her freshman season. She showed signs of things to come with winning times of 5:07.93 in the 1,600 and 10:56.18 in the 3,200.
Battling a foot injury, Flattmann failed to add to her titles in 2009 but she came back with a vengeance in 2010. She won the 4A 1,600 in 5:01.92 and the 3,200 in a composite (all classes) record of 10:44.72. For good measure, she also won the 800.
In 2011, Flattmann had the best high school season in Louisiana history. She added the 1,600 composite record with a 4:56.04. Remarkably, she sliced almost 20 seconds off her 3,200 record with a 10:25.18. And she won the 800 again.
Flattmann’s teammate Kaitlyn Jeter also had top-3 finishes in the 1,600 and 3,200 in her career.
While Flattmann was dominating 4A, Airline’s Rebecca Blubaugh was ruling Class 5A. She showed what she was capable of with a second-place finish in the 3,200 and a third-place finish in the 1,600 in 2008.
In 2009 and 2010, Blubaugh won both events. Her best times rank among the best in Northwest Louisiana history after Flattmann.
In 2012, Parkway’s Alison Ringle took up the mantle. As a sophomore, she finished second in both the 1,600 and 3,200.
Ringle went on to win the 3,200 in 2013 and 2014.
It was Parkway’s Sara Funderburk’s turn in 2015. She won the 3,200 as a junior. In May, Funderburk completed her career with a runner-up finish in the 1,600 and a third-place finish in the 3,200.
She ran a 5:05.34 in the 1,600. That was about two seconds behind winner Claire Crosby of Mandeville. Crosby ran a Class 5A record 5:03.29.
Funderburk’s time was less than 10 seconds off Flattmann’s composite record. It was the second-best time in any class in 2016.
You have to wonder if the streak of success will continue.
Funderburk was the only female distance runner from a Bossier Parish school to qualify for the state meet in the 1,600 or 3,200.
Airline sophomore Bethanie Dunn showed promise in the 1,600 and 3,200. There could be some up-and-comers from the middle school ranks, including Cope’s Avery Meeks, daughter of Airline head football coach Bo Meeks.
Cope’s Will Dart will be one to keep an eye on in the boys’ distance events.
He dominated the 800 and 1,600 the last two years and has shown plenty of potential.
Of course, just like in any other sport middle school success doesn’t necessarily translate to high school success. Understandably, some kids move on to other activities or simply lose interest.
Becoming an elite distance runner is a major challenge. It takes perseverance, stamina, discipline and a strong work ethic.
There are hours and hours of training. During the spring track season, races are run in all kinds of weather conditions. There’s cold and high wind early followed by heat late in the season.
Only the highly motivated need apply.
It will be interesting to see what the future holds. Regardless, the past 10 years have been something to see.

Russell Hedges is Sports Editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune. He may be reached at rhedges@bossierpress.com

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