Home Sports-Free Parkway, Benton aim for state cross country titles

Parkway, Benton aim for state cross country titles

Russell Hedges



Success has become the norm the last several years at the LHSAA Cross Country State Meet for Benton and Parkway.

Benton won back-to-back Class 4A girls state titles in 2010 and 2011. Last year, Benton won the 4A boys championship.

Parkway won the Class 4A boys state title in 2010 and posted sixth-place finishes in 5A the last two years.

The Parkway girls have also been strong, finishing sixth in Class 5A in 2011 and third last year.

Both schools look to have strong performances again at this year’s state meet Tuesday at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches.

The Parkway girls, led by senior Alison Ringle, should be among the contenders for the state title, coach Kent Falting said.

Ringle, an Alabama commitment who finished runner-up last year, will be one of the favorites in the individual competition, a 3-mile run.

“On the girls side, we’re going down there knowing we have a shot,” Falting said. “I think us, St. Joseph’s and Mandeville are really, really close together. We’re looking forward to it.”

Parkway went undefeated against Louisiana competition this season. The Lady Panthers also posted a perfect score in the District 1-5A meet with Ringle, Sara Funderburk, Ariel McGaffey, Jayni Wilcher and Jessica McGuffee finishing 1-5.

Destiny McGaffey, Cassidy Cummings and Rylie McConnell also finished in the top 10.

“It’s weird because we’re a pretty talented team, but a lot of races we went to really didn’t have a good turnout so we almost raced ourselves a whole bunch,” Falting said. “We’re really excited. They’ll line up 300 girls and we’ll finally be able to see where we’re at.”

Falting expects Ringle’s toughest competition to be Annie Hill of St. Joseph’s and Olivia Murphy of Mandeville.

Parkway lost nine of its top runners of last season’s boys team. Hayden Kingfisher, the lone returnee, finished fifth and should be among the contenders for the title Tuesday.

Airline’s Jack Wilkes, who finished 20th last season, should also be in the mix.

Benton coach Frank Trammel believes his team has a chance to sweep the 4A titles.

The boys team returns four of the five runners who finished in the scoring last season, including third-place Drake Heinz and fifth-place Alex Whittington. Also back are Stephen Singleton (19th), Ryder Miller (26th), Garret Gibson (41st) and Garrett Caskey (49th).

”The expectation is they are going to run smart and develop and put themselves in a great position to win the championship,” Trammel said.

The Benton girls have added freshman Rachel Payne to a solid list of returning runners. Payne has been the Lady Tigers’ top runner this season.

“She’s been a big boost to us,” Trammel said.

Returning are Quinci Middlebrooks, who finished 10th last year, Haley Dishman (15th), Katie McKay (16th) and Kirsten Basco (31st).

Trammel also expects Emma Owen, Skylar Roberson and Jenna Keys to contribute.

“I think we’ve got a better chance than we did last year,” he said. “They’re excited. They’re not as nervous.”


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