Phoenix Staff Reports
Tahlequah senior Jessica Hembree is right where she wants to be with her shot at redemption.
Just over a year ago and mere yards from a state three-peat, the two-time state champion broke her ankle just shy of the finish line. Today, she’ll get her shot at a third title.
And the rest of the Lady Tigers will be right there with her at the Class 4A-6A state meet at Edmond Santa Fe High School.
“Jessica has been determined to return to where she was,” said Tahlequah girls coach Elzy Miller. “She’s done a lot of rehab in the pool and on the bike and we’ve even had to pull her out of some meets to keep her from extending herself too far.”
Hembree finished the two-mile course in a time of 12 minutes, 20 seconds and was joined by teammates Gracie Medellin, who finished fourth in 12:58, Amy Hembree in 10th in 13:27. Lindsey Chaffin was 12th in 13:32 and Breanna Duncan was 20th in 14:00.
Even the two performances that didn’t go toward the team total of 47 points were near the front. Madison Reed was 25th in 14:08. Alejandra Medellin was 33rd in 14:31.
“We’ve got a really good team this year and I feel we have the four best runners in 5A,” Miller said. “We got past Metro Christian in the regional but they were missing one of their top runners as were we, so that’s a wash.
“Shawnee has six really good runners and our goal is to have our top four finish in front of their top three. If we can do that, we should be in great shape.”
This year’s meet will be at a course the Lady Tigers have never seen and Miller is quick to point out that is a good thing.
“We’re excited that this is a new venue,” he said. “Out two previous state titles came on a course we had never been to so we’re hoping this is a good omen.”
Tahlequah’s boys qualified for today’s state meet with a third-place finish at regionals. Leading the way was Zech VanFleet who won the boys division in 17:21 on the 5,000-meter boys course. Three Tigers were in the top 15 – Mohamed Bassime was seventh in 18:03, Ara Poteete was 15th in 18:31. Also for Tahlequah, Seth Martin (19:17) took 32nd and Ty Trammel (19:34) was 37th.
In Class 6A, Filo Espinosa will be the first Muskogee runner in over 20 years to represent the school as he was one of the top-5 finishers from a school that did not qualify a team for state, coming in 26th of 56 with a time of 18:26.