By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
Ask Warner’s Kailey Kilpatrick what thrilled her most about last week’s Class 2A cross country regional and she has a dual answer.
“It was good to win the regional as an individual,” the freshman said. “But it was also good to win it as a team.”
The Lady Eagles head into Saturday’s state meet at the Gordon Cooper Technology Center in Shawnee as one of the favorites to win the state championship. Warner finished 10th at last year’s meet and have had one goal in mind for this year.
“We went to state last year, but we’ve never been this competitive,” Kilpatrick said. “This year we are hoping to win state but last year we were hoping to place.”
While the team was confident about its chances advancing to state, there was the thought about being regional champs that drove the Lady Eagles.
“You always go into the regional hoping you have a great shot at winning,” said Warner coach Mindi Peters. “I don’t know that we every expect everything. But the girls have been running really extremely well and we knew that if we went out we did what we’re capable of doing, we would win.”
And it’s that belief that Peters said has driven the girls to improve on their times throughout the year and to not lose sight of what’s at stake.
In a typical cross country meet, the winning team will have three runners place in the top 10, one between 10-and 20 and the fifth somewhere outside the top 20. On Saturday, all five Lady Eagles placed within the top 18.
“That’s a big deal,” Peters said. “That was very exciting. The girls have worked extremely hard and have continued to improve their times.”
With all the runners starting at once, Kilpatrick knew not to go out too fast. She kept her focus on the course and it wasn’t until late in the race that she was aware the individual title was hers.
“I didn’t know until the end,” Kilpatrick said. “I just kept running until I crossed the line and didn’t worry about who was behind me just to get my time down.”
On Saturday, Kilpatrick’s goals are the same as they were for the regional.
“I’m hoping we win as a team,” she said. “But I’m also hoping to win as an individual but most important, winning as a team.”
Three of Kilpatrick’s teammates cracked the top 10 and had five in the top 18. Becky Kauffman was seventh in 13:32 and Britney Hammans was eighth in 13:46. Jessica Kauffman took 14th in 14:06, Ally Davis 17th in 14:16 and Lessley Davis 18th in 14:20. Baylie Short was 26th in 15:03.
The 2A girls lead things off at 10 a.m. with the 2A boys at 10:45 a.m., the 3A girls at noon and the 3A boys at 12:45 p.m.
Sequoyah’s back at state after missing last season for the first time in 11 years, taking last week’s regional at Henryetta. Kayla Davis, a junior who was the 400 -meter state champion in 2012, was runner-up overall and freshman Kyle Holmes came in fourth.
The Sequoyah boys have a 27-year streak of making state. The Indians were second and were led by fourth-place Terrance Nofire, who turned in an 18:11. Cayden Salazar was seventh in 18:11 and Cody Christie was eighth in 18:26.
Also at Henryetta, in the 3A boys, Cole Montgomery of fourth-place Eufaula was second in 16:40, trailing Colton Green of Henryetta (16:31) over the 5,000 meter course. Sequoyah had three in the top 10. Terrance Nofire was fourth (16:47), Cayden Salazar seventh (18:11) and Cody Christie (18:26) in eighth.
The 3A girls also saw Eufaula’s Madison Newton take fifth (12:46). Sequoyah’s Taylor Henry was ninth in 13:15 and Keys’ Ali Andrews, finishing 13th, also qualified for state (13:24).
In Class 5A, Tahlequah should be a strong contender on both the boys and girls sides. Zechariah Van Fleet returns as the state runner-up. Mohmed Bassime was 17th at state. VanFleet won the Metro Lakes Conference meet a week ago and Bassime was fourth.
Among the Tahlequah girls, Gracie Medellin was ninth and Amy Hembree, the younger sister of three-time champion Jessica Hembree, was 12th at last year’s state meet. Medellin won the Metro Lakes meet last week. Lindsey Chaffin, 20th at state a year ago, was 11th at the conference meet. Hembree missed the conference meet due to a campus visit to Dartmouth.
Fort Gibson’s Coleman Crawley, who was ninth in Class 5A state at Edmond Deer Creek last year, should be among the 4A boys favorites.
In 6A, Muskogee’s top hopes are Jachai Maxwell and Will Matthews on the boys side and Morgan Springborn on the girls side — its best finishers at the Frontier Conference meet.
The schedule for these regionals, all at Oral Roberts University on Saturday, is as follows: 6A girls, 11 a.m.; 6A boys, 11:45 a.m.; 4A girls, 1 p.m.; 4A boys, 1:45 p.m.; 5A girls, 3 p.m.; 5A boys, 3:45 p.m.