Monticello harriers shine at Minuteman XC meet

Distance running has been a staple at Monticello High School for years, both in cross country and track and field. If this season’s opening cross country race is any indication, that fact will hold true for some time to come.
Led by senior Caleb Clair’s 19th-place finish (out of 330 runners), the Billies were the top Class 4A school in the senior boys’ division at Saturday’s Minuteman XC Invitational, while the Lady Billies were bested only by Joe T. Robinson among 4A teams in the senior girls’ classification. Both teams were the top Southeast Arkansas Cross County League finishers.
A lot could happen between now and the 4A State Cross Country Championships on Nov. 3 at Hot Springs’ Oaklawn Park but based on Monticello’s first 2017 outing, both the Billies and Lady Billies look to be one of the teams to beat. And it’s a given Monticello will be at or near the top in the conference.
A total of 1,223 competitors from almost 50 schools across Arkansas showed up to run last weekend in the meet hosted by Bryant High School and held Western Hills Park in Little Rock. Monticello cross country coach Shawn Curtis said he can’t help but be encouraged by all four of his squads’ performances.    
“The Minuteman XC Invitational is one of the bigger meets that we attend throughout the year,” Curtis said. “With over 48 teams and hundreds of runners in each race, our Billie cross country teams fared well against the larger 6A-7A schools. It was a very good first showing of the year, and definitely gives us a starting point to work from and to improve upon.”
Overall, Monticello’s senior boys ran 18th out of 24 schools that scored in that division. Thirty-six schools had entrants in that race. The Lady Billies finished 17th of 20 girls’ teams that entered at least five runners; 29 total schools and 201 runners were in the senior girls’ division.
In the junior divisions, Monticello didn’t fare badly, either. The largest race of the four was the 381-runner junior boys’ classification; Monticello placed 18th of the 21 schools that entered complete teams. The Junior Lady Billies were 17th of 19 complete teams in a 311-competitor junior girls’ division. Twenty-nine junior boys’ squads and 26 junior girls’ had at least one runner present.
A returning All-State performer, Clair clocked 17 minutes, 43.28 seconds over the 5,000-meter senior boys’ course, scoring 17 points. The Billie leader was within a minute of the overall senior boys’ winner; Maumelle’s Carter Reynolds was timed in 16:46.07.
Clair’s classmate, Kai Lampkin, was just out of the top 100 overall, finishing 117th in a time of 20:02.24. Lampkin was well within that top 100 in scoring, however, coming in 88th among runners that counted for team scores.  
“I was proud of Caleb,” Curtis said. “He is picking up where he left off last year, and I hope it has focused him a little more to work harder in practice. Both he and Kai Lampkin have the potential to do big things this year.”  
Other Billies scoring were sophomores Lauro Guerrero (206th overall, 123rd in scoring—22:30.34) and Jackson Hollis (211th, 126th—22:39.00), and junior John Swain (258th, 135th—23:54.73). Two more Monticello senior boys who were very important were junior Carlton Talley (272nd, 138th—24:20.94) and sophomore Braydn Curtis (282nd, 141st—24:55.86), because the sixth- and seventh-place finishers help a team’s score by pushing other teams’ runners down. The eighth Billie finisher was senior Ralph Iweriebor, who came in 300th overall in a time of 26:19.20.
Junior Tyneisha Nolen led the five-person Lady Billies’ unit over 5,000 meters. Nolen, who has an opportunity to do what few, if any, SEACCL harriers have done in the history of the conference, finished 67th overall (65th in scoring) in a time of 25:05.93. Yet to lose a SEACCL Championships race, Nolen could finish with seven individual league titles (she won twice as a freshmen, in both the junior and senior divisions).
Other Lady Billies’ point-producers were seniors Samantha Pennington (78th overall, 73rd in scoring—25:51.65); Kaylyn Smith (128th, 101st—28:42.17); Mariah Austin (129th, 102nd—28:43.04); and Holly Turner (184th, 126th—34:50.32).
Among Monticello’s SEACCL competition, Hermitage finished 20th in the senior boys’ division while Fordyce ran 23rd. Crossett, Dollarway, Hamburg and Star City fielded incomplete teams. In the senior girls’ classification, Hermitage was the only other school to enter at least five runners and earn a team score. The Lady Hermits finished just behind the Lady Billies, in 18th position. Hamburg and Star City also entered in that division, but neither had the required five runners to score as a team.
Monticello’s biggest squad in terms of numbers was the Junior Billies. Fifteen runners recorded times and only two were freshman, which bodes will for the future of that program. Garrett Newton and Kameron Fleetwood led the way for the Junior Billies, however. Newton finished 120th overall (78th in scoring) with a 3,200-meter clocking of 13:33.21 while ninth-grade classmate Fleetwood was 170th overall (98th in scoring) with a time of 14:15.69.
Of the other Junior Billies counting town the team score, two were seventh graders—and the sixth- and seventh-place finishers were also racing for the first time in junior high. Seventh grader Nathan Palmer was 22nd overall (120th in scoring) in a time of 15:01.76; eighth grader Mason Pharr ran 241st overall (124 in scoring) with a time of 15:16.29; and seventh grader Caden Fitzgerald was 245th (125 in scoring) in a time of 15:20.75.
Seventh graders Aaron Ray (246th, 126th—15:21.37) and Isaiah West (262nd; 129th—15:34.03) were the Junior Billies’ all-important top two runners outside the five that counted for the team score. Eight other Monticello junior boys finished the race. Seventh grader Caleb Freeman was 272nd overall in a time of 15:43.58 to lead tat group. Other Junior Billie finishers were eighth grader Trae Milburn (281st overall, 15:49.25); seventh grader Tushar Nathu (313th, 16:34.81); eighth grader Sam Bostian (317th, 16:38.42); and seventh graders Jacob Akin (334th, 17:15.30), Johnny McClendon (355th,18:23.01), Damirion Davis (364th, 19:55.26) and Logan Hairston (376th, 21:57.41).
Among SEACCL junior boys’ competitors, Hermitage finished 11th, Star City 19th and Fordyce 21st. Crossett and Hamburg entered runners but not enough to be counted toward a team score.
And in the junior girls’ division, eighth grader Fleure Perez led the Junior Lady Billies across the finish line in 100th place overall (68th in terms of scoring) in a time of 16:02.24. The lone Monticello freshman finishing was next. Maia Reynado ran 191st overall (100th in scoring) with a 17:38.09 clocking.
Other Junior Lady Billies’ point-producers were eighth grader Brook Paschall (196th overall, 101st in scoring—17:44.59) and seventh graders Kate Morgan (208th, 106th—18:00.53) and Mia Reginelli (268th, 119th—119). The sixth- and seventh-place finishers for Monticello’s junior girls were eighth grader Chassidy McKnight (283rd, 123rd—21:00.09) and seventh grader Tamia Brooks (290th, 128th—21:30.82).
Two more Junior Lady Billies finished the race. Seventh grader Brinkley Taylor was 291st in a time of 21:32.83 and eighth grader Emma Horton was 309th with a 28:15.44 clocking.
Other SEACCL junior girls’ teams in the race were Star City, which finished 14th overall, Hermitage in 18th place and Fordyce in 19th. As in the junior boys’ division, Crossett and Hamburg entered runners but not enough to be counted toward a team score.

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