By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — More than 200 cross country runners raced in the Henryetta Invitation Cross Country Meet on Saturday. They braved the hills, the heat, not to mention the other runners.
McAlester’s Sam Adams ran the 5K course in 19 minutes, 53 seconds, finishing 13th. Adams was the only Buff to finish in the top 30 and earn a medal.
Also a Buffs football player, Adams came back from Friday’s game in Stillwater well past midnight Saturday morning, Carney said. Despite a shorter night of sleep than he would’ve liked, Adams still beat out 90 percent of the runners.
“Sam has just got a little more foot-speed than the other guys,” Buffs cross country coach Susanne Carney said. “He’s able to get up there and get in that top pack a little better.”
Carney said that the 30 teams competing made the course very difficult, and the heat just made conditions worse. Colin Smith suffered an asthma attack and couldn’t finish, Carney said, and Stone Adams cramped up.
Smith and Stone Adams had been the Buffs’ second- and third-best runners, respectively, on Aug. 31 in Okmulgee.
“Those two guys not being able to be up where Sam was at hurt us,” Carney said, adding that Smith later recovered.
“These guys have not really run cross country before. This is pretty new to these guys.”
The final times for McAlester’s high school boys team were:
• Sam Adams, 19:53, 13th
• Hank Brown, 20:53
• Noah Rose, 21:51
• Parker Elliot, 22:54
• Stone Adams, 27:13
• Zach Clayton, 27:17
McAlester’s junior high team also competed at Henryetta and took second, with champion Berryhill willing by just three points. Jake Rattan finished the 1-mile race second overall in 5:29, followed by Isaac Briggs in fourth in 5:39, Cody Norriss in 12th in 5:49 and Matt Rattan in 15th in 5:54.
“We were close,” Carney said. “Berryhill’s always good, too.
“We expected this junior high team to do really well. They’re just natural athletes, most of them, and they can just run. They’re built to run ... and they run all the time. All the time.”
Brayden McKelvey also ran in the boys’ junior high race, finishing 39th in 6:30. In the girls’ junior high race, Eden Vaughn finished 39th in 7:22, Brittney Fabion finished 56th in 7:52 and Phoebe Smith finished 64th in 7:54.
This was Fabion’s first race as a Lady Buff, having not yet joined when the team went to Okmulgee. Carney said Fabion led throughout much of the 1-mile race, but without the benefit of regular training, Fabion couldn’t maintain her lead through to the finish line.
Still, Fabion brings the number of girls running cross country for McAlester to three. Carney said that number might even go up a bit more by the end of the season.
“I need to get my girls’ program built back up,” Carney said. “It just kind of died out. And Brittney’s probably going to be the best one.
“They did a good job. Their times were pretty good considering. It’s just that the girls that won it, I’d almost guarantee they were freshmen.”
Though temperatures reached as high as 100 degrees in Henryetta on Saturday, according to www.weather.com, Carney said the Buffs should be used to the heat, as they normally practice in the early afternoon after school. But with so many runners new to cross country, Carney said the size of Saturday’s race may have intimidated her runners a bit, leading to pre-race anxiety that affected their times.
Fortunately for the Buffs, an inexperienced squad just needs to continue competing to make the jitters go away. The Buffs will get their next chance Saturday, when they head to Holland Hall in Tulsa.
Contact Matt Goisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.