An individual cross country state champion highlighted the Fall 2016 athletic semester for Lonoke High School.
Gracie Hyde, a junior who transferred from Brookland, won the Class 4A state title at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, covering the 5,000-meter distance in 19:47.5.
As a sophomore, she had won Class 4A titles in the 800 and 1,600 for Brookland last spring.
“Any time you win a state championship in anything, it’s a big deal,” Lonoke coach Heath Swiney said.
Hyde’s time bettered that of the defending champion, Bekah Bostian of Prairie Grove. Bostian covered the course in 19:51.2 to finish runner-up.
Hyde called it “kind of a weird season.”
“It was my first time to try cross country, and the distance was a little long,” she said. “I trained for it all summer and set high expectations for myself, but I ran into lots of obstacles slowing my times and my overall state ranking. When it came time for the state meet, I was glad to be healthy, and I ran a tactical race strictly for the win.”
She said she let other runners lead at a slower pace before she “gutted it out” to win by four seconds.
Swiney said Hyde ran 19:21 early in the season before getting sick.
“Just guessing, she probably could’ve got down close to 19 (minutes) had she been able to keep training,” he said. “We figured she had a real good chance to win it.”
Hyde said she knew going in she was predicted to win
“Winning the race was assurance to me that my hard work paid off,” she said. “Crossing the finish line knowing what I’d done gave me a feeling like no other, and I can’t wait for many more to come.”
Jackrabbit junior Asa Winguard finished 122nd in 22:40.60.
A roundup of the remainder of Lonoke’s fall sports for 2016:
Maggie Hill finished 21st in the Class 4A Girls State Tournament at Maumelle Country Club.
Hill, a three-time individual qualifier for the state tournament, shot 105.
“Unbelievable — she just started playing golf two-and-a-half years ago,” Lonoke coach LouAnn Howell said Sunday. “Her first year, she was the only girl, then last year she had a teammate, and this year she was again by herself. She’s a trooper and just an outstanding individual.”
Ryan Robinson shot 77 to tie for fourth in the Class 4A Boys State Golf Tournament at Stuttgart Country Club to miss qualifying for the Arkansas High School Overall Championship by one stroke.
Robinson, a junior, became a first-time all-state golfer. He opened with back-to-back birdies but finished the last four holes five-over-par. He took double-bogey on Nos. 15 and 16, par on No. 17 and bogey on No. 18.
“He was disappointed, but he’s got another year, and there’s no reason why he won’t be in the hunt next year,” Howell said.
Robinson, who had finished a disappointing sixth in the 2-4A tournament, tied Cole Morgan of Stuttgart and Austin Johnston of Mena for fourth.
Lonoke equaled its best showing and finished with the best record in school history with a quarterfinal showing in the Class 4A State Volleyball Tournament.
Laura Park’s team, second seed from the Central, finished 28-3 after falling to Mena, No. 1 from the West, 25-16, 25-16, 25-11, at the Gina Cox Center.
“We were 24-4 one year, and I want to say we made the quarterfinals in 2005,” Park said. “After our loss, I cried in the dressing room. It was not so much crying for the loss — although I hate to lose — but knowing the season was over, and it’s been such a great year, and we’ve had such great leadership from the seniors and the play of the juniors and sophomores after them.
“I just hated for the season to end. I do look forward to next year, but I hate for this one to end.”
It was the Lady Rabbits’ 15th consecutive appearance in the state tournament.
Lonoke opened the tournament with a win over Pocahontas, third seed from the Northeast, 25-17, 25-14, 25-22.
A difficult football season ended for Lonoke last with a 42-21 loss to Riverview.
The Jackrabbits closed 2-8 overall and 1-6 in the 2-4A conference to finish seventh among the eight league teams. They had been picked to finish third, according to Hooten’s Arkansas Football’s preseason poll of league coaches.
After opening the season with a 41-28 win over Carlisle, Lonoke lost to Beebe, 49-7; Newport, 47-6; and Heber Springs, 48-21. Doug Bost resigned as head coach, and defensive coordinator Taggart Moore took over as interim head coach. Under Moore, the Jackrabbits beat Baptist Prep, 33-7; but lost their final five games (to Southside Batesville, 42-7; Helena-West Helena Central, 39-19; Central Arkansas Christian, 35-7; Stuttgart, 45-14; and Riverview, 42-21).
With numbers already low, a rash of injuries struck the Jackrabbits for the second straight season, making their job more difficult.
A few months later, Moore, 30, had the interim label removed from his title.
“I’m just extremely excited and extremely blessed to be given this opportunity,” he said. “I’m thankful to all the players, parents, the community and administration for being behind me and supporting me. We’ve been working like I was the head coach the last few months.”
The Lonoke County Democrat will look back at Spring 2017 next week.