Bentonville girls cross country coach Randy Ramaker wasn’t too pleased with his runners’ results during the Tiger Pride 5K last month, but a victory at the Saints Invitational in Springdale last weekend made him feel a little better.
“Most of them performed at the same caliber or better over a hilly course instead of a flat course,” Ramaker said. “That typically happens during the second meet as runners start to figure things out a little bit.
“I was happy that many of them performed better than they did earlier. It was the first time for them to run against somebody besides themselves, and I was able to get a glimpse at how they will operate.”
The Lady Tigers lost seven of their top nine runners from a team that won its third straight Class 7A state championship last fall. Many of them graduated, but two runners — including all-state competitor Krista Herlin — moved to another state.
That leaves Bentonville having to regroup around defending state individual champion Tori Willis and junior Lainey Quandt, who was injured and didn’t run cross country last year. Quandt won the Saints Invitational last week, while Willis finished third despite dealing with a sinus infection.
“We have a really young and inexperienced team at a 5K race,” Ramaker said. “Lainey is coming with one year of experience under her belt, and obviously I’m happy that she’s not injured and running for us. She’s made some strides over the summer and the track season.
“Tori ran what she could with her being sick, and that’s all I expect for her. She’ll be fine. I’ll expect those two girls leading the team. The only other one I have with any experience is Kaitlyn Christenson. Our ninth-graders were unbeaten last year, but they have to learn how to go from running 2 miles to running a 5K race.”
Bentonville will run Saturday at the Elkins Invitational, but Ramaker said not everybody will run. Much of the focus will is being put on the Missouri Southern Stampede in Joplin, Mo.
Bentonville West tennis coach Hunter Alexander almost has his boys players in place for postseason play, which still remains about a month away.
Sophomore Hayden Shoemake, an all-state player who reached the Class 7A semifinals last year, has solidified himself as the Wolverines’ No. 1 singles player. Taylor Brandt and Ogden Miles are established as one doubles team, while the other consists of Boston Barron and Wesley Graham.
“Hunter is the No. 1 player in Arkansas among 16-and-under for USTA,” Alexander said. “He’s definitely our rock star on the boys side, and he’s going to do really well playing singles.”
West’s girls, however, remains a work in progress. Alexander is currently shuffling some players around in hopes of finding the right fit before they reach 7A-West Conference and Class 7A state tournament play.
“I’ve made adjustments I didn’t think I would make before the season started,” Alexander said. “I’ve been re-evaluating things after those Texas matches, re-evaulating where we were and where we could be. I think we have gained a lot of momentum in the last couple of weeks, but I’m still trying to figure things out.”
Alexander has considered taking Sarah Schneringer, a singles player last season, and moved her to doubles, while moving Jessica Hood from doubles to singles competition. From there, Alexander said it’s a matter of figuring out the best fits for doubles teams and who is the most compatible with each other.
“We’re trying to figure out what’s going to stick,” Alexander said.
Rogers Lady Mounties Golf
Coach Brenda Alexander likes the way her team has started the season, but several of her top players are working specifically to improve their short game.<br><br>
Senior Payton Smith has rebounded strong after struggling in the first tournament of the season, shooting a team-best average of 40 over nine holes.<br><br>
“I think Payton put too much pressure on herself in that first one,” Alexander said. “She figured out how to handle it, relaxed a little bit and is playing pretty good.”<br><br>
Senior Maggie Mosier and junior Amanda Sakalares have helped form a good threesome for the Lady Mounties to put together a solid team score.<br><br>
“They are both neck and neck for second and third,” Alexander said. “Their averages are exactly the same at 44.”
But the short game is where all three need improvement,” Alexander said.<br><br>
“Payton’s working hard being able to get up and down,” Alexander said. “Her chipping and putting are areas she can improve. Maggie mentioned her approach shot. All of it comes down to being able to get up and down. That’s how the pros cut so many strokes.<br><br>
Junior Erin Culhane is another who could cut her score down with some improvement around the greens,” Alexander said.<br><br>
“She’s striking the ball well, but she’s three-putting some greens,” Alexander said. “She needs to understand speed a little better, but if she can improve there she has a chance to be down in the 40s, too.”<br><br>
The Lady Mounties, who are 3-1 with only a two-stroke loss to Bentonville High, will play this weekend in a tournament in Conway.<br><br>
Rogers Heritage War Eagle Tennis
Coach Taylor Tinsley will make a couple of changes to the lineup when the War Eagles face Springdale High today.<br><br>
Nick Zondlak and Jacob Morris will move from No. 3 to No. 1 doubles, while Aaron Grom and Harrison Downard will slide up a spot to play No. 1 and No. 2 singles, Tinsley said.<br><br>
“I’ve been extremely proud of how all of them have competed,” Tinsley said. “But Nick and Jacob have lost only one match at No. 3 singles. Nick had been playing No. 1 singles. We’ll see how it goes. The last couple of matches have been very close.”<br><br>
“I think these changes will be best for the team,” said Tinsley, whose team is now 3-2. “Really I fee comfortable putting any of those guys in the lineup four through eight.”<br><br>
Tinsley knew freshman Thatcher Downard would be a solid player, but he’s exceeded those expectations.<br><br>
“He’s been winning a lot of matches for us at No. 5 or No. 6 singles and playing No. 2 doubles,” Tinsley said. “I knew he had some potential, but he’s playing really well. Jacob Morris is a senior playing for his first year, but he’s picked it up quick.”
— Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB
The Bulldogs boys golf team bounced back after suffering its first loss in two seasons when Rogers High edged them 151-149 during a nine-hole match at Lost Springs Golf and Country Club on Aug. 28.
They have won three consecutive matches since the setback, including a 30-stroke blowout during an 18-hole match against Springdale Har-Ber at Paradise Valley Country Club on Tuesday. They also defeated Russellville and Conway during a dual at Russellville on Aug. 29 and Springdale High and Siloam Springs during a dual at Fayetteville Country Club on Aug. 31.
Senior Jackson Cole shot a sizzling 61 to take medalist honors and lead Fayetteville to a 334-304 victory over Har-Ber. Although only the top four finishers are counted toward the team total, all five Fayetteville golfers finished by shooting an 80 or better. After Cole, the others were Palmer McSpadden (76), Fisher Vollendorf (77), Denver Davis (80) and Jacob Nolen (80).
Up next, the four-time defending state champions return play in the Conway Tournament on Friday and Saturday before returning to 7A-West action at Bentonville West on Tuesday.
— Mike Capshaw • @NWACappy
Springdale High cross country
Springdale’s first race of the season at Shiloh Christian over the weekend turned out to be a success.
The Red’Dogs and Lady Red’Dogs both finished in fourth place overall, a positive start to the season. In total, 20 runners set personal bests on Saturday including Sebastian Frazier, Kelvin Santos, Michael Ramos and Fernando Uribe.
On the girls side, Danna Sanchez sets a personal best with a time of 22:13 in the 5K. Shaylyn Mills’s time of 23:04 was a personal best as well.
Springdale is now preparing for its second meet of the year at Elkins this Saturday.
– Scottie Bordelon • @NWAScottie
Springdale Har-Ber golf
Har-Ber dropped its first match this week to one of the 7A-West favorites in Fayetteville on Tuesday at Paradise Valley.
Fayetteville grabbed a 304-334 win against the Wildcats while the Lady Purple’Dogs won 271-291. Kade Keith led Har-Ber with a 76 while Cole Bishop carded an 82.
In the girls match, Abbey Ott shot a team-best 91 and Kailey Fender also broke 100 with a score of 98. Har-Ber is back on the course Friday at Nutters Chapel against Conway and a number of other schools.
– Scottie Bordelon • @NWAScottie