By Chuck Reherman
NORMAN – Going into the West Regional, Yukon Millerette head coach Rod Zimmerman had a strong feeling his team would qualify for the state cross country championships. The only question was where YHS would finish.
The Millerettes will make a return trip to the state meet after a year’s absence with a fifth place finish in the regionals Saturday at Norman High School’s course.
YHS had one top 10 finish and two in the top 20 in securing their spot in state, finishing six points ahead of sixth place Putnam City West and nine points in front of seventh place Edmond Santa Fe. The top seven teams earn a spot in the state meet that will be held Saturday at Santa Fe High School’s course.
The class 6A girls will be the first on the course, running at 10 a.m.
Rains Friday and late that night had the course soggy and muddy and in some places with “water hazards” that did hinder times, although the Millerettes did have a couple of their runners turn in their best time of the season.
“I was happy with our finish,” Zimmerman said. “It was hard to tell in that race like we have talked about before the race that it was real tight between second and ninth place and it was hard to tell as they were running past you what place we were in. I thought we did enough to be in the top seven, so fifth is nice and we will take that and move on.
“We had felt we had a chance to finish as high as in the top three and the course may have had a little something to do with that,” he said. “Second place was 100 points and we had 124 points, so we were right in there. Had a couple of things shifted this way or that and we could have been right in there. It is hard to run PR’s (personal records) on a course like this, but Harper (Barlow) did. She ran a career PR and we had others that were pretty close.
“We felt pretty good about a mile into the course that we would qualify for state. They set up well and were all in a good position and I felt that if they could maintain and stay in that area then we would be fine. It was just so close between second and ninth and we did make some moves in there to make it better for us to qualify.”
Edmond Deer Creek took the regional title with 85 points, besting Moore for the regional title. Moore finished with 100 points, Norman was third with 101, Edmond Memorial fourth with 113 and Yukon fifth with 124. There were 12 schools that brought full teams to the regionals and five that brought partial teams.
Avery Stanley earned her second trip to the state meet as she finished fourth overall in the regional with a time of 20 minutes and 37 seconds. Stanley and Elora Jones were the only Millerettes that ran in state last year. Jones had the second best time for the Millerettes with a 21:39 time for 20th place.
Kailan Parks came on strong in the final quarter of the race to finish 28th overall, but 27th in the points in 21:54. Rena Henson ran a 30th place time (29 in points) in 22:14 and Barlow was the final scorer for the Millerettes, running 45th (44th in points) in 22:52.
Brianna Abbott (58th overall, but 55th in points in 23:23) and Lydia Laverty (65th overall, 62nd in points in 24:42) rounded out the top seven.
“Avery had a better finish than she has had,” Zimmerman said. “She had a little kick at the end that we have been trying to get her to have and she actually passed three people at the end. She was seventh or eighth through most of the race and caught those last three in the final 250 meters and finished fourth.
“Elora rallied and also had a good finish,” he said. “That is what this team needs. As a leader, Elora is so important because she has so much experience and really has set a bar for this group. So when she has a good day it is a good thing for this team.
“I thought our other girls ran well. Rena fell off the pace a little bit, but we will get her rest up and get a couple of good workouts in with her this coming week and she will be fine. Lydia had some struggles, she had some wisdom teeth cut out during fall break so I felt this would be a struggle, but with another week of healing the state meet should be a different story for her.
“Bri (Abbott) was about 22 seconds off her PR and on a course like this that is about whet you expect. I know she wanted to run faster than that, but it was a good race. We felt we could go out and beat a Santa Fe and a PC West who are both having really good years and we did beat those teams today. That is a positive way to leave a regional.”
It was the first time this season the YHS had run on the course at Norman, but it didn’t seem to affect the way the Millerettes ran.
“We didn’t come to their meet this year, but we did run the course last year, so most of the girls know the layout,” Zimmerman said. “The freshman girls ran the course last year, it was a little different, and Bri was the only one that had not run the course. Most of the girls did fine.”