Mustang's girls captured the team title in the elite 5K event Friday at Edmond Santa Fe High School.
“I think it is a great accomplishment that we won the first 5K in Oklahoma,” said Mustang's top runner, Emily Helms, the defending 6A state cross country champion.
In Oklahoma, the girls run 2 miles in cross country while the boys compete in a 5K. However, three high school cross country meets this season in Oklahoma have scheduled optional 5Ks for the girls.
Friday's Dogpack at Santa Fe was the first. Helms finished second overall to Alex Davis of Plainview. Helms' teammate, Kyra Fuller, placed third.
The second 5K cross country race in Oklahoma for high school girls will be Thursday in the Harrier meet at Mustang's Wild Horse Park.
NORMAN RUNNER KEEPS WINNING
In boys cross country, everyone seems to be chasing Mackenzie Wahpepah-Harris of Norman, who won the Dogpack on Friday and defeated standout Chris Lowery of Chandler for the first time.
“He is without question the most talented distance runner to come through Norman in the last 20 years,” Norman coach Scott Monnard said. “If we can keep him healthy, we like his chances.”
SHOULD OKLAHOMA GIRLS RUN THE 5K?
Mustang coach Mike McGarry was disappointed that more teams didn't enter the optional 5K race for girls at Santa Fe. The majority of girls' squads chose to run the 2-mile.
Cross country coaches at the larger high schools in Oklahoma are pushing for the change. Oklahoma is the only state that doesn't have a 5K as the distance for girls' cross country.
“Anytime the girls go out of the state of Oklahoma to run it's pretty much a 5K race, so we are kind of handicapped when we go out of state,” McGarry said.
Texas just increased the distance to 5K for girls in its larger classes but is keeping the shorter distance at the smaller schools.
Norman and Westmoore are two schools that entered the 2-mile and not the 5K on Friday in Edmond.
Westmoore coach Laura Clay said she left it up to her squad to vote on it.
“They decided they wanted to run the 2-mile because that is the distance for the state meet and (Santa Fe) is going to be the state course,” Clay said.
Norman coach Scott Monnard said the Tigers chose the 2-mile for the same reason. Edmond Santa Fe will be the site of this year's state cross country meet for 6A, 5A and 4A schools.
Monnard wanted his girls to become familiar with the course, but he said that is the only reason Norman didn't run in the optional 5K race.
He thinks Oklahoma should, and eventually will, make the change. Monnard compares it to when Oklahoma played 6-on-6 high school girls' basketball.
“I don't think it's a matter if we are going to go, I think it's just a matter of when,” Monnard said. “It's an injustice to the girls, this idea that the girls can't do what the boys do. It's an old-fashioned way of thinking. The girls are so much faster and mentally tougher now. They can handle it.”
Clay, however, worries that fewer girls might participate in cross country.
“The majority of the schools who really have to beg kids to come out and run will find it harder to get girls if it goes up to three miles,” she said.
SANTA FE COURSE PASSES TEST
Edmond Santa Fe will host the state cross country meet for the first time because a swimming pool and aquatic facility is being built at Mitch Park in Edmond, the normal site of the event.
“It's tight in a couple of places, but it's fair to the runners,” Mustang coach Mike McGarry said. “I think it's smoother than Mitch Park, which can have some rough places.”
The only trouble spot at Santa Fe is a place where runners must cross a road and go through a large gate where “it kind of squeezes you down,” McGarry said.
MEMORIAL, NORTH BOYS LOOKING STRONG
Both Edmond Memorial and Edmond North appear to have strong boys' cross country squads this season. Memorial edged the Huskies by one point in Friday's Dogpack.
Edmond North coach Kent Douglas thinks this is his best squad in four years, when the Huskies finished as state runner-up.
“We don't have a front-runner per se,” said Douglas, although seniors Austin Mayer and Justin Smith, members of that state runner-up team, lead the way. “They just run as a pack. One through six looks pretty good.”
Edmond Memorial have won both meets that the varsity boys have entered.
“I don't know where we're at,” Bulldogs' coach David Sammons said. “I know we have four pretty good runners. We are still looking for that fifth, sixth and seventh man.”
Seniors Alex Shook and Seth Hammon, both members of Edmond Memorial's 2-mile relay state championship squad, are the Bulldogs' top runners.
HELMS WANTS TO BE THE BEST
Even though Emily Helms of Mustang finished second overall to Alex Davis of Plainview in the Dogpack, she bested the 6A field and avenged a loss the previous week to Jaci Smith of Edmond North in the OK Runner Classic in Norman.
Smith finished fourth in the 5K at Edmond Santa Fe. Helms knows everyone is gunning for her since she is the defending 6A state champion, but she is chasing Davis and Regan Ward of Beggs, who have posted better times.
Ward is the current state record-holder in the 2-mile run. Davis broke the state record three times last year only to see Ward eclipse it at the Meet of Champions.
Helms said both girls push her to run faster, although they don't race against each other very often.
“I am not the fastest in Oklahoma, and I understand that,” Helms said. “I am racing against them mentally sometimes. They're in my head. I am chasing them down. I am trying to close that gap.”