Last Thursday at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Head Coach Jim Andrews and his Greenwood Lady Bulldogs won their second cross country state championship in four years. The GHS ladies won their first crown in 2019, also the first cross country state title in school history, and three freshmen on that team are seniors on the 2022 squad, Madelyn Wilkinson, Ashley Koeth, and Kaitlyne Elmore. The Lady Bulldogs also finished second overall in 2020 and third in 2021.
“Those seniors kind of started this culture of winning and dominance that we have,” said Andrews. “It was cool to see them go out the way they came in. I’m really proud of them and wish them all the best. Kaitlynne is looking to keep going in her [running] career at Arkansas Tech. Madelynn is a multi-sport athlete and Ashley finished out her season the best she could and I’m proud of her for it. These girls helped us to win three [state] trophies.”
Coach Andrews was joined this season by new assistant coach, Becky Ames, who works at East Hills Middle School and is the mother of Lady Bulldog freshman Piper Ames. The GHS boys also finished fifth in the state in a field of 25 teams and senior Bulldog Noah Embrey came in first in the state among 216 runners. But before the state meet on November 3rd, both GHS teams and their junior high counterparts competed in the 5A West conference meet at Siloam Springs a week earlier.
Lady Bulldog sophomore Carole Werner led the way among 73 runners at Siloam Springs with a first-place time of 19:33.84 in the 5K event. Two other GHS ladies also finished in the top five, both freshmen. Julia Witherington ran fourth with a time of 20:42.04, followed by Piper Ames in fifth place (20:50.12). That youthful trio bodes well for the future of the program with an opportunity to win still more conference and state titles.
Junior Paige Andrews, the daughter of the head coach, placed sixth at the conference meet with a time of 21:06.15. One other Lady Bulldog also finished in the top ten when freshman Camryn Coston placed ninth, crossing the finish line in under 22 minutes at 21:57.49. The GHS girls also had four runners finish in the second group of ten.
Senior Kaitlynne Elmore ran 14th with a time of 22:15.02, senior Madelyn Wilkinson ran 15th at 22:15.11, freshman Lexi Gordon ran 17th at 22:28.34, and sophomore Elizabeth Moy ran 18th with a time of 22:33.06. Greenwood had nine of the top 18 finishers in the meet on the girls’ side.
Other Lady Bulldogs who competed included freshman Mariah Bartok (26th), senior Ashley Koeth (31st), sophomore Annalise Johnson (33rd), junior Haylee Young (41st), junior Amelia Morgan (42nd), freshman Sarah Embrey (43rd), freshman Olivia Weidner (49th), freshman Ishita Kanitkar (50th), and junior Maddie Cash (52nd). The Lady Bulldogs finished first overall in the meet, claiming another conference championship, preparing them well to compete at state.
On the varsity boys’ side of things, Greenwood’s Noah Embrey continued his fine senior season by finishing first at Siloam Spring with a winning time of 15:57.59, about 19 seconds ahead of Ky Bickford of Mountain Home (16:16.89) in second place. The next highest finish for the Bulldogs was sophomore David Coggin in 11th place (17:49.19).
GHS senior Joshua Johnson ran 24th with a time of 18:26.95 while sophomore Rhett Williams placed 33rd, completing the 5K course in 18:48.96. The next three Bulldogs finished in succession, 40-42, including freshman Andrew Rye (19:07.64), and sophomores Jameson Stewart (19:11.54) and Westin Rushing (19:12.57), respectively.
Also running for the Bulldogs were Ashton Neece (46th), a freshman, and brother Braylon Neece (47th), a sophomore, along with fellow tenth-grader William Rupert (54th). GHS Sophomore Raedon Rosas ran 66th, while sophomore Landon Alexander (69th) and senior Hudson Trice (70th) also competed. Senior David Ambriz was 74th, freshman Isaac Trice was 81st, senior Lucas Wittig 85th, sophomore Kobe Lewis 90th, sophomore Carson Thornsberry 91st, and sophomore Pablo Ambriz finished in 93rd place for the GHS boys. The Bulldogs finished fourth overall in the conference meet.
On the junior high level, the Greenwood girls finished third and the GHS boys ran fifth on the shorter two-mile course. Five runners led the way for the Jr. Lady Bulldogs, two of them among the top ten finishers. Bailey London ran eighth with a time of 14:40.57 and Myah Lawrason was tenth (14:43.70). Greenwood’s Kiera Johnson finished 14th at 14:58.08, Jenna Cassey was 35th at 16:15.88, and Sarah Wiser was 36th at 16:16.24.
For the junior high boys, Greenwood’s Ridik Lewis finished second (11:23.95), just five seconds off the winning time. Reid Pittman finished 27th with a time of 12:41.89, John Eckart was 32nd at 12:56.02, Yadiel Rivera ran 33rd with a time of 13:04.31, and Mickey-Joe Thurman ran 46th at 13:24.96.
Coach Andrews is very high on the future potential of his junior high runners, all of them seventh or eighth graders. “I was super stoked by how well they ran. Looking at their times, more than 80% of our [junior high] kids set new personal records for the season,” he said.
5A State Meet
Last Thursday the Lady Bulldogs dominated the competition at Oaklawn Park, capturing four of the top seven places in the standings, led by Carole Werner in second place with a time of 18:56.36. Julia Witherington ran fifth (20:03.01), Paige Andrews sixth (20:16.34), and Piper Ames seventh (20:22.31). Greenwood’s next runner to score points was Camryn Coston in 13th place at 20:59.25. Each team was allowed up to nine runners with the top five finishers counting in the team score.
Four other young ladies competed for Greenwood, giving them valuable experience, though their scores were not counted in the final standings. Madelyn Wilkinson ran 27th (21:32.59), Kaitlynne Elmore was 34th (21:51.49), Elizabeth Moy finished 35th (21:51.97), and Lexi Gordon ran 61st (23:06.90).
Going into the state meet, Lake Hamilton was favored to win, and with good reason. “[They] had run some faster times than our girls,” admitted Coach Andrews. “But the bottom line is that our girls do what they’ve got to do to win. If you look at the history, we’ve beaten Lake Hamilton in every race we’ve been with them this season. I think our girls were mentally and physically ready to take care of business. We had five girls in the top 13 and they were ready to run. They ran like they were seasoned veterans.”
For the GHS boys, first place Noah Embrey (15:27.12) finished the 5K course more than 22 seconds ahead of the second-place runner from Lakeside High School. Along with his teammates, Embrey led the Bulldogs to a fifth place finish in Class 5A, an improvement over the past two years when they finished ninth and seventh. Greenwood’s next best finisher was David Coggin in 18th place with a time of 17:22.69.
Rounding out the scoring, Joshua Johnson was 30th (17:47.18), Westin Rushing 60th (18:31.37), and Rhett Williams ran 62nd with a time of 18:32.81. Other GHS runners to compete included Andrew Rye (67th-18:34.85), Ashton Neece (69th-18:35.47), Braylon Neece (71st-18:37.82), and Jameson Stewart (111th-19:44.41).
“We had 25 teams in the boys’ division, which is one of the largest, and we had 18 in the girls’ division. Our 5A [classification] is one of the larger ones,” said Coach Andrews in analyzing the competition last week.
Of his top two runners, male and female, Andrews said, “He’s one of the best in the state,” referring to Embrey. “He has been all season, consistently. He ran the third fastest time of the day, only behind two guys from Fayetteville and Bentonville. Who knows what he can really do. He ran a great race and took care of it.”
Of Carole Werner, the coach said, “She has been very, very consistent this season. She just keeps working and improving. She’s such a competitor. She ran really well.”
Regarding the future of his program, Coach Andrews said, “We’re trying not to think too far ahead, but absolutely, there’s a good foundation with what we have in our younger grades, with our freshmen and sophomores. We’ve had some good classes come up that will definitely keep us strong going forward.”
Greenwood had two boys earn all-state honors, Noah Embrey and David Coggin, while five Lady Bulldogs made the cut including Carole Werner, Julia Witherington, Paige Andrews, Piper Ames, and Camryn Coston. To qualify for all-state a runner had to finish among the top 10% of all performers in the meet.