NORMAN — Two years ago, at long last, the Norman High boys claimed a state cross country championship, their first since 1977.
The Tigers are still plenty good and proved it with a fifth-place finish in their own OK Runner Classic, one of the largest meets in the state, held Friday at the NHS cross country course behind Irving Middle School.
Yet, while the Tigers prepare to earn another trip to the state meet, it was the Norman North boys who proved they might be ready to finish in front of their crosstown rivals when the postseason arrives, and it was the Norman North girls who proved they’ll be looking to win it all when the times comes in late October.
Though Edmond North’s Jaci Smith ran the shorter girls course in 11:50 and will be an individual state-title contender when the time comes, it was still the Timberwolves who posted second-, third-, and fourth-place finishes, not to mention eighth- and 12th-place finishes to absolutely run away with the crown, making a loud statewide announcement along the way.
After Smith finished, Abbey Mace was next only 2 seconds behind. Then came Isabella Rose in 11:55 and Belle Wallace in 12:00. Sheridan Spellman (12:17) and Rachel Christman (12:38) also counted for the T-Wolves.
In prep cross country, a team’s finish is determined by the sum of the places of its top five runners. By finishing second, third, fourth, eighth and 12th, North posted an amazing score of 29.
Edmond North was next at 98, with the NHS girls third at 102. For comparison purposes, the boys team title was claimed by Deer Creek with a score of 104.
“It’s confirmation that what we’re doing in practice is working,” Mace said.
The T-Wolves have a feeling this could be their year and still, proving it is an entirely different feeling.
“We have been working so hard and every time we come to a race you see that progress and it’s really exciting,” Rose said. “I think we’re going to have a really good chance of winning state this year … It’s better than we thought.”
The NHS girls were led by Hayley Redwine’s fifth-place finish (12:02) and Bailey Yalmadge’s ninth-place finish (12:25)
And if the North girls have a chance at a team crown, North’s Ben Barrett might be a contender when the boys race for a state title.
Friday, Barrett, a junior, was the fastest of 182 male runners in a time of 16:20, though he very well could have run much faster.
Recently, North and North alumni ran the NHS course and Barrett finished in 15:45. And, before the season began, Barrett finished first among every prep runner at the Riverside 5,000 in Tulsa. All of this after finishing 13th at last year’s state meet.
“This season I’ve kind of buckled down and just started training right and eating right and sleeping right, the whole deal, and it’s really helped my results.”
Behind Barrett, the North boys finished second to Deer Creek, three places (104 to 107) behind the Antlers.
North’s Ean Beyer also posted a top-10 finish, placing ninth in 17:22. NHS was led by Andrew Meiller’s 16th-place finish, in 17:41.
Just about everybody will be back when the NHS course hosts a Class 6A regional Oct. 19.
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