By Morgan Taylor, Reporter
OKEMAH, Oklahoma – On Nov 4 the Okemah Panthers took their chances at the state cross country meet after a season of facing challenges that were related to the pandemic and other factors.
Coach Melissa Turner has a team of three senior girls and three freshman girls four of which are Muscogee (Creek).
Addyson Bean, Maddie Francis, Keelie Speir and Louisa Harjo are also Muscogee (Creek) citizens and Okemah cross-country team members.
Speir is a freshman and the team’s top runner.
“She is going into the state meet at eighth place overall with a time of 12:39,” Turner said. “She is expected to do great things.”
Since June 11, the team has been working towards the state meet.
“We have been going a long distance of preparing for this day,” Turner said. “We usually ran Monday through Thursday and lifted weights and made preparations for this very day.”
The team has participated in six cross-country meets this year with success not including the state meet.
“We started out running at a mile and that kind of how the meets start out to prepare the athletes for the heat, distance and for the training part,” Turner said. “The girls were pretty on task for that and they were beating other teams and coming in first. Once we moved up to the two-mile distances it started getting more challenging with injuries and there were also challenges with the COVID.”
The team was placed in the top three going into the regionals meet but had an injury resulting in the loss of team member’s participation for the meet.
“We knew going into it we were going to be in the top three with all six girls,” Turner said. “We had to deal with some hardship and we had to run five and we ended up placing fourth overall which qualified us for state.”
With all six girls well, the team attended the state meet.
“Our HS girls team finished 10th out of 21 teams overall in Class 2A,” Turner said. “Individually, we did not fair out like we anticipated. Keelie Speir finished 17th which is still pretty good for a freshman and with the number of runners we had of 158. Addyson Bean finished 40th, Maddie Gaxiola 47th, Sophie Turner 112, Maddie Francis 130, and Louisa Harjo 137. This was the final race for the senior girls and we will continue to build upon the freshman girls for next year. We had a great season despite the challenges of facing a pandemic.”