SPORTS HEADLINES

Lady Eagles try to defend crown

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, November 5, 2011

GOING FOR IT - Bianca Morrison and the Lady Eagles will try to defend their title as regional champs when they compete Saturday in Lubbock. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Over the past four years, Bianca Morrison has been part of Decatur cross country teams that have experienced a great deal of success in Lubbock, but it doesn’t change her opinion of the town.

“I don’t really like it,” said the Decatur senior. “I have bad allergies, and the weather is always bad. It’s hard to breathe in the altitude.”

Morrison and the Lady Eagles will return to Lubbock Saturday to run in the Class 3A girls race at the Region I meet held at Mae Simmons Park. The Lady Eagles will run at 1 p.m.

Decatur will be trying to defend the regional crown it regained last year against a talented deep field.

“We feel good about where we’re at,” said Decatur coach David Park. “We’ll be looking out for Perryton, Castleberry, Dalhart and Brownwood. It comes down to being able to put it down that day.”

Park expects District 7-3A champion Brittany Adams of Castleberry, who ran an 11:59 on the 3,200-meter district course, to set the pace. But he said his top runners, freshman Nicole Neighbors and her senior sister Natalie, should be in contention.

“We’re going to make a run at Brittany and try to chase her down,” Park said. “The Neighbors stack up right behind her. Either of the two can be on the podium, and the others have a shot to be in the top 10.”

Decatur is counting on its depth to make the difference. At the district meet, Decatur had five runners break 13 minutes – the Neighbors, Nancy Torres, Zuleima Palomo and Morgan Haney.

“We want to get to everyone’s depth,” Park said. “What makes us strong is our fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh runners.”

Along with competing against the field, the Lady Eagles will also have to battle tough, windy conditions. The National Weather Service in Lubbock’s forecast for Saturday calls for blowing dust and winds between 25 and 30 mph with gusts as high as 40.

Runners also have to contend with a difficult, hilly and narrow Mae Simmons course.

“It’s a tough, strategic course,” Park said. “It’s the toughest regional course. It tests you physically and tactically.”

Morrison said the course’s first hill taxes you for the rest of the race. She said she and the other seniors have tried to prepare the younger runners.

“Experience helps a lot on this course,” she said. “You have to know what you are doing. It’s a lot more about strategy than talent.”

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