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El Dorado will send a group of strong runners to Hot Springs on Saturday to compete in the 5A State Cross Country Championships. Coach John Koonce’s troops have enjoyed the most successful cross country season in school history, winning a pair of meets and hosting the first-ever Wildcat Invitational.

Saturday will mark the conclusion of a season of firsts for the program.

“As a team, we want to do better than we did when we ran the course three weeks ago,” Koonce said. “The kids have been working hard to close out the season and I think they are primed to finish strong. We entered our taper phase a week ago where we reduce mileage and slightly increase intensity so hopefully, they respond in the intended way.”

Junior Jadon Cunningham will try to assert himself as one of the state’s top runners in the boys’ competition.

“Jadon’s goal is to earn All-State honors,” said Koonce. “Our classification is absolutely loaded this year. Lake Hamilton and Mountain Home have teams where their entire top seven are college-level runners and there are plenty of other good athletes in addition to those two squads. On most years, his time the past month would all but guarantee earning All-State, but it will be a tight one this Saturday. If he runs to capability, he will be able to get it.

“JD Halstead has been coming on strong to finish the season and hopefully he can finish out his senior year on a high note.”

El Dorado’s girls have been limited with numbers and have battled injuries.

“In the girls’ race, we should be led by Melanie Miller,” said Koonce. “She didn’t have the best race at conference so it will be nice to see her do what she is capable of to finish off the season. Addy Taylor’s race will be determined by her calf muscle. That has plagued her most of the season so hopefully it won’t hinder her on Saturday.”

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