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Parkers Chapel and Junction City will travel to Hot Springs on Saturday to compete in the 1A-2A State Cross Country Championships. The Lady Trojans’ Ali Looney could be one of the runners to watch in the girls’ race.

The junior finished 15th in last year’s state championships but has returned this season with faster times. She won titles at the El Dorado Wildcat Invitational and at the 1A-3A Conference Meet.

Looney’s best time was 20:46.1 at the Lois Davis Invitational in Magnolia. She ran a 23:03.40 at last year’s state meet.

“I’ve been feeling good lately and training hard the past several weeks,” said Looney. “I’m hoping it will pay off Saturday. My goal is to finish in the top five and make All-State.”

A top-five finish would be an accomplishment considering the top 19 finishers in last year’s state meet, including Looney, were all underclassmen.

This season, Looney’s top competition could include defending state champion Haley Gentry of West Greers Ferry and last year’s runner-up, Becca Beard of Maumelle Charter. Beard has a time this season of 20:44 to her credit.

Junction City coach David Carpenter plans to take seven boys to compete this season. It’s a big day for the Dragons, who are getting their cross country program on the right track.

“We’re expecting a good day for us,” said Carpenter. “We are a new program, only fourth year for the team. We have had individual runners but not the team part. Our team times have been improving each week and we want to have our best time this Saturday.”

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