Group of boys’ distance runners proving ‘one of the best’ in BHS history

Bearden’s male distance runners have high aspirations this track season, especially coming off their strong performances during the cross country season in the fall. The Bulldogs finished second at state, and they are hoping that their speed on the hills transitions to quick times around the oval. “This is probably one of the best distance groups that has ever been at Bearden,” Coach Steve Prince said. Bearden has the top time in the state in three events: Skyler Winchester in the mile; JJ Shankles in the steeplechase; and the 4 x 800m relay. It is this kind of depth that makes the group so vital to the track team as a whole. “The team has had distance runners, one or two over the years who stood out, but depth-wise, I think this is the deepest team we’ve had,” junior Brian Fitzsimmons said. Because they run together all year, the runners are a tight group. The natural grind of the sport brings them together and helps them function as a team. “We get along and just because we’re runners we all share a common struggle and pain that we all know really well,” Fitzsimmons said. “And that way we relate to each other and we trust each other because we are so close.” The runners’ trust is even more important in the relays. Cory Oegema, Chase Hilton, Ben Pollack, and Winchester make up the fastest 4 x 800m relay in the State. After placing third in the state last year, they believe this year that they have the experience they need to place first. “In the 4 x 8, no one wants to let each other down, and we all want to be the best that we can be,” Winchester said. In both track and cross country, the distance runners are gaining a significant reputation in and out of the state, competing with some of the best teams around. And other schools are noticing how dominant Bearden can be. “A lot of the other teams don’t like us anymore,” Coach Prince said, “but a lot of teams that aren’t as good love us because we’re finally knocking off giants in their area; so it’s a lot of fun.” The team is not certain of their limits this year. Right now, they believe a state title may be slightly out of reach, but if the distance runners can continue to exceed expectations, the rest of the team may follow their lead. “We beat Dobyns-Bennett earlier in the season, and they’re our main competition for the sections,” Coach Prince said. “So we have a chance to win the section now, which is great, and finish pretty good at state, we hope.” Aidan Sears is a staff writer for The Bark. Follow The Bark on Twitter @BeardenBARK, and like The Bark (Bearden High School) on Facebook.