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Coach, medalists look back at State; ahead to 2021

Lily Melton, Blake Feron and Payton Hinkle all won medals in the State Cross Country Championships, with Hinkle capturing gold for the second straight year.

The only school to have both boys and girls teams place in the top five in the OSSAA Class 6A Cross Country Championships is returning 10 of its 14 varsity runners and several others who are on the heels of the Tigers ahead of them going into 2021.

Coach Shane Messinger and his three individual medalists – Payton Hinkle (Girls 1st), Lily Melton (Girls 4th) and Blake Feron (Boys 7th) – took time to talk about Broken Arrow’s 2020 Cross Country team, their individual performances and the future of BAHS cross country.

On the Team:

“They came ready to compete,” Messinger said. “It was impressive on what they did.”

 “My team has been my biggest support system,” Hinkle said. “Just the whole bus ride and having each other there was so meaningful. Especially, since last year we didn’t have everyone there (last year). We’re a family, honestly.”

“My coaches and teammates pushed me all season and I feel like they played a big part to get me where I am now,” Melton said. At times you just want to quit. You want to give up. They would never let me. They would always cheer me on, no matter how I did and it helped me a lot.”

“It definitely pushed us to do better,” Feron said about seeing the girls do well. “We were like ‘we just can’t let them have it, we have to do it too.’  When someone passes you think ‘I can’t let this guy pass me because I’m doing this for my team, who has been with me for eight months training.’”

Messinger on his runners:

“(Lilly) is really strong mentally. She knows how to compete.

“We noticed that a lot of the runners, girls and boys, and I’m talking state wide, their times were a little slower than what they had been. The whole field was kind of back except for Blake, who set his personal record. It was just a great performance.”

Hinkle on Melton:

“I’m so proud of her. She’s worked so hard. She’s an amazing runner and constantly pushes the entire team to go faster. I can’t wait to see how far she goes.”

Feron on his race:

“I really wanted to All-State. I was like 80th as a freshman and my sophomore year I was 30th, so this year, I’ve just got to keep climbing that ladder. My dad suggested I don’t run with a watch. I’ve been doing that all year, and it’s slowed me down. I didn’t do that. I just raced on feel. It felt really good. We figured out that whenever I looked at my watch and see the pace, I always slow down because I’m like ‘oh, I’m running a lot faster’ than I think I should. I didn’t have that mental block, so I was able to gun it and just keep going.

“During the regular season, I finished second like three times and that was a big confidence boost, because I’ve never finished that high in races before. It helped me push and feel like I can do it.”

On running in the state meet:

“We just all responded to the anxiety and stress of state,” Hinkle said. “It is very stress filled. Everybody’s nerves are everywhere. We all performed really well. It’s about keeping a constant pace and feeling your body. That is what we’ve been training for all summer.”

It was nerve-racking, obviously,” Melton said. “I knew I had a good chance to get top five. I went out there with that mentality and that is what helped me, just knowing that I can do it and that I’ve done it before. At the beginning of this year, my five-K was 23 minutes, now I’m in the low 19s. That’s a big accomplishment, I’d say.”

“They all know each other pretty well. It makes friendly rivalries that they really get into,” Messinger said about runners from different schools. “That probably provides more motivation. They might run together here and there, but when it comes down to that uniform, it’s Broken Arrow Tigers when it comes down to it.

On the future of BA Cross Country:

I need to train really hard,” Melton said. “I have a lot of lower body strength, but those girls have a big advantage over me because I’m a little smaller, so I need to work on my upper body muscle strength and speed.”

“I have all these young guys watching me and looking for my leadership,” Feron said. “It’s exciting. I’m looking forward to it.”

“We’re going to return a lot of our varsity runners and a lot of kids who are working really hard to be there,” Messinger said. “I think the motivational and expectation level will be even higher.”