Arguably the greatest female athlete to ever compete for Pea Ridge, Blakelee Winn is having a great start to her collegiate track career at Pittsburg State University in Kansas.
A freshman for the Gorillas, Winn used to be a multi-multi-multi-time All-State athlete in the three sports she competed in on the Ridge. Interestingly, the Blackhawks won every state track and field championship Pea Ridge competed in with Winn on the roster. Excepting the covid-cancelled 2020 outdoor state meet and the covid-cancelled 2021 indoor state championships, Pea Ridge won all the other six state titles, one of the most overwhelming stretch of athletic dominating performances I've ever seen.
Winn's first collegiate meet was back in December on the Pitt State indoors oval, and she had quite a debut performance. She racked up three provisional qualification marks for the NCAA Division II National Indoor Championships set for March 11-12 in Winston-Salem, N.C.
She won the collegiate long jump in just over 19 feet to meet the standard in that event while also placing second in the 60-meter dash in 7.54. She was sixth in the 60-meter hurdles in 8.75 to meet that mark, and was just shy of the NCAA qualifying mark in the 400 where she was third in an blazing time of 57.50.
Provisional qualifying marks do not mean you are automatically entered in the NCAA finals, but you have to meet those standards to get in. Only a certain number of athletes will be accepted in each event at the nationals, so it is possible to meet the mark but not be included if you are further down the list than what the meet can accommodate.
Qualifying so early in the process, however, with lots of time left to lower the marks even more, early qualifiers usually go on to get berths into the big show. Qualifying lists are published on the NCAA track and field site so it won't be hard to follow her progress throughout the season.
Pittsburg hosts a lot of indoor meets with home invitationals set for Jan. 21, Jan. 29 and Feb. 11. I'm not sure how deep or experienced the Lady Gorilla track roster is this year, but they did finish 10th in the National Indoor Meet in 2020.
Here's to Winn having a great season on the windswept plains of eastern Kansas.
NFL top seeds decided
The Green Bay Packers have again claimed the top seed as the NFC regular season champion while the Tennessee Titans took the AFC's top rung by a field goal over the Kansas City Chiefs.
The lineup for the NFC was settled early on Sunday but the AFC was having to wait into the evening with so many playoff berths not settled because of the late games and who was in contention.
The Packers have the week off with their NFL best record at 13-4. They will play the following week against the first round winner of the Dallas (12-5) Cowboys/San Francisco (9-7) 49ers game. The other two first round matchups next week is defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4) playing the Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) with the Los Angeles Rams (12-4) hosting the Arizona Cardinals (12-5).
Tennessee and Kansas City tied for the best record in the AFC but the Titans get the top seed via their victory over the Chiefs way back on Oct. 24 in Nashville. It appeared the Titans might get beaten by Texas Sunday when they had a slim 3-point lead facing a third down and Houston had a host of tacklers surrounding the Tennessee quarterback at midfield, However, the Titan came away from the melee, threw downfield to inside the 10, scored next play and clinched the game. The Texans did comedown the field to score again but the clock ran out before they could score again.
As to the AFC playoffs possibilities, the Titans are No. 1 and therefore idle in the first round, the Chiefs No. 2, the Buffalo Bills No. 3 and the Cincinnati Bengals No. 4. Their varied opponents are a combination as follows: The Chiefs will play either Pittsburg Steelers or the Las Vegas Raiders. Buffalo will battle either the New England Patriots or the Raiders. Finally, Cincinnati will play the Patriots or the Raiders.
Farmington taking control of the 4A
The Cardinals of Washington County are out in front of the 4A-1 thus far into the season. The boys are 16-1, with the girls on top at 17-1.
Losing only to 5A Siloam Springs, the boys' last two games were a 56-32 pounding of Prairie Grove and a 50-47 victory over Harrison. The girls only loss so far was to out of state competition in the Winnsboro Raiders in a 71-63 loss. The Raiders went on to take third in the Pea Ridge invitational after beating the Cards, playing four games in four days.
The Lady Cards have crushed Joplin 71-18, blown out Fort Smith Southside 71-43, ran all over Rogers 66-38, whipped Springdale Har-Ber 61-51, and most importantly, vaporized defending state champion Harrison 76-37. The girls from the Farm were in Pea Ridge last night to play the Blackhawks. Pea Ridge defeated Farmington last year for conference and district honors.
With this season's Blackhawk boys and girls teams utilizing a lot of players with little experience, the season has been a roller coaster from time to time but the one thing remaining steady has been both teams' hard-nosed defense. When the offenses start to click on a routine basis, they will be in the thick of things come playoff time.
4A-1 Conference Standings
Jan. 8, 2022
Editor's note: John McGee, an award-winning columnist, sports writer and art teacher at Pea Ridge elementary schools, writes a regular sports column for The Times. The opinions expressed are those of the writer. He can be contacted through The Times at [email protected]