As Jack Vincent crossed the finish line, he couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed.

Running his first 5K (3.1 miles) in about eight months, the Claremore senior was looking to break 17 minutes.

He didn’t quite reach that mark, but the consolation prize was more than satisfactory.

Vincent’s time of 17 minutes, 43 seconds was good enough for first place, beating out fellow Zebra Tyler Douthitt, who finished second, by 1:01 in the Claremore Zebras Cross-Country Invitational at Claremore Lake on Friday morning.

He ran a 17:08 at the race in 2018, his first season on the cross-country team.

Vincent said the extended break from 5K running might’ve played a role in his slower time, but he isn’t worried about his ability to reach his desired mark.

“Maybe I need to get a feel for the pace again,” Vincent said. “But I’ll figure that out as the season progresses. (My time) wasn’t as fast as I wanted, but it’s a starting place. It’s the first meet, and it’s not really a huge meet to get fired up for.

“But I’m always happy with finishing first.”

Joining Vincent and Douthitt in the top 10 were Michael McMorris (4th, 19:22), Blaine Phillippi (7th, 20:12) and Talon Woody (9th, 20:17), helping the Zebras win the team title with 23 points.

Booker T. Washington finished second with 56 points.

Sequoyah, led by Eli Wood (13th, 20:34) placed sixth of eight teams with 137 points.

Vincent said though Claremore lost two seniors from last year’s eighth-place state team, he believes this squad has even greater potential.

“We’re definitely going to be better this year,” Vincent said. “The guys that we have back from last year are only getting better. We’ll be much improved, and we may even have a chance to place high at state.”

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Laynie Nichols hasn’t forgotten the bitter feeling she had following the 2018 Class 5A state meet.

Despite winning individual state titles her freshman and sophomore year, she dropped to fifth in last year’s race.

“It just wasn’t a good day, and sometimes you have bad days, and unfortunately mine was the day of state,” Nichols said. “Hopefully this year will be better. I’m looking for three years with state championships.”

She certainly got off to a good start this season.

The senior cruised to her third-straight Zebra Invitational win on Friday morning, finishing the 5K in 21:16, 12 seconds ahead of Pryor’s Madison Bradshaw.

“It gave me the motivation I needed to say, ‘Next year, just hit them harder and get to the place I want to be,’” Nichols said. “Even though my time today wasn’t the best, I feel there’s definitely room to build this season.”

Erin Kuykendall and Kate Bustamante earned top-four finishes as well with times of 23:24 and 24:21, respectively, helping Claremore to a three-point victory over Pryor for the team title.

Also earning points for the Lady Zebras were Hailey Burden (13th, 26:03) and Ainsley Hendrickson (17th, 26:28).

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Hailey McClure was an exuberant child growing up.

Her parents, eager to discover a way to release their daughter’s rambunctious energy in a positive manner, introduced McClure, then in fourth or fifth grade, to cross-country.

“My parents were like, ‘We should put her in something so she has something to do,’” McClure said. “I did cross-country and did pretty well, and I’ve been running ever since.”

Little did they know she would grow into a running sensation at Sequoyah High School.

The freshman showed off her parents’ eye for talent on Friday morning, clocking in at 13:39 to win the 2-mile run at the Zebra Invitational.

“I’d be really slow at practices, but when I got to the race, I’d be phenomenal,” McClure said of the beginning of her career. “I got ninth place in my first race, I think.”

Sequoyah finished third behind Adair (42) and Ketchum (61) with 85 points.

Alicia Mercado also medaled with a time of 16:09, placing 20th overall and 10th among runners on teams with at least five members.

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Abby Bell always wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps.

So, when she was about 6 years old, she began accompanying him on his daily runs.

“My dad runs, so I always follow after him,” Bell said. “He runs because he was in the Army, and he’s a police officer. That’s how I got into running.

“We always start with one lap to build myself up, and then we get 2 miles. I just always loved running.”

That early start paid off with a fifth-place medal in the Verdigris sophomore’s first cross-county race, clocking in at 14:26 in the 2-mile run at the Zebra Invitational on Friday morning.

Verdigris placed fifth of six teams with 91 points, and Foyil, led by junior Madi Kelley (16:39), finished sixth with 142 points.

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