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PREP TRACK: Fayetteville’s Goetz uses strong second day to win heptathlon; Clinton’s Emberton holds on for decathlon title

by Henry Apple | May 19, 2023 at 2:30 a.m.
Ava Goetz (8) of Fayetteville leads the field while competing in the 800-meter portion of the heptathlon on the final day of competition Thursday at Ramay Junior High School in Fayetteville. Goetz overcame a deficit of nearly 200 points to earn the state high school girls heptathlon title. More photos at (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Andy Shupe)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Ava Goetz took a little advice she was given more than a year ago and turned it into a state heptathlon championship Thursday afternoon.

The Fayetteville junior overcame a deficit of almost 200 points and passed five other athletes -- including her teammate -- to earn the state high school girls heptathlon title at Ramay Junior High School. Goetz compiled 4,509 points throughout her seven events and edged teammate Julia Gunnell, who finished second with 4,442.

Goetz started out competing in just the 800 meters and the high jump, but that all changed during a meet last year at Fort Smith Southside. She had a conversation with former Fayetteville track and field standout Brad Culp, who did the decathlon at the University of Arkansas and encouraged Goetz to try the heptathlon.

"It's crazy, just thinking of how much I've changed over the past year," Goetz said. "I never thought I would be able to run the hurdles like I did, high jump like I did, throw ... none of it. I'm so thankful.

"After that meet, we just realized that the 800 was getting really repetitive, and it was taking a toll mentally by doing that race over and over again. Then I met Brad, who said, 'You would make a phenomenal multi.' I gave it a shot, said I was willing to risk it, and here we are."

Goetz trailed Gunnell by a 2,656-2464 margin to start Thursday, but she made up most of that deficit in the high jump. She cleared 5 feet, 5 inches to tie Bentonville's Paisley Hight and El Dorado's Davin James for the day's best performance and picked up 795 points in that event.

That pulled her with 18 points of Gunnell at that point, then Goetz eventually passed her teammate in the shot put when her throw of 31 feet, 8.5 inches -- the day's third-best -- was good enough for 507 points. Goetz then capped her victory with with a third-place finish in the 800, and her time of 2 minutes, 26.05 seconds put her directly behind Gunnell.

"That was crazy," Goetz said of the shot put. "I never thought I would be even close to throwing it in that event. It was a great day. I was shooting for that 2:20 mark in the 800 because the last time I ran it was at the Texas Distance Festival during spring break, so we were just seeing what we can do."

Cabot's Laylah Reese took third place with 4,374, while Lauren Lain of Bryant edged out Morgan Maier of Rogers for fourth place 4,119 to 4,115. Hight was sixth, finishing with 4,1111.

Meanwhile, Clinton senior Brody Emberton won the decathlon title and did it with not a second to spare. Emberton, who started Thursday in fourth place, compiled 6,429 points and finished four points ahead of second-place Cooper Williams of Fayetteville.

"I'm just glad about all the hours I spent putting into this sport, getting better at everything," Emberton said. "I didn't know if I was going to pull it off there. Cooper is a great athlete. He was outrunning me, and I was able to get it. Just glad."

It was the finishing touch on an outstanding season for Emberton, who earned all-state honors in football, basketball and track and field. He qualified for six events in the Class 4A state meet and was chosen to play in the All-Star basketball game next month, then will go on to play basketball at Arkansas Baptist.

Emberton began the day 150 points behind Crossett's Will Shaver, who then added to his lead with the day's best performance in the 110 hurdles (14.66, 891 points). But that all changed in the discus when Emberton had a throw of 154-6, giving him 810 points and a 103-point lead over Shaver, who threw 92-11 for 418 points.

"So I didn't start the discus until this year," Emberton said. "I figured out I could throw it and threw it 154 and take second. I was just able to get ahead of [Shaver] and Cooper."

Williams had 4,671 points to Emberton's 4,923 at that point, but he cut 37 points off that deficit in the pole vault and 83 more on the triple jump. Emberton's lead had been cut to a 5,855-57,24 margin with the 1,500 remaining.

Williams then pulled away from the rest of his flight and finished in 4:36.69 for 701 points, while Emberton crossed the finish line in 4:57.47 and picked up 574 points. Had Williams been a second faster or Emberton been a second slower, there would have been a different outcome.

"He beats me by one height on the pole vault and a few feet on the triple jump," Emberton said of Williams. "I was just able to keep close enough to him in the 1,500. I just let it all out and finished, then laid over there for about 5 minutes. Feels good now."

Sloan Jones of Fayetteville took third place with 6,112 points, while rounding out the top five were Kercher Herring of Russellville with 6,039 and Shaver with 6,014.

Final results


Pos. Name, School;First-Day Score;110H;Discus;PV;TJ;1,500;Total

1. Brody Emberton, Clinton;3,337;15.62 (776);154-6 (810);10-2 (381);41-11.25 (551);4:57.47 (574);6,249

2. Cooper Williams, Fayetteville;3,429;15.31 (812);92-10 (431);10-8 (418);44-1.5 (634);4:36.69 (701);6,245

3. Sloan Jones, Fayetteville;3,412;14.86 (867);78-2 (344);11-1.75 (457);42-9 (582);5:19.97 (450);6,112

4. Kercher Herring, Russellville;3,255;16.39 (689);90-3 (416);14-5.25 (731);40-10.25 (512);5:22.64 (436);6,039

5. Will Shaver, Crossett;3,487;14.66 (891);92-11 (432);8-8.25 (275);42-8.25 (579);5:40.40 (350);6,014

6. Parker Brown, Heber Springs;3,287;15.53 (787);83-4 (375);10-8 (418);44-6.25 (649);5:32.84 (385);5,901

7. Bruce Payerli, Rogers Heritage;3,160;15.38 (804);69-3 (293);9-2.25 (309);40-11.5 (515);4:51.29 (611);5,692

8. Shamar Easter, Ashdown;3,334;16.05 (727);106-10 (515);8-2.5 (242);37-7.25 (398);5:21.43 (443);5,659

9. Carter Giittinger, Pottsville;2,871;15.89 (745);118-4 (585);9-8 (345);44-0.75 (632);5:17.65 (462);5,640

10. Isaac Chapman, Rogers;2,881;16.45 (683);135-10 (693);12-7.5 (576);38-0.75 (414);5:37.33 (364);5,611


Pos., Name, School;First-Day Score;HJ;Shot;800M;Total

1. Ava Goetz, Fayetteville;2,464;5-5 (795);31-8.5 (504);2:26.05 (743);4,509

2. Julia Gunnell, Fayetteville;2,656;4-11 (621);27-1 (416);2:25.60 (749);4,442

3. Laylah Reese, Cabot;2,605;4-9 (566);32-8.25 (527): 2:31.39 (676);4,374

4. Lauren Lain, Bryant;2,337;4-11 (621);27-8 (427): 2:26.80 (734);4,119

5. Morgan Maier, Rogers;2,536;4-9 (566);32-2.75 (518);2:47.01 (495);4,115

6. Paisley Hight, Bentonville;2,301;5-5 (795);20-1 (279);2:26.64 (736);4,111

7. Belle Lindsey, De Queen;2,378;5-1 (678);27-7.25 (426);2:38.50 (590);4,072

8. Emilia Thurston, Bentonville;2,473;4-7 (512);24-5.5 (364);2:30.98 (681);4,030

9. Kenzie Pruett, Cabot;2,382;4-9 (566);23-8.75 (350);2:30.65 (685);3,983

10. Bessie Swoboda, Bentonville West;2,263;4-11 (621);29-4.5 (461);2:43.44 (534);3,879


Print Headline: Goetz, Emberton come back to win


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