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While the back and forth over the ‘Big Top’ covering the high school may have dominated much of the Mountain Home Public School Board’s last few meetings, it didn’t stop the district from celebrating and recognizing the hard work of Mountain Home High School’s Cross Country State Championship Team during last week’s meeting.
In what may be one of the most under-the-radar wins of 2023, Mountain Home High School’s Cross Country Team managed to win its second back-to-back state championship earlier this month, marking the third time that the district’s long-distance runners have walked away with a championship title in the last five years.
This year’s win came about after the Bombers managed to storm past Russellville by 33 points while competing in Hot Springs on Nov. 2. Altogether, the MHHS’s Cross Country Team has won eight state championships since 2000.
“I felt this group, the coaches, the student-athletes, might be the most underappreciated group that we have in our schools,” said Mitch Huskey, athletic director for Mountain Home Public Schools. “The reason I say that, you know, if we had any sporting team that won back-to-back state championships, or– what’s the total, eight? What would we be doing for any other team? What they have done along with their coaches is unbelievable, and I’m very, very proud.”
After Huskey introduced the student-athletes on the cross country team, Coach Will Norris and his wife, Coach Tilda Helgesson, took to the podium to talk about the hard work that went into long-distance running.
Norris said that long-distance running took years to become proficient in and required patience from student-athletes to see long-term results.
“It takes a long time to get really good,” Norris said. “It’s often by the time a lot of these guys become upperclassmen, it’s years in the making. It’s gradual, almost painfully, slow process of just steady improvement over time, and these guys have just worked hard to accomplish what they have.”
Following Norris’s breakdown of what it takes to become good at long-distancing running, the coach took a moment to allow members of the team to introduce themselves, including Hendrix Hughes, Brian Amick, Trenton Smith, Connor King, Paige Francis, and Zach Daugherty.
Mountain Home School Board Member Scott Booth praised the young men for their hard work and dedication, before telling them that the discipline they are learning now will help them later on in life.
“The dedication that it takes to make those slow, small gains,” Booth said. “I mean you guys won state two years in a row, that really speaks to the determination, that dedication of running and working at it every day. Because there’s certain days that I know y’all don’t want to do it, but it shows a lot. That dedication and focus will serve you well going forward for those of you that are seniors. Well done, gentlemen.”
Following Booth’s comments, Mountain Home School Board President Lisa House asked if any of the students had received scholarship offers from colleges before praising Norris for returning to Mountain Home to be a coach.
Norris said that some students had received offers from colleges, but negotiations were still ongoing, so nothing was ready to be announced.
Norris graduated from MHHS Summa Cum Laude in 2012 after winning three different state championships as a cross-country runner. He returns to Mountain Home alongside his wife after competing at the college level.
In other school board news, the board approved the emergency purchase of a new heater for MHHS’s cafeteria. The old heater that sat on the cafeteria roof suffered a catastrophic failure and could not be repaired.
The cost of a new heater will run the district $32,254.00.
In addition to the new heater, the school board approved a $28,000 purchase of virtual reality headsets and health science career exploration simulations to be purchased out of the DCTE Innovation Grant that the district received.
Following the discussion over the virtual reality headset purchase, the school board approved a $34,639.00 purchase of two Basic Aviation Training Devices for its new Aviation curriculum. The purchase will allow students to begin logging flight hours, as well as teaching them the basics of flying.
The funds for the purchase are being provided by the state of Arkansas and will not come out of the district’s current budget. The district has until Feb. to purchase the training devices with state funding before losing access to the funding.
In addition to the two training devices, the Leading Edge Aviation Foundation is donating $50,000 raised by members of the public to fund the purchase of several more flight training devices for the school district. The Aviation Foundation will also be assisting the district in setting up an aviation training room at the Junior High School.
During the meeting, Gerald Gaige of the Leading Edge Foundation also discussed the approval of a naming rights contract between the school district and the foundation. The contract came about after the foundation approached community donors about making a $10,000 donation for assistance in continuing to develop the district’s new aviation program.
Underneath the contract, the district’s junior high school aviation training room will be named after members of the donor’s family for three years. If the donor wishes to continue to keep the rights to the training room, then they will have to make another donation to renew the rights.
For the last items of the night, the school district approved proposed expenditures for fiscal year 2025-26. The school board also approved a resolution granting Mountain Home Superintendent Allyson Dewey the power to approve or deny student transfers in and out of the district. Under the LEARNS Act, the school board was forced to vote on each student separately, taking up a large amount of time during meetings.
After consulting with the district’s legal counsel, the resolution was drafted to speed up the project. Each member of the school board will be updated by Dewey on her decisions. If a transfer is denied, the school board retains the right to hold a session to vote on Dewey’s decision.
Editor’s Note: The owners of the Observer have donated towards the Leading Edge Aviation Foundation’s fundraiser goal to assist in purchasing new flight training equipment for the Mountain Home Public School District.