E.A. Sports Today

Ohatchee making strides

Upstart Indians’ boys score first cross-country win in program history in sectional preview

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The Ohatchee boys cross country team has made some big strides over the past 12 months of its existence – like back of the pack in the last 200 yards to win the race kind of strides.

The Indians’ girls’ team has been pretty good since the program was approved two weeks after the school year started last year – sectional champs, sixth in the state — but their boys having been trying to catch up. Not anymore.

The Ohatchee boys scored the first race win in their history last weekend at the Scottsboro Invitational, basically the preview of the Class 3A sectional meet.

A year ago, Scottsboro was their first-ever race. They finished 18 out of 19 teams. This year, they were first out of 15 Class 1A through 4A teams.

“This was a special race for our guys to win,” coach Casey Howell said.

It’s easy to track the Indians’ progression and that track has always been upward. They went from 18th in their first race to a season-best fourth in last year’s sectionals — missing a trip to state by fewer than 10 points, running without their No. 3. They were third at Oxford’s race earlier this season and now have a win.

They put three runners in the top 20 of the 128-runner field — all five in the top 30 – and were the only team to come in under 100 points.

Jimmy Wilson, one of three eighth-graders in their first five, finished third individually in Statesboro (18:21.06); he was 41st in the debut race. The rest of the lineup includes two other eighth-graders, Blake Noah and Gabe Hammonds, and sophomores Jackson Henry and Austin Snelling. Henry finished 16th in last weekend’s race (19:38.43), Snelling 19th (20:06.20) and Noah 21st (20:17.80).

The Indians’ rise can be tied directly to the work they did in the offseason.

“This summer we practiced at Janney Furnace,” Howell said. “If you can run at Janney Furnace, you can run anywhere in the world.

“We absolutely put them through the ringer. I don’t think anybody practiced near as hard as we did in the summer. I told them on day it would pay off. Right now our guys look like they can win sectionals.”

The Indians are off until running in the massive Jesse Owens Classic in Oakville, the preview of the state championship. They host their own 10-team Creekbank Invitational Oct. 11 at Oxford Lake Park. The Calhoun County Championship is Oct. 21 there.

The Creekbank Invitational will hold an Open 5K before the high school races. Entry fee is $20. For details contact Howell at 343-1438 or chowell.oh@calhoun.k12.al.us

Al Muskewitz is Content Editor/Senior Writer of East Alabama Sports Today. To comment on this story, pitch a story idea or report event results, contact him at musky@wrightmediacorp.com and follow him on Twitter @easportstoday1.

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