E.A. Sports Today

Oxford safe at ‘home’

UPDATED: Yellow Jackets’ runners sweep Ohatchee’s meet on ‘home’ course

The Oxford boys cross-country team gets together after joining the girls team (cover) in sweeping the Creekbank Invitational at Oxford Lake Park. (All photos by Kurt Duryea)

The Oxford boys cross-country team gets together after joining the girls team (cover) in sweeping the Creekbank Invitational at Oxford Lake Park. (All photos by Kurt Duryea)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – Regardless of the name attached to the race, as long as it’s being run at Oxford Lake Park, the Oxford cross-country team will always consider it on its home turf and runs accordingly.

Ohatchee hosted its inaugural Creekbank Invitational on the flat 5K course Saturday and Oxford ran like it was its own. The Yellow Jackets swept the boys and girls team titles.

The Yellow Jackets’ girls put three of the first five runners across the line and four in the top 10 to edge Pleasant Valley by six points. Their boys placed all five of their scorers in the top 11 and beat Ohatchee by nine points.

“I tell the girls every time we run here that this is our home course,” third-year Oxford coach Lydia Elkins said. “No matter what the name of the race is that day, this is your course and you have to defend it. Just like if you go over here to Oxford’s football stadium, that’s their home turf and that’s where they’re going to defend and play their best. This is where we should.

“I tell them we know the course backwards, forwards, sideways, upside down, however. So they should be able to run it the best of anybody here.”

Pleasant Valley freshman Rachel Faucett won the girls race in 21:11.27. She beat Oxford’s Amber Dempsey to the line by 20 seconds, but the Lady Yellow Jackets also occupied positions 3, 5, 7 and 12 (plus 13 and 14).

Ohatchee eighth-grader Jimmy Wilson won the boys race in 18:10.14, running with a pulled back muscle that made every step of the 5K painful. He beat Anniston junior Zebadee Lunsford to the line by 33 seconds. Oxford runners were 5, 6, 8, 9 and 12.

“I can’t believe he ran that,” Ohatchee coach Casey Howell said. “He ran Thursday with it and ran 19:35 and I haven’t seen him run in the 19s in over a year. He was ready to go today.”

The Creekbank Invitational was intended to serve as a preview for next week’s Calhoun County Meet here, in which both Oxford teams are expected to maintain what Elkins called “kind of a tradition for Oxford to make sure they win County.”

Seven county schools were represented at the event, but noticeably missing were Alexandria and Jacksonville – and expected girls’ favorites Abby Nunnelly and Rebecca Hearn — to make it a true preview. Still, the teams and runners who did answer Dick Bell’s starting gun Saturday saw enough to get a sense for what will be required.

“We know exactly where we are and what we’ve got to do; that’s the main thing,” Howell said. “We’ll go to work for the next week and a half. (The race) it’ll be fun.”

The same could be said for individual race strategies, too.

Faucett was spot on in her first two mile splits, but knows she’ll have to pick up her final mile pace for continued success. Then, again, she had no one pushing her Saturday.

Wilson’s strategy in the boys race was to let everyone else go out fast and exhaust their energy early. He had the lead before the end of the first mile and stayed in front the rest of the way. Lunsford, running in just his second cross-country race, was keen to pay attention.

“My coach said run your own race and don’t try to win it in the first mile,” he said. “I started out at a good pace, in the top three, but when (Wilson) came by I was going to let him keep doing what he was going to and catch him, but I stayed back and tried to see what his weaknesses were so I could pick it up.

“Watching him run from behind I know what his weaknesses are and back there on the turn into the second part (of the course) that’s where I’m going to catch him.”

Here are the team results and the top 10 finishers in each race.

Boys
Team Scores

Oxford 35
Ohatchee 44
Pleasant Valley 52
Faith Christian 133
Saks 136
Cedar Bluff 157
Lincoln 165

Individual Top 10
Jimmy Wilson, Ohatchee 18:10.14
Zebadee Lunsford, Anniston 18:43.47
Daniel Gladen, Pleasant Valley 19:01.67
Jackson Henry, Ohatchee 19:18.16
Ramiro Melendez, Oxford 19:24.30
Luke Thomas, Oxford 19:31.57
Isaiah Rodriguez, Pleasant Valley 19:33.05
Jeremiah Burns, Oxford 19:38.13
Trace Hilbun, Oxford 19:42.92
Blake Noah, Ohatchee 19:45.07

Ohatchee's Jimmy Wilson (R) and Anniston's Zebadee Lunsford are expected to be among the favorites at the Calhoun County Cross Country Meet after going 1-2 Saturday at Oxford Lake.

Ohatchee’s Jimmy Wilson (R) and Anniston’s Zebadee Lunsford are expected to be among the favorites at the Calhoun County Cross Country Meet after going 1-2 Saturday at Oxford Lake.

Girls
Team Scores

Oxford 29
Pleasant Valley 35
Ohatchee 66
Glencoe 119
Cedar Bluff 126

Individual Top 10
Rachel Faucett, Pleasant Valley 21:11.27
Amber Dempsey, Oxford 21:31.92
Madison Reeder, Oxford 21:49.30
Emma Hood, Pleasant Valley 22:11.97
Lexie Delain, Oxford 22:43.30
Victoria McRaney, Ohatchee 22:56.16
Adah Touray, Oxford 23:08.08
Kourtney Shuler, Ohatchee 23:27:43
Tiffany Williams, Pleasant Valley 23:42.52
Juliana Ballew, Pleasant Valley 23:44.61

Pleasant Valley's Rachel Faucett leads the girls field to the finish line.

Pleasant Valley’s Rachel Faucett leads the girls field to the finish line.



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