E.A. Sports Today

Oxford, youth favored in County Meet

Yellow Jackets picked to win both team prizes; young runners leading the pack

Ohatchee eighth-grader Jimmy Wilson is the top seeded boy in today's county cross-country meet.

Ohatchee eighth-grader Jimmy Wilson is the top seeded boy in today’s county cross-country meet.

Jacksonville's Rebecca Hearn (R) and Alexandria's Abby Nunnelly (L) are the top two seeded girls in today's county meet.

Jacksonville’s Rebecca Hearn (R) and Alexandria’s Abby Nunnelly (L) are the top two seeded girls in today’s county meet.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Two things you can just about count on in today’s Calhoun County Cross Country Championship at Oxford Lake Park – Oxford being favored to win the two team titles and the youngest county champions being crowned in each race.

The Yellow Jackets have a long tradition of winning the county meet. Besides having the deepest and most experienced teams in the field this year, they’re running on their home course. They may not produce the individual winner, but their runners are sure to cross the line in a pack shortly thereafter.

But it may not be a runaway. Plotting the best times of county runners into a virtual race, the Oxford girls would nose out Alexandria by 25 points with Jacksonville right behind. The Oxford boys, meanwhile, are projected to win by 22 points, with Ohatchee giving them a run for their money.

Another intriguing aspect to the races is their youth. There is only one senior among the top five times produced by county runners this season.

Girls favorites Rebecca Hearn of Jacksonville and Abby Nunnelly of Alexandria are ninth- and eighth-graders, respectively. Boys favorite Jimmy Wilson of Ohatchee is an eighth-grader.

There’s a lot of that going around. Jacksonville’s top two girls are ninth-graders. Alexandria’s top two girls are eighth-graders. Pleasant Valley has a seventh-grader, two eighths and a ninth among its top runners. On the boys side, Ohatchee has three eighths, a ninth and a tenth.

“Most of the time your younger girls are your better girls,” Ohatchee coach Casey Howell said. “As girls get older, they get slower; only the special girls get faster as they get older.

“Most of the time boys get faster as they get older. If you look, Jimmy is the only young one around; that’s what makes him so special. I think he could be amazing before he graduates. He’s the second fastest eighth-grader in the state (Class) 1A-7A now.”

Wilson has been running with a pulled back muscle, now complicated by strep throat. He has run for time only once in the last nine days.

“I don’t know how he’s going to do,” Howell said. “If I took 10 days off I wouldn’t be very good, but he’s a different breed. I really feel bad for him. He has worked so hard all summer and all year, and for this to happen to him now … But I will never count him out. He’s the toughest runner I have ever met. If the County were Thursday I’d feel a little better about it. If he wins, it will be off heart.”

Wilson said the last week and a half has been “difficult,” but he plans to push on today and he hopes to run the flat 5K course is under 18 minutes. He ran five miles Monday to get in race shape.

“I’ve got one thing on my mind,” he said, “and that’s crossing that finish line.”

COUNTY CROSS-COUNTRY PROJECTIONS

Girls Team Scores
Oxford 38
Alexandria 63
Jacksonville 64
Ohatchee 76
Pleasant Valley 100

Girls Top 10
(School grades are in parenthesis)
Rebecca Hearn (9), Jacksonville
Abby Nunnelly (8), Alexandria
Amber Dempsey (10), Oxford
Madison Reeder (10), Oxford
Lexie Delain (12), Oxford
Chloe Brown (8), Alexandria
Victoria McRaney (8), Ohatchee
Adah Touray (11), Oxford
Rachel Faucett (9), Pleasant Valley
Mary Shelton (9), Jacksonville

Boys Team Scores
Oxford 35
Ohatchee 57
Alexandria 92
Pleasant Valley 97
Faith Christian 123
White Plains 161
Jacksonville 175
Saks 195

Boys Top 10
Jimmy Wilson (8), Ohatchee
Lane Trapp (11), Alexandria
Luke Thomas (11), Oxford
Jeremiah Burns (11), Oxford
Jackson Henry (10), Ohatchee
Jentre Smith (12), White Plains
Zebadee Lunsford (11), Anniston
Ramiro Melendez (12), Oxford
Trace Hilbun (12), Oxford
Daniel Gladen (10), Pleasant Valley



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