E.A. Sports Today

Raiders of the lost part

Pleasant Valley wins girls county meet, adds companion trophy to ’97 state title

“I told them it’s a shame there are state champion trophies in the case, but no county. That was big.”

— PV coach Brad Hood

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – When Brad Hood looks into the Pleasant Valley display case, he sees a state championship cross country trophy, but no county championship hardware and part of him thinks there’s something wrong about that.

“There is something wrong with that,” Raiders senior Tiffany Williams agreed.

Well, the Raiders took care of that void Tuesday when their girls won the Calhoun County Cross Country Championship, ending Oxford’s long-standing reign over the event.

The Raiders, 1A-2A state champs in 1997 — when most of their current runners weren’t even born – provided the complementary hardware by placing four runners in the top 10 at Oxford Lake Park and five in the top 20. They scored 53 points, 15 more than Oxford. Ohatchee was another point back in third, followed by Jacksonville and Alexandria. Only 23 points separated first place from fifth.

“We’ve not even talked about sectionals or state this year,” Hood said. “Our whole focus — our training, our mindset, everything — has been to be first time in school history as a county champ.

“I told them it’s a shame there are state champion trophies in the case, but no county. That was big.”

Freshman Rachel Faucett, who won the Creekbank Invitational here 10 days earlier, led the PV contingent through the chute with a fourth-place finish (21:50.46). Seventh-grader Emma Hood was eighth (22:11.39) and eighth-grader Juliana Ballew was 10th (23:02.22). Senior Tiffany Williams was 13th (23:15.78) and eighth-grader Allison Vess was 18th (24:05.78).

“Our girls sure did run a tough race,” Hood said.

And it’s not like they were overnight sensations; there’s been steady improvement here. In the first meet of the season six weeks ago, the gap between their five scoring runners was two minutes each; the complete gap between their first and fifth Tuesday was 2 minutes, 16 seconds.

In Oxford’s Waffle House Invitational on this same course earlier this fall, they finished fifth among the same five county schools here (sixth overall). Their projected best times of the season still had them finishing fifth here, some 60 points behind projected winner Oxford.

Williams’ finish as the Raiders’ No. 4 runner was “a huge difference maker,” Hood said. He coaxed the three-year veteran out of a softball-induced runners’ retirement to become the veteran piece for a young lineup this fall and she has flourished in that role. Her time Tuesday was 25 seconds faster than she ran in the Creekbank Invitational.

“I wanted to help out because I never really got to be on a team that had a chance to win the county and stuff, so I’m excited,” she said. “I wanted to be the first to (win county). I’m pretty sure Oxford’s won it every time in cross country for girls, so I thought it would be pretty cool if we finally broke that.”

And now they can see the trophy in their case that proves they did.

Calhoun County Cross Country Championship
At Oxford Lake Park

Team scores

Pleasant Valley 53 (4-8-10-13-18)
Oxford 68 (5-7-17-19-20)
Ohatchee 69 (6-11-14-15-23)
Jacksonville 75 (1-9-16-24-25)
Alexandria 76 (2-3-12-28-31)

Winner: Rebecca Hearn, Jacksonville (20:24.60)
Runner-up: Abby Nunnelly, Alexandria (20:54.02)

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