E.A. Sports Today

Big county group headed to state

PV boys gets measure of revenge on Ohatchee in 3A sectionals; Hearn, Nunnelly win girls sectional races

By East Alabama Sports Today

The Pleasant Valley boys left the Calhoun County Cross Country Meet disappointed having lost the team title to upstart Ohatchee by a few points. The Raiders turned the tide Thursday.

PV outdistanced the Indians to win the Class 3A Section 4 championship at Scottsboro. Both teams qualified for next weekend’s State Championship in Moulton, part of a large contingent of county teams making the field.

“That was our goal last week after county,” Pleasant Valley coach Brad Hood said. “We got together and talked and said we need to get the section; that means more than County, to hold the Section trophy up.

“They were hungry and showed up for the challenge. It was fun. You’ve got to beat the county champion to win the section; that’s a tall tale. Now, they know they are the best in the county. Ohatchee’s going to be mad. Maybe we’ll race each other to a state title.”

In addition to the Pleasant Valley and Ohatchee boys teams, Faith Christian’s boys, Oxford’s boys, Pleasant Valley’s girls, Alexandria’s girls and Jacksonville’s girls also qualified. Individually, County boys champion Zebadee Lunsford, Anniston teammate James Haynes, Alexandria boys Lane Trapp and Ronnie Royal, Oxford girls Madison Reeder and Amber Dempsey and four Ohatchee girls runners are advancing.

The county did produce two sectional champions. Jacksonville’s Rebecca Hearn, the County girls champion, won the Class 4A Section 2 race. Alexandria’s Abby Nunnelly won the Class 5A Section 2 girls race.

“She did really great; she was way out in front of everyone,” Golden Eagles coach Jill Green said. “If you’ve ever seen Becca she’s not real tall, just full of energy and full of life.”

Pleasant Valley ran in a pack and it paid off. The Raiders’ effort was led by sophomore Daniel Gladen, who ran a third-place 18:11 that was nearly a minute and a half better than his best time this year.

All five of the Raiders’ counters came in under 20 minutes, turning an average of 19:06. Jacob Gladen was 12th (19:04.63) while Isaiah Rodriguez (19:18.10), Nick Robbins (19:28.92) and Balin Littlejohn (19:29.97) finished in a pack at 14-15-16.

Ohatchee coach Casey Howell bowed to the winners. He said his runners hit the marks they thought necessary, but the Raiders proved too strong on this day. Jackson Henry was the Indians’ fastest runner for the first time this season, finishing fourth (18:16.87). County runner-up Jimmy Wilson was eighth at 18:46.55.

“There were four of us in the top eight (of the state) and all four coaches probably went to bed last night thinking they had a chance to win it and one won’t have a chance to go; it was so tough,” Howell said. “PV had their best run of the year and they earned it.”

The PV girls, meanwhile, had eight personal records among their 10 runners in finishing as sectional runner-up. Rachel Faucett was fifth at 21:26 and Emma Hood was seventh at 21:50.

“We were just tired up,” PV coach Rex McAllister said. “We were just mentally and physically prepared.”

Ohatchee’s girls ran a minute faster than the team that won the sectionals a year ago and missed qualifying for the state by two points. The Indians did qualify fourth-place Victoria McRaney (21:19.78) and tenth-place Kourtney Shuler (22:24.80) — both of whom made the all-sectional team by their top 10 finishes — plus top 20s Madison Ward (22:58.85) and Meagan Medders (23:25.38).

Even with four qualifiers likely to score more points than some teams at the state meet, the Indians will not be eligible for the team title.

“There will be five teams at state our girls are better than; that’s the hard part to swallow,” Howell said. “They worked their tails off all year and they deserve to be there.”

Lunsford ran 17:53.92 in Auburn, his first time breaking 18 minutes in a 5K. Earlier in the week he was recognized by the Anniston City Council for his county championship. Haynes ran 19:22.33.

Trapp and Royal qualified for Alexandria by finishing 10th and 17th in the boys 5A Section 2 race.

Faith Christian’s boys finished third in 1A-2A Section 4. It placed three runners in the top 20, with Nathan Bedford finishing ninth (19:37.15) and Callen Bone finishing tenth (19:59.84).

Oxford’s boys qualified by finishing third in Class 6A Section 5. Ramiro Melendez (17:59.58) and Luke Thomas (18:03.49) were the Yellow Jackets’ top two finishers with personal bests, coming in 13th and 15th.

“They didn’t plan to make it as a team and worked hard to do that,” Oxford coach Lydia Elkins said. “We knew it would be a very tight race and knew we were right on the edge. They worked hard this week and it all paid off.”

Madison Reeder (20:55.49) and Amber Dempsey (21:02.53) qualified in the girls race. They finished 12th and 13th, respectively.

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