E.A. Sports Today

Ready to run

Alexandria’s Nunnelly has new team, same determination

Alexandria's Abby Nunnelly (L) and Jacksonville's Rebecca Hearn (R) flank Catholic-Montgomery's Amaris Tyynismaa after running earlier this year at Oxford Lake. All three are expected to finish high in their respective state championship races Saturday in Moulton. Hearn and Tyynismaa are in the same race (4A).

Alexandria’s Abby Nunnelly (L) and Jacksonville’s Rebecca Hearn (R) flank Catholic-Montgomery’s Amaris Tyynismaa after running earlier this year at Oxford Lake. All three are expected to finish high in their respective state championship races Saturday in Moulton. Hearn and Tyynismaa are in the same race (4A).

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Abby Nunnelly may be wearing a different colored uniform this year when she runs in the state cross country meet, but her drive to get to the front is absolutely the same as ever.

The eighth-grader is running for Alexandria’s first-year cross country program in the girls Class 5A state championship race Saturday in Moulton. A year ago she wore the red of Ohatchee’s first-year program and finished eighth.

This year, she has designs on a lot more.

“I am hoping and expecting to place first or hopefully in the top three and expecting our team to be in the top three as well,” she said.

Those hopes are just dreams. Alexandria coach Phillip Hartsfield said those expectations are “in everybody’s head.”

Nunnelly has finished first or second in five of six races this season, winning at Noccalula Falls, St. Clair County and the 5A sectional. She was second in Oxford’s Waffle House Invitational and the Calhoun County Championship.

She has the fourth-best time among all Class 5A girls this season, posted last month at the Jesse Owens Classic on the state championship course. She was 14th overall in the 5A-7A race, but the first 5A girl across the line. She ran her personal best in the mid 19s on the course last year in the state meet.

“I really wasn’t expecting to place and get a medal (last year), but I was very, very excited to as a seventh grader and competing on the varsity level,” she said. “I have a chance of placing first and being a state champion. It is very mind-blowing.”

Nunnelly will get to watch four of her former Ohatchee teammates run in the 3A girls race, but they’ll be running as individuals as the Indians missed qualifying as a team. The county champion Ohatchee boys should have a nice battle with Pleasant Valley as they try to challenge in their race.

They won’t be the only local runners looking for a high finish Saturday. Calhoun County has seven teams and 16 individual qualifiers in the various races. Jacksonville’s girls county champion Rebecca Hearn also is a sectional champion and she will chasing Catholic-Montgomery’s Amaris Tyynismaa in the Class 4A girls race.

Running has always been a big part of Nunnelly’s young life. Hartsfield remembers seeing her compete at local 5Ks “when she was a little bitty girl; this is nothing new to her.”

He said her arrival was a boon for the program. The rest of the team has followed her lead, dropping their times anywhere from 11 to 14 minutes since the start of the season.

“I have been trying to get cross country here for the past five or six years and it’s not been able to work out,” Hartsfield said. “I couldn’t have written a better script for having a first-year cross country team and having one of the best runners in the state move in.

“Everything has been new for us. It helped having Abby and Blake (her twin brother) who knew what to expect. They were probably the only ones who knew how to practice; (the others) probably thought we were kind of crazy for the kind of running we had to do. It calmed some of my nerves, our nerves. Any time you start something new there are some fears. I feel a little vindicated with the success they’ve given us.”

Here is the schedule for the state cross country meet Saturday at Oakville Indian Mounds Park & Museum in Moulton (with the Calhoun County runners involved)

8:30 a.m. – 1A-2A Girls
8:50 a.m. – 6A Girls (Oxford’s Madison Reeder and Amber Dempsey)
9:10 a.m. – 4A Girls (Jacksonville team, led by sectional winner and county champ Rebecca Hearn; White Plains’ Katie Parris)
9:30 a.m. – 1A-2A Boys (Faith Christian team)
9:50 a.m. – 6A Boys (Oxford team)
10:10 a.m. – 4A Boys (White Plains’ Jentre Smith and Matthew Moore, Saks’ Rayburn Price and Tyler Thomas, Jacksonville’s Luke Jaskowski)
10:30 a.m. – Awards

10:30 a.m. – 3A Girls (Pleasant Valley team, Ohatchee’s Victoria McRaney, Kourtney Shuler, Madison Ward and Meagan Medders)
10:50 a.m. – 5A Girls (Alexandria team, led by sectional winner Abby Nunnelly)
11:10 a.m. – 7A Girls
11:15 a.m. – 3A Boys (Pleasant Valley team, Ohatchee team)
11:50 a.m. – 5A Boys (Anniston’s county champ Zebadee Lunsford and James Haynes, Alexandria’s Lane Trapp and Ronnie Royal)
Noon – Awards (3A boys/girls)
12:10 p.m. – 7A Boys
12:30 p.m. – Awards

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