E.A. Sports Today

Hearn finds new gear

Jacksonville sophomore tests developing kick under race conditions for first time, wins by 2.5 seconds

Jacksonville's Rebecca Hearn (106) sprints to the finish ahead of Alexandria's Abby Nunnelly in Saturday's Waffle House/Yellow Jackets Invitational girls race.

Jacksonville’s Rebecca Hearn (106) sprints to the finish ahead of Alexandria’s Abby Nunnelly in Saturday’s Waffle House/Yellow Jackets Invitational girls race.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – One of the first things Rebecca Hearn did after she crossed the finish line of the race was grab for her side. Her stomach hurt, she said.

That should have been no surprise, really, because she busted a gut to get the win.

Hearn won the girls race in Oxford’s ninth annual Waffle House/Yellow Jackets Invitational at Oxford Lake, sprinting past Alexandria’s Abby Nunnelly in the home stretch with a newly found kick she’s added to her race plan.

Running in her first event since spraining her right ankle in a Georgia 5K in early August, the Jacksonville sophomore hit the tape Saturday morning at 20:41.30 and won by nearly two and a half seconds.

Alexandria, meanwhile, won the girls team title with three runners in the overall top six and all five scorers in the top 15. Pleasant Valley was second. Hearn’s Golden Eagles were sixth.

Without Montgomery Catholic’s national class defending champion Amaris Tyynismaa in the field this year, Nunnelly and Hearn were the clear favorites and they set the early pace.

Nunnelly led much of the race, but Hearn made her move less than a mile from the finish. They were shoulder to shoulder for a while around the 2.5-mile mark – about the same spot Nunnelly pulled away from her in last year’s race — then Hearn moved into a higher gear.

She was sprinting when she hit the finish line.

“Last year I got beat at the line once about midway through the season and that kind of really stuck with me; I didn’t like that at all,” she said. “Ever since then we’ve been doing speed work and focusing on that, and days like this are so nice when it pays off.

“I never really thought of me having a kick until this season; I’ve really been working on it. I just kept it in that my mind that I had to really sell everything I had to the race. Someone on the side yelled (to Nunnelly), ‘She doesn’t have a kick, you can get her!’ so now I have to prove that person wrong.”

Hearn’s winning time was 34 seconds faster than she ran in this race last year when she finished third, 17 seconds behind runnerup Nunnelly and more than three minutes behind Tyynismaa. And Nunnelly’s time Saturday was 14 seconds faster than last year.

“When I ran track two years ago I was in front of her and it was always like that through cross country,” Nunnelly said. “She gained that kick from track. I definitely wish I could’ve caught up to her. I thought I was going to at the end, but …”

Still, she led a 2-4-6 finish for the Valley Cubs; eighth-grader Chloe Brown was fourth overall and senior Emily McFarland was sixth. Senior Lauren Reaves (12th) and freshman Caroline McFarland (15th) rounded out their scorers.

Pleasant Valley placed three runners in the top 10 — Trinity Roberts (fifth), Emma Hood (ninth) and Rachel Faucett (10th) — but its next two scorers were 17th and 21st, respectively.

“I don’t want to say that I’m surprised, because we do have expectations, but I’m very excited with how well we placed,” Alexandria coach Phillip Hartsfield said.


Girls Race
Alexandria 35, Pleasant Valley 59, Oxford 85, Ohatchee 127, McEachern 128, Jacksonville 161, Glencoe 208, Cedar Bluff 210, White Plains 223, Fayetteville 246, Valley 291.

Girls Top 20
Rebecca Hearn, Jacksonville 20:41.33
Abby Nunnelly, Alexandria 20:44.04
x-Mary Reid Goodwin, Westbrook Chr. 21:18.63
Chloe Brown, Alexandria 21:33.73
Trinity Roberts, Pleasant Val. 22:43.71
Emily McFarland, Alexandria 22:46.42
Madison Reeder, Oxford 22:51.22
Amber Dempsey, Oxford 23:02.63
Emma Hood, Pleasant Val. 23:15.47
Rachel Faucett, Pleasant Val. 23:20.42
Victoria McRaney, Ohatchee 23:26.20
Lauren Reaves, Alexandria 23:43.45
Jayda Fair, Ohatchee 24:07.75
Mary Shelton, Jacksonville 24:25.17
Caroline McFarland, Alexandria 24:49.15
Toni Coley, Oxford 24:58.14
Mashara Lovelace, McEachern 24:59.67
Emily Cochran, Pleasant Val. 25:09.13
Aja Lecointe-Wilkinson, McEachern 25:18.79
Summer Watts, Alexandria 25:24.33
x-not counting in team scoring

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