E.A. Sports Today

Fast friends

County champions forge unique bond; Lunsford repeats as boys champion, Pleasant Valley wears team crown

Anniston's Zebedee Lunsford sprints to the finish to win the Calhoun County boys cross country race for the second year in a row. On the cover, Lunsford and girls winner Rebecca Hearn share their mutual respect.

Anniston’s Zebedee Lunsford sprints to the finish to win the Calhoun County boys cross country race for the second year in a row. On the cover, Lunsford and girls winner Rebecca Hearn share their mutual respect.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Zebedee Lunsford was not running alone when he won the Calhoun County boys cross country race Tuesday.

He had an angel on his shoulder and one in his ear.

The Anniston senior won the race for the second year in a row in a strong 17:16.56 that was nearly a minute faster than his winning time a year ago, and he had a lot of motivation to make him go.

His 5-year-old sister Diamond Unique was in the crowd to watch him run, threatening to call him slow all through the house if he didn’t win, and girls race winner Rebecca Hearn was with him every step shouting encouragement.

“It really feels great to be in my second year and repeat,” Lunsford said, “but I’ve got to give a shout-out to Rebecca Hearn, because she really pushed me through a hard race.

“She was like another coach, telling me where to pick it up and where to go. It really made me feel good to have another competitor — and a competitor like her, so good in the sport — to help me through the race. She basically followed me through the whole race.”

Hearn, a Jacksonville sophomore, won her race for the second year in a row before the boys attacked the 5K course at Oxford Lake. The two runners have known each other for years, but their connection for this race started Saturday when they were stretching in preparation for separate practice runs on the course.

They talked about the upcoming race and the one piece of advice Lunsford said stuck with him was the idea if they did it before they can do it again.

“I just love him so much and I wanted him to do this,” Hearn said. “He came up to me and encouraged me before my race, so I wanted to be there for him.

“I guess it’s a runner thing. We both know the sport so well and I know exactly what he’s going through when he’s running. I just kept telling him I believe in you, you can do this, I believe in you. He’s an amazing athlete.”

Even though he was the defending champion, Lunsford came to the race a little under the radar with only the fourth fastest time in the field. He called the race the second toughest he’d run this season behind Gadsden’s Titans Trail.

He and pre-race favorite Lane Trapp of Alexandria, the eventual runner-up, were shoulder-to-shoulder throughout much of the race. But Lunsford found another gear coming out of the final turn and sprinted to the finish line 20 seconds ahead the field.

“When he came out of the woods and I didn’t see Lane, because they ran together all race I thought Lane maybe had hurt himself,” Alexandria coach Phillip Hartsfield said. “And then when I saw Lane come out and could tell he was running good, (Lunsford) just turned it on. It was a great kick.”

“Zeb is an amazing runner,” Trapp said. “I figured he’d have a really good kick at the end. He’s a really good runner.”

In the team race, Pleasant Valley used its depth to bring home the school’s third county title and the first among the boys since the 2003 golf team. The girls won the cross country title last year.

The Raiders’ five counters all placed in the top 15 for 46 points and their top seven were in the top 20. Daniel Gladen was the second-fastest counter (third overall) and Quinton Thornton was the fourth (fifth overall), and then they had spots 11, 14, 15, 17 and 19. Runner-up Oxford had three of the top seven counters, but the Yellow Jackets’ next two runners were 18th and 20th for 54 points.

The Raiders were so balanced Tuesday their regular No. 3 was their sixth-best finisher and he still posted a personal best.

“It’s the depth; we can afford to have a bad day,” PV coach Brad Hood said. “I could have three runners have a bad day and we’ll still be consistent. They know when somebody is having a bad day and they just step up and hurt for them.

“Our seniors, that’s all they’ve been talking about since they were seventh graders. It’s not like we just showed up and threw a team together last year and said we’ll win the county; this is all we talk about.”


Team scores:
Pleasant Valley 46, Oxford 54, Ohatchee 83, White Plains 84, Alexandria 91, Faith Christian 192, Jacksonville 210, Sacred Heart 218.

Individual Top 15
Zebedee Lunsford, Anniston 17:16.56
Lane Trapp, Alexandria 17:36.12
Daniel Gladen, Pleasant Valley 17:49.98
Luke Thomas, Oxford 17:55.92
Quinton Thornton, Pleasant Valley 18:00.87
Blake Noah, Ohatchee 18:06.27
Jeremiah Burns, Oxord 18:09.44
Reed Robinson, Oxford 18:14.06
Will Lee, White Plains 18:17.06
Jake Moore, White Plains 18:24.30
Gabe Hammonds, Ohatchee 18:30.81
Jacob Gladen, Pleasant Valley 18:41.00
Dalton Dodd, Alexandria 18:45.42
Matthew Moore, White Plains 18:50.30
Caleb Kirk, Pleasant Valley 18:51.10

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