E.A. Sports Today

Lady Raiders win state

Pleasant Valley seals deal, wins 3A girls cross country title, headed for Disney World next fall

Pleasant Valley runners (from left) Emma Hood, Trinity Roberts and Juliana Ballew form a tight pack early in the Class 3A girls race Saturday. The tight grouping was the key to the Lady Raiders' success. (Photo courtesy of Tara Hood)

Pleasant Valley runners (from left) Emma Hood, Trinity Roberts and Juliana Ballew form a tight pack early in the Class 3A girls race Saturday. The tight grouping was the key to the Lady Raiders’ success. (Photo courtesy of Tara Hood)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

MOULTON — The Pleasant Valley girls cross country team is going to Disney World.

Head coach Brad Hood promised and the Lady Raiders delivered.

PV’s lineup of young runners produced the school’s second cross country state title Saturday when they won the Class 3A girls title at the Oakville Indian Mounds Park.

The Lady Raiders, who won the state title in 1997, placed all five of their runners among the top 21 counters and scored 66 points. American Christian was second with 78 points. Ohatchee finished eighth.

“This is probably one of the best days of my life because we’ve worked so hard for this,” freshman Juliana Ballew said. “I’m just so thankful.”

Hood promised the team a trip to Disney World for the Wide World of Sports High School Invitational next fall if it won the state title. Plans are to start fundraising for the trip – and the championship rings — next week.

The Lady Raiders are the only Calhoun County program to win a state cross country championship.

“Girls don’t care about rings or trophies, really,” Hood said. “I said what do y’all think about doing the Disney high school invite and their eyes lit up. Two-thirds of them said they’ve never been and they’ll probably never get to go their whole life.

“That was the motivating factor. It was not state rings and it was not the trophy. It was ‘we’re going to Disney.’ What do they say when they win the Super Bowl? We’re going to go down there and have fun.”

Don’t think the ring wasn’t important. The girls have been thinking about it ever since Tara Hood brought her 1997 Pleasant Valley state championship ring to practice before the Calhoun County meet.

“We couldn’t believe it,” Emma Hood said. “Even thought we’ve been thinking about it for a really long time, we couldn’t believe it.”

The key to the Lady Raiders’ success all season has been their ability to run in a tight pack. They didn’t have a runner in the top 10 overall, but squeezed all five of their counters into the next 18 spots.

Team runnerup American Christian had each of its first three runners come across ahead of the first PV counter, but its next one was 30th.Third-place finisher T.R. Miller had three runners inside PV’s spread and fourth-place Montgomery Academy had three counters inside the top 15, including race winner Tara Katz, but their next counters were 22nd and 27th, respectively.

The Lady Raiders got strong performances from the usual back of their lineup. Ballew, their usual No. 4, led them across the line with an 11th-place overall finish (20:52.03) that was a minute faster than her sectional time and freshman No. 5 Bailey Dollar secured their fifth scoring spot (21:55.77) that was a personal best by 50 seconds on a course she was running for the first time.

“I did it because I knew it had to be done,” Ballew said. “I wanted to step up and lead our team because I wanted to make a difference. For most of the race I kept hearing the ACA parents yelling ‘you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go,’ and I was kind of referring that to myself, thinking that’s them telling me I’ve gotta go even though they weren’t talking to me.”

Eighth-grader Emma Hood – Brad and Tara’s daughter — was PV’s second fastest runner. She came in right behind Ballew at 20:55.25. The Lady Raiders’ other counters included seventh-grader Trinity Roberts and sophomore Rachel Faucett. The spread between their five counters was 63.7 seconds.

“I thought it was close the whole race,” Brad Hood said. “The 2 through 4 teams today had three in front of our No. 1 … but our 4 ended up being our No. 1 today and our 5 came in before anybody’s 4 or 5. That was the difference maker.

“As far as places I knew we were where we needed to be, but what I couldn’t control was their runners were up there where they shouldn’t have been. Our kids did what they were supposed to do. I think (the challengers) gave it their best shot on the top end, but high school cross country is not who’s got the fastest runner but who’s got the fastest five. It about a team.”

And now that team can’t get to Disney World fast enough.


Team scores: 1. Pleasant Valley 66, 2. American Christian 78, 3. T.R. Miller 83, 4. Montgomery Academy 86, 5. Cottage Hill 112, 6. Pisgah 166, 7. Winfield 179, 8. Ohatchee 206, 9. Colbert Heights 256, 10. Lexington 258, 11. Oakman 261, 12. Clements 306

Top 15 Individuals
(x-not involved in team scoring)

Tara Katz, Montgomery Academy 18:46.73
Allie Nelson, T.R. Miller 19:07.00
Emma Kate Holdbrooks, Winfield 19:19.62
x-Abigail Warner, Bayside Academy 19:32.09
Becca Billman, American Christian 19:37.68
Lauren Allred, Cottage Hill 19:55.41
x-Mary Reid Goodwin, Westbrook Christian 19:57.67
Harper Roberts, American Christian 20:20.81
x-Julianne Hill, Madison Academy 20:33.09
Anna Grace Barrett, American Christian 20:46.54
Juliana Ballew, Pleasant Valley 20:52.03
Emma Hood, Pleasant Valley 20:55.25
x-Jaime Drouin, Prattville Christian 20:58.18
Heather Thompson, Oakman 21:02.50
Trinity Roberts, Pleasant Valley 21:03.83
24. Rachel Faucett, Pleasant Valley 21:41.04
28. Bailey Dollar, Pleasant Valley 21:55.77
33. Victoria McRaney, Ohatchee 22:08.20
49. Kourtney Shuler, Ohatchee 22:48.92
55. Emma Dollar, Pleasant Valley 23:03.15
59. Meagan Medders, Ohatchee 23:06.25
61. Jayda Fair, Ohatchee 23:12.68
79. Skiler Caywood, Ohatchee 24:07.57
80. Ashley Leath, Ohatchee 24:09.16
89. Allison Vess, Pleasant Valley 24:40.11
94. Bella Hammonds, Ohatchee 25:18.89
100. Brook Baswell, Ohatchee 25:53.46
109. Kiana Simpson, Pleasant Valley 27:19.48
111. Anna Bryant, Ohatchee 27:23.13
112. Kacie Cooper, Ohatchee 27:24.74

Pleasant Valley's first two finishers, Emma Hood (L) and Juliana Ballew, sit with the state championship trophy. (Photo courtesy of Tara Hood)

Pleasant Valley’s first two finishers, Emma Hood (L) and Juliana Ballew, sit with the state championship trophy. (Photo courtesy of Tara Hood)

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