E.A. Sports Today

Pleasant Valley payoff

The Lady Raiders’ cross country team remains on track for Disney World, their reward for winning last year’s state championship

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

UPDATE: Hurricane Matthew is bearing down on Florida and projected to impact the state during the race window. As of Tuesday night the race is still on as scheduled. PV coach Brad Hood said it would be “around 6 (p.m.) tomorrow (Wednesday) before we decide” how to proceed. Fees will be refunded if the region is evacuated and the race cancelled.

JACKSONVILLE — The runners have been looking forward to the trip ever since the promise was made, through the yard sales, fundraisers and practices. But it never really became real until one day at practice last week.

The Pleasant Valley girls cross country team has been counting down the days to this weekend’s trip to the 21st annual Disney Cross Country Classic ever since coach Brad Hood promised them a trip to the Magic Kingdom if they won a state championship last fall.

The Lady Raiders ran to the title and held him to it. The anticipation has been building since the season began but the reality of the trip set in last Thursday when Tara Hood, the coach’s wife, opened up a big box from the trunk and pulled out the Disney-themed T-shirts the girls will wear on the trip.

“Look like a BEAUTY, Run like a BEAST” was written on the back of the fuscia shirts they’ll wear in the park.

“That’s the ticket for them,” Hood said. “They know it’s real now. They’re so excited, some of the mommas said some of these kids won’t sleep at all (this) week.”

The idea for the trip was planted last year during a midseason team review. While laying out the competition for the state meet Hood strategically let slip that American Christian Academy went to this race the year before.

That’s all the girls had to hear; they wanted to know why ACA got to go and he told them that’s what state champions do, and the promise was made.

“It was motivation, I guess, instead of the (championship) rings,” Rachel Faucett said. “He said it before we knew we were going to win. Then we won and it was like ‘Oh my gosh, we’re actually going to do it.’”

The Lady Raiders may be taken an even stronger team to Orlando than the one that got them there. They have won all four of their starts this season, running times better than they did at state last year, with Trinity Roberts winning twice. The boys, who will be running at St. Clair County while the girls are in Orlando, have won three of four.

“I think we’ll compete,” Hood said. “It’s a flat course, so I’m looking for some good times, but I’m not going to stress on that. If I was worried about that, we wouldn’t go to a park, we’d sleep in all day, take it easy. We’re going to have fun, and in the midst, if we can have a good run that’s even better.”

The trip won’t be all business. Since they’re in the neighborhood, the Lady Raiders plan to visit Hollywood Studios before and after the race Friday and then hit the Magic Kingdom all day Saturday.

“I’m excited about both,” Roberts said. “I’d rather go to the park than run, but it’s going to be a great experience. Some people have been to Disney, but since others haven’t, it’s going to be special. It’s my first time. I’m not going to go there and try to break my leg out there; I’m just going to have fun and do what I can.”

Hood may have created a monster with his promise of the Disney trip. He told the teams this year if the boys and girls both bring home state championship trophies – blue or red – they get to go on a cruise.

“We’ll find us a race to mix in,” Hood said.

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