E.A. Sports Today

Chasing a title

Looking for two trophies, Pleasant Valley leads a strong contingent of Calhoun County runners into the State Cross Country Championships

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — As much as Pleasant Valley coach Brad Hood enjoys the company on the long rides back from major cross country meets, he might try to leave a couple seats open in the big red truck Saturday.

They would be seats reserved for a couple of trophies – blue and blue, red and red, red and blue, doesn’t matter – from the Class 3A race of the State Championship Meet.

Hood’s PV girls go to the Oakville Indian Mounds Park & Museum course in Moulton as the defending 3A state champions; his boys are a serious contender for second. A two-trophy haul would be a significant coup.

“Tell me what kind of ride would that be coming home with a red and a blue or two reds; that would be crazy,” Hood said. “I thought I’d coach my whole life and never get to have one. I’m not saying were going to get it, but the opportunity’s there.

“It’s the best opportunity our boys have ever had in school history to bring home a red trophy. To me, the boys winning a red trophy is as big of a deal as the girls winning a blue. And then, for the girls to have an opportunity to go back-to-back in this sport that is so dominated by the private schools … that’s pretty cool.

“Last year (the championship trophy) rode in the middle and it was buckled up in the seat belt. I mentioned to somebody the other day I hope I have to have two empty spots. I know that’s far-fetched, but it’s out there. That would be phenomenal. You can dream of that, come home with two state trophies. The opportunity’s there.”

Both PV teams go into their races seeded third based on best times – the girls behind American Christian and T.R. Miller, the boys behind heavy-favorite ACA and Montgomery Academy — but the Raiders haven’t run a fast course like the one they’ll be on Saturday.

The girls have not lost a scored race this season; the boys have missed only twice. In the combined listing of all last week’s Sectional results, the PV girls were No. 17 (and the first 3A).

Last year, the girls went into the race seeded No. 1, but still with something to prove. This year, the may be going in No. 3, but they’re 30 seconds faster as a team. Seven of their top 10 ran personal bests at the sectionals on a course they’d never run before.

They have three of the top 21 times in Class 3A this year — county champion Trinity Roberts (No. 4), Rachel Faucett (No. 13) and Emma Hood (No. 21). Bailey Dollar has the 42nd best time in 3A this season, but she has been getting steadily faster as the season has gone on and could be a difference maker Saturday.

“Last year I knew on paper it looked like we had a legitimate chance; really, I thought it was our race to lose based on the numbers,” Hood said. “But we’ve never done it, we’ve never been on that stage, so I was worried about that.

“This year it’s kind of the opposite. On paper we’re like third, but deep inside I feel like we’re the team to beat.”

The Raiders have even more incentive to do well than just winning a trophy. Hood has promised if both teams bring home some hardware they’re going on a cruise. Last year, he promised the girls team a trip to Disney World if they won.

They did, the trip was booked and paid for, but the race got canceled because of Hurricane Matthew. They wound up joining the boys at St. Clair County’s Bullfrog Pond Classic – a race they swept — and later ran in an open 5K in Gulf Shores while the boys ran the Terrortorium on the Creekbank at Oxford Lake.

“Look, we may not get state rings, but we get a cruise – good enough,” senior Daniel Gladen said. “If he doesn’t do it, we’re not exactly going to be happy. We’ll uphold our end and he better uphold his.”

Calhoun County will be well represented at the championships with nine full teams and 14 individual qualifiers. There are two individual section champions and two runner-ups in the full 1,740-runner field.

Jacksonville’s Rebecca Hearn (4A) and Ohatchee’s Gabe Hammonds (3A) are reigning section champions, while Alexandria’s Abby Nunnelly (5A) and PV’s Trinity Roberts (3A) were second in their respective races.

Nunnelly will chase a state title that has just eluded her grasp the last two years in the first race of the day. The Valley Cubs sophomore was third last year and second two years ago. She has the third-fastest time in Class 5A this season.

Hearn is looking for a personal best Saturday that should bring her another high finish; she was fifth two years ago and seventh last year. She has the eighth fastest time in Class 4A this season. Last year she qualified as an individual; this year she’s going with her team, just as she did two years ago.

“The preparation has been the same,” Hearn said, “but I’m just trying to focus more on making sure I have a good race and being there for the rest of our team … and making sure they have good races, too. There’s more energy when everyone is there.”

Oakville Indian Mounds Park & Museum, Moulton

(Races involving Calhoun County runners)
8:30 a.m. – 5A Girls (Alexandria team)
8:50 – 4A Boys (Jacksonville individuals, White Plains team, Saks individual)
9:30 – 5A Boys (Alexandria individuals)
9:50 – 4A Girls (Jacksonville team, White Plains team)
10:30 – 3A Girls (Pleasant Valley team, Ohatchee team)
10:50 – 6A Boys (Oxford individual)
11:10 – 1A-2A Girls (Donoho individuals, Faith Christian individual)
11:30 – 3A Boys (Pleasant Valley team, Ohatchee team)
11:50 – 6A Girls (Oxford individuals)
12:10 p.m. – 1A-2A Boys (Donoho team, Faith Christian individuals, Sacred Heart individual)


Boys – White Plains (4A), Pleasant Valley (3A), Ohatchee (3A), Donoho (1A-2A).

Girls – Alexandria (5A), White Plains (4A), Jacksonville (4A), Pleasant Valley (3A), Ohatchee (3A).


Boys – Reed Robinson, Oxford (6A); Gannon Womack, Alexandria (5A); Luis Rodriguez, Alexandria (5A); Kevin Barajas, Jacksonville (4A), Braxton McFall, Jacksonville (4A); Rayburn Price, Saks (4A); Jack Sills, Faith Christian (1A-2A); Daniel Clark, Faith Christian (1A-2A); Michael Austadillo, Sacred Heart (1A-2A).

Girls – Madison Reeder, Oxford (6A); Toni Coley, Oxford (6A); Libby Davis, Donoho (1A-2A); Savannah Frickey, Donoho (1A-2A); Shelley Phillips, Faith Christian (1A-2A).

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