E.A. Sports Today

Off and running

Pleasant Valley’s boys and girls win overall races as teams christen White Plains’ new Wildcat Trail cross country course

Lyman Ward senior Rogan Norrell celebrates winning the boys race in the Wildcat Twilight Invite Thursday. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/Gung Ho Photos)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The Pleasant Valley boys cross country team ran “Chariots of Fire” style to the point on the course where runners come out of the woods for the final push singing in cadence “Carry On My Wayward Son,” and they did just that – carry on.

Both of their teams did.

The Raiders’ boys and two-time reigning state champion girls continued their dominance of Calhoun County cross country Thursday night when swept the inaugural Wildcat Twilight Invite, the new season-opening 5K that christened White Plains’ Wildcat Trail.

The meet was scored in small school and large school divisions, but the Raiders were dominant enough to win both when the teams were scored together. The PV girls had three of the top four finishers, four of the top eight and scored 28 points; Alexandria was second. The boys put all five of their scorers in the top 20, including four in the top 12, to post 47 points; White Plains was second.

“I was surprised,” PV coach Brad Hood said. “We met not even four weeks ago (for the first time as a team). I let them be kids over the summer. Our mileage is almost non-existence. Our kids have heart, the heart of a champion, and it showed. We were behind on mile two (in the girls race) and every kid picked up a position. And our boys went out a little hot.”

Pleasant Valley freshman Trinity Roberts won the girls race in a time of 20:58.83; teammate Rachel Faucett was second. Lyman Ward senior Rogan Norrell won the boys race in 17:25.68; Pleasant Valley’s Matisse Miller was second.

The Pleasant Valley girls haven’t lost a scored meet since winning their 2015 state championship.

For the past two years Hood has promised his teams cruises and trips to Disney World if they won a state crown. They got the blue trophies and the coach followed through both times, although the Orlando trip was scratched because of a hurricane named Matthew. Both teams are projected contenders this year, but Hood is running out of incentives. What next, a European vacation?

“It gets to the point where you can’t keep dangling the carrot,” he said. “At this point these girls expect to win. They want to go enter the big-school division when they go to races. They don’t want to go enter the 1A-3A division, so we entered some races this year where there are some really good teams.”

In the girls race Thursday, Roberts, Faucett, teammate Emma Hood, Alexandria’s Abby Nunnelly and White Plains’ Briar Poytress set the early pace, but Roberts overtook Faucett between the 1.5- and two-mile mark and steadily pulled away. When she reached the point where the PV boys were stationed she had a comfortable lead.

Hood wants his boys to go out fast this year but Norrell went out a bit faster than Miller anticipated. Norrell grabbed the lead from Miller in the first mile and kept pushing. He had a sizable lead by the time he emerged from the woods with about two-tenths of a mile to go.

“I didn’t think I was going to win, honestly; I just thought I’d be able to contend and run my time,” Norrell said. “I’ve been running for a few years, but this is the first year I’ve been training, put in the miles this summer. That’s what made the difference.”

Since it was the first race ever on the course that winds through the property of the White Plains Youth Sports Complex and past the elementary and middle schools, both winning times stand as course records. With plans to run the course backwards when the Wildcats host another meet Oct. 21, the marks will stand until next September.

White Plains coach John Moore believes the course he designed with the help of Michael Weathington and Charles Givens (a former high school runner) compares favorably to the the Jesse Owens Park course that holds the state championship meet and will only get better over time. It drew generally high marks from the runners Thursday.

It certainly proved more challenging than the Oxford Lake course that heretofore was the only venue in the county to hold cross-country meets.

Roberts’ winning time, faster than she thought it’d be but slowed by muddy conditions, was about a minute slower than her third-place finish at the Class 3A state meet last year and about 90 seconds slower than her winning time in the Calhoun County Meet at Oxford Lake. Norrell’s winning time was about 50 seconds slower than the winning boys 3A state time and about 35 seconds slower than the winning time in last year’s season-opening Waffle House Invitational at Oxford Lake.

“It’s a really good course that makes people push,” Roberts said. “It’s a really good course to train on.”

“I liked the first half, but the second half was uphill mud and there were no mile markers, so I wasn’t sure where I was,” Faucett said. “I like the finish, it’s good; you can sprint out.”

“Going down the hills it feels like you’re just flying down them,” Nunnelly said. “I love this course. Jesse Owens is my favorite course of all time. This is my second.”

“Great course, amazing course,” Miller said. “It’s a very, very tough course. If you don’t train hard you won’t be able to finish here good.”

Pleasant Valley’s Trinity Roberts glances over at the clock after winning the first ever competitive race on White Plains’ Wildcat Trail Thursday. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Overall: Pleasant Valley 47, White Plains 66, Anniston 117, Alexandria 125, Jacksonville 127, Lyman Ward 160, Faith Christian 188, Sacred Heart 193, Donoho 223, Clay Central 232, Saks 245.
Small school scoring: Pleasant Valley 24, Lynam Ward 66, Faith Christian 87, Sacred Heart 89, Donoho 98.
Large school scoring: White Plains 39, Anniston 66, Alexandria 67, Jacksonville 72, Clay Central 130, Saks 139.
Top 10 overall: Rogan Norell, Lyman Ward 17:25.68; Matisse Miller, Pleasant Valley 18:01.87; Jake Moore, White Plains 18:06.47; James Haynes, Anniston, 18:18.77; Miciah Myles, Anniston 18:23.49; Kendell England, Lyman Ward 18:29.94; Skyler Mcleod, Pleasant Valley 18:31.20; Jacob Gladen, Pleasant Valley 18:48.38; William Farley, Anniston 19:08.60; Luis Rodriguez, Alexandria 19:09.43.

Overall: Pleasant Valley 28, Alexandria 41, White Plains 71, Jacksonville 126, Saks 147, Clay Central 147.
Small school scoring: Pleasant Valley 15.
Large school scoring: Alexandria 24, White Plains 43, Jacksonville 95, Saks 112, Clay Central 112.
Top 10 overall: Trinity Roberts, Pleasant Valley 20:58.83; Rachel Faucett, Pleasant Valley 21:30.15; Abby Nunnelly, Alexandria 21:47.46; Emma Hood, Pleasant Valley 22:55.68; Briar Poytress, White Plains 23:03.82; Mary Shelton, Jacksonville 23:04.43; Michaela Moore, Alexandria 23:24.21; Gracie Hood, Pleasant Valley 23:33.98; Destiny Heathcock, Alexandria 23:38.40; Sarah Kilgore, Alexandria 23:56.93.

Cover photo: White Plains cross country coach John Moore (far left), Calhoun County schools superintendent Joe Dyar (second left) are joined by school and county officials to cut the ribbon on the Wildcat Trail cross country course. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

Pleasant Valley’s Matisse Miller (R) sprints to the lead off the starting line. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

To see more B.J. Franklin pictures from the race visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com and open the track/XC file

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