E.A. Sports Today

They’re on the map

Haynes’ initiative helps Anniston build its first cross-country team, in position to challenge for County Championship

The Anniston cross-country team toes the line to start a training run. (From left) Hunter Rouse, Wisdom Hughley, Montez Rouse, Christian Myles, Allasha Dudley, Miciah Myles, Tony White, William Fairley and James Haynes.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

James Haynes wanted to run his senior cross country season with the support and fellowship of a team, but it wasn’t looking like Anniston was going to have one this fall. So, he went out and got one.

He approached a few of his running friends and they approached a few of their running friends and all of a sudden Haynes had his team, the first full team the Bulldogs have ever fielded in the sport.


And it’s a a good one, too, projected to be a real challenger to favored Pleasant Valley in next week’s Calhoun County Championship. In one virtual meet based on the best times of the runners to date, the Bulldogs were only three points behind.

“I wanted to start something new for Anniston High School,” Haynes said. “People think cross-country is just running, but it’s a team sport. We’re doing some great things out here right now so after this year hopefully people will start trying to come out and want to run cross-country. This is the first team, I don’t want it to be the last team that we have.”

The Bulldogs had always put a couple runners in meets the last few years and produced the county champion twice. Haynes and freshman Miciah Myles, coach Lisa Howard’s two distance runners who didn’t play football, could have run in meets independently this year, too, but they would have been running for individual glory and the Bulldogs wouldn’t have been eligible for a county or state team crown.

Haynes was encouraged to put together a team by White Plains coach John Moore, who long recognized the runner’s talent and passion for the sport. Moore suggested it during a group meal after a Saturday training run this summer and after approach his coach about it Haynes got the ball rolling.

“James is an incredible athlete, a great runner,” Moore said. “I slid down to James and said you’re a great runner, don’t you want a team of great runners around you? You’re a senior don’t go out by yourself.

“It’s one of those reciprocal things. Tim Tebow would not have been Tim Tebow without the Florida Gators and the Florida Gators would not have been as good without Tim Tebow. If you take somebody like James and put him on a team he can lead and push and he’s doing really well his team would be do well and when they do well they encourage each other.”

Haynes and Howard made a competition out of the number of runners they could find to fill the roster.

Haynes’ targets were basketball teammate William Fairley and Tony White, one of the original group of Bulldog cross-country runners with Haynes and two-time county champ Zebedee Lunsford.

“I chose (Fairley) because he really has heart,” Haynes said. “Tony at first didn’t want to because he got a job, but I was telling him we’ve got something good going on here and we could really use your help because he’s a good runner.”

Howard doubled-teamed White.

“When I talked to Tony I said me, you, Zeb and James started this team so what better way to do it,” Howard said. “Zeb is already gone, but me, you and Fry (Haynes) can finish this thing out; we actually have a team.”

They’ve added Hunter and Montez Rouse, Christian Myles, Wisdom Hughley and Allasha Dudley and they’ve done well.

The Bulldogs have run three meets this fall. They finished third in their season debut at White Plains, with Haynes and Myles running fourth and fifth, respectively. Then they were 12th at Spain Park, with Haynes and Myles finishing in the top 50 counters.

And most impressively two weeks ago they were third in the Bronze Division of the Jesse Owens Classic on the course that will stage the state championship. Haynes finished 14th with a personal best 17:19.31, Myles was 25th (17:40.26) and the Bulldogs’ top four runners all came in under 18:00.

They run again Saturday morning in the Wildcat Fall Classic at White Plains.

“When I ran that I was really shocked,” Haynes said “When I came across the line and saw 17:19 I was shocked. I felt good in the race. I was trying to push because I really wanted to go down there and win. I tried to stay with the best runners because they’re gonna push me and I know however hard I run I know my team is going to be behind me.

“When we finished up and got third, we were so happy. People always think we can’t (do well), they don’t believe in us. We came in third and were so happy and everybody was looking at us like why are they so happy? The announcer said this must be your first trophy and we said yes, this is our first year having a team. Look at what we’re doing. We’re doing great things. We’re just trying to put Anniston on the map.”

On the cover: Anniston coach Lisa Howard and James Haynes discuss race strategy during practice.

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