E.A. Sports Today

On the run

Alexandria’s Nunnelly burst on the scene with a win in the County XC Meet as a seventh-grader, always among the favorites

Pleasant Valley’s Rachel Faucett (L) and defending champion Trinity Roberts are the top two seeds in the girls race.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Abby Nunnelly burst on the high school running scene five years ago much the way many of the top girls runners in the county have done, as a spunky seventh-grader who took the Calhoun County Cross Country Meet by storm.

She came within seconds of breaking 20 minutes that year — the fastest time by a girls winner in years at the time — and won the race by more than 45 seconds. The win brought with it a promise of dominating the race until she graduated.

But a not-so-funny thing has happened in her development in the interim. Nunnelly has continued to run well in the County Meet, but if individual gold is the prime consideration, she has yet to match her initial success. But for the Alexandria junior success has been measured in more than that.

She has always been a contender — and will be again Thursday when the County Meet answers the starter’s gun at Oxford Lake at 9 a.m. — but had been beaten to the finish each of the last three years by young runners coming into their own.

“It’s probably the most nerve wracking (race) for me and I don’t know why,” Nunnelly said. “I get the most nervous before it than any other. I guess it’s the County and everyone will know what you’ve done. I love that course, though.

“I always want to win so it’s always in my head, but the time is really what they go by in your MileSplit, not your place. The placing hasn’t really bothered me. I always want my time to be better than the last time I run at that course and that has happened, so I’m glad with that.”

Nunnelly ran 20:07.04 when she won in 2013. The next year she finished second at 20:54.02. Two years ago she ran with a torn abductor muscle and still finished third at 20:34.76 and last year ran her personal best in the event, 19:44.34 and finished second.

She gets her next shot at the flat and fast course Thursday morning when the girls take the starter’s gun at 10 a.m. The boys run first at 9.

Nunnelly was running for Ohatchee the year she was County champion, but transferred to Alexandria the next year when the Valley Cubs formed their own program. The next time she wins – this year or next — she’ll become the first runner to win the race for two different teams.

She goes into Thursday’s race seeded third behind a pair of Pleasant Valley runners expected to lead their two-time state champion squad to their third County team title in four years – defending champion Trinity Roberts and Rachel Faucett. The boys race is projected to be a battle between Pleasant Valley and Anniston. PV senior Matisse Miller is the favorite.

“I’ve run with Rachel a long time and we’ve always been friends, we’ve always said ‘good job’ after our runs,” Nunnelly said. “Trinity popped up last year and she has pushed me more than anyone else has, because our times are so close together I guess.”

Nunnelly is in a good place with her season, having won her last two races – the Wildcat Fall Classic at White Plains Saturday and the Bullfrog Pond at St. Clair County the weekend before when most of her county competition was at Ohatchee’s Terrortorium race at Oxford Lake.

She’s also won at Clay Central — where she beat Roberts – and has a second and two thirds.

“She’s running real strong,” Alexandria coach Phillip Hartsfield said. “I’ve been real pleased with what she’s doing and I’m excited to see what she’s able to do when we get out there.

“I think once you’ve won something like that you get a kind of taste of it and you want to do it again. She’s been right there on the verge and just not been able to do it. I know that kind of drives her, motivates her. She wants to win it, of course she does, and of course I want her to, too.

“At the same time even though she wants to win she knows the higher she places at the front gives her team a better chance to win. If she goes out and does what she’s supposed to do, she’ll help us by her placement and if she wins it that’s like the cherry on the milkshake.”

That’s another wrinkle about Thursday’s race: While most of the field has run the Oxford Lake course this year (some twice), Nunnelly and the Lady Cubs have not run a race there this year. They’ve made practice runs on it, of course, but not run on it in race conditions.

“It’ll definitely be different,” she said. “The meets are always different than practice. It’s good to run a meet before the county so you can see where you’re at and where you can improve on it.”

Cover photo: Alexandria’s Abby Nunnelly won the Calhoun County girls championship as a seventh grader at Ohatchee and could become the first runner to win it for two different schools if she beats the field to the line Thursday. (All photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)


Team scores: Pleasant Valley 26, Alexandria 51, Ohatchee 91, Oxford 111, White Plains 112, Jacksonville 167, Saks 204.

Top 10 seeds: Trinity Roberts, PV 19:39.66; Rachel Faucett, PV 19:49.49; Abby Nunnelly, Alexandria 19:55.57; Mary Shelton, Jacksonville 21:09.15; Gracie Hood, PV 21:20.01; Briar Poytress, White Plains 21:28.47; Emma Hood, PV 21:58.54; Brittany Caywood, Ohatchee 21:36.30; Michaela Moore, Alexandria 22:04.69; Katie Snow, Alexandria 22:10.02.

Team scores: Pleasant Valley 45, Anniston 50, Ohatchee 90, Oxford 106, White Plains 113, Alexandria 180, Jacksonville 206, Faith Christian 220, Saks 235, Sacred Heart 246, Donoho 298.

Top 10 seeds: Matisse Miller, PV 16:39.28; James Haynes, Anniston 17:19.31; Reed Robinson, Oxford 17:20.37; Gabe Hammonds, Ohatchee 17:22.51; Blake Noah, Ohatchee 17:23.97; Skyler Mcleod, PV 17:27.57; Jacob Gladen, PV 17:35.00; Miciah Myles, Anniston 17:40.26; Jake Moore, White Plains 17:41.72; William Fairley, Anniston 17:48.31.


2016 – Trinity Roberts, Pleasant Valley 19:31.70. Team: Pleasant Valley.
2015 – Rebecca Hearn, Jacksonville 20:16.52. Team: Alexandria.
2014 – Rebecca Hearn, Jacksonville 20:24.60. Team: Pleasant Valley.
2013 – Abby Nunnelly, Ohatchee 20:07.74. Team: Oxford.
2012 – Cori Green, Oxford 21:30.30. Team: Oxford.
2008 – Cori Green, Oxford 20:55.12. Team: Oxford.
2007 – Cori Green, Oxford 22:13. Team: Oxford.

2016 – Reed Robinson, Oxford 17:35.96. Team: Pleasant Valley.
2015 – Zebedee Lunsford, Anniston 17:16.56. Team: Pleasant Valley.
2014 – Zebedee Lunsford, Anniston 18:06.02. Team: Ohatchee.
2013 – Matthew Bonds, Pleasant Valley 17:03.32. Team: Oxford.
2012 – Jacob Schwyn, Oxford 17:09.07. Team: Oxford.
2008 – Nathan Thrasher, Oxford 17:00.03. Team: Oxford.
2007 – Dan Futral, Oxford 17:49. Team: Oxford.

Pleasant Valley’s Matisse Miller is the top seeded runner in the boys race. He’s looking to break the 17:00 mark.

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