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Alexandria’s Nunnelly recovers from early stumble to win County girls race for the first time since 2013

Alexandria’s Abby Nunnelly (L) leads Pleasant Valley’s Trinity Roberts and Rachel Faucett about a mile into the Calhoun County girls race.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – Abby Nunnelly returned to the winner’s stand in the Calhoun County Cross Country Championships Thursday and it was a relief.

The Alexandria junior overcame a fall early in the race to win the girls county at Oxford Lake Thursday in a time of 19:48.41. She won by more than a minute over defending race champion Trinity Roberts of Pleasant Valley. PV’s Rachel Faucett was third.

To see a full gallery of photos from the race visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

Nunnelly has been among the favorites in the race ever since she burst on the scene with a win as a seventh-grader in 2013. She has always posted strong times, even when she wasn’t feeling her best, but in the three years that followed her breakout win she had two seconds and a third.

“I love it,” she said. “I’m excited to finally be back at No. 1 in the county. It’s an extreme confidence booster; I’m just ready for state now.”

When Nunnelly won the county in 2013 she was running in the red togs of Ohatchee because Alexandria didn’t have a cross country program at the time. She moved the following year and now is the first runner in race history to win the event for two different schools. She also is the first multiple winner of the race since Rebecca Hearn of Jacksonville won it in 2014 and 2015 and the oldest winner since Oxford senior Cori Green in 2012.

“I’m glad one of them was mine,” Lady Cubs coach Phillip Hartsfield said.

Nunnelly’s winning time was about four seconds slower than her second-place time a year ago, but a lot of that had to do with the soft conditions and the early fall.

The course was still mucky in spots from the early-week rain and was stirred up further by the boys’ race that went off an hour earlier. Nunnelly was in a pack with Roberts, Faucett and teammate Michaela Moore when she hit a mud puddle that swallowed her leg all the way to the knee.

She kept the pack in sight though, gathered her wits and gave chase. She soon overtook Roberts for the lead and kept it the rest of the race. Roberts crossed in 20:52.71 and Faucett followed in 21:08.51, just ahead of White Plains’ Briar Poytress, whose 21:11.96 broke her own school record.

Pleasant Valley won the team title, coming from 10 points down at the first mile to edge the Lady Cubs by nine (31-40).

“I kind of freaked out a little bit,” Nunnelly said of the fall, “but coming around the woods I picked up the pace. I knew I had to stay with them to get a chance because if they get way in front of me I can’t sprint up to them, then I’ll burn out at the end.”

Hartsfield never doubted her top runner’s chances of winning Thursday for a minute.

“I really thought she could win it this year,” he said. “I felt she was the strongest runner in the county, I really did, and I felt like she had a really good shot. In my heart of hearts I knew she could win it this year.”


Top 15 individuals

(All-County recognition)
Abby Nunnelly, Alexandria 19:48.41
Trinity Roberts, Pleasant Valley 20:52.71
Rachel Faucett, Pleasant Valley 21:08.51
Briar Poytress, White Plains 21:11.96
Mary Shelton, Jacksonville 21:32.70
Gracie Hood, Pleasant Valley 21:52.96
Michaela Moore, Alexandria 21:59.79
Allasha Dudley, Anniston 22:04.17
Juliana Ballew, Pleasant Valley 22:12.49
Sarah Kilgore, Alexandria 22:22.14
Catie Hulsey, Alexandria 22:25.62
Brittany Caywood, Ohatchee 22:29.52
Emma Hood, Pleasant Valley 22:32.54
Michaela Watts, Alexandria 22:36.91
Katie Snow, Alexandria 22:56.91
Team champion: Pleasant Valley

Here are the top five finishers in the Calhoun County girls race (from right): Alexandria’s Abby Nunnelly, Pleasant Valley’s Trinity Roberts and Rachel Faucett, White Plains’ Briar Poytress and Jacksonville’s Mary Shelton. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

On the cover: Alexandria’s Abby Nunnelly comes across the bridge approaching the two-mile marker in the Calhoun County Championship at Oxford Lake. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos).

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