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Race notes: Anniston’s Haynes hopes the Bulldogs will continue fielding cross-country teams, Alexandria’s Nunnelly top five again

Alexandria’s Abby Nunnelly maintains a top five position through the first mile of the girls Class 5A race. On the cover, Anniston’s James Haynes pushes towards a strong finish.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

MOULTON – The fairy-tale first season of the Anniston cross-country team reached its final chapter Saturday at the state championship meet with a quality finish. The architect hopes this first team won’t be the last.

The Bulldogs, who didn’t have a team four months ago until senior James Haynes made it his mission, won county and sectional titles this fall and wrapped up the season with a fourth-place finish in the Class 4A boys race.

They nudged out Randolph by a point for fourth and were only four points out of third.

Haynes was the Bulldogs’ fastest across the line with a PR of 16:55.66, finishing 11th overall in his final high school race for all-state recognition and scoring eight points. William Farley, Miciah Myles and Tony White all finished in the top 35.

“A lot of people didn’t think we’d make it this far,” Haynes said. “People doubted us, thinking we ain’t nothing but we’re trying to prove we’re something.

“I hope they still build up a good team (next year) because there are still some great runners (here); there’s still more to come. I don’t want this to be the last year they get a team and make it here. I want them to get a team next year and hope they’ll do better than we did this year.”

ABBY’S ROAD: Alexandria county champion Abby Nunnelly finished fourth in the 5A girls race, one spot better than she did here a year ago. It’s the fourth year in a row she has been in the top five. The junior has been coming here since she was a seventh grader at Ohatchee and has never been out of the top eight.

The last four years at a Lady Cub she has finished second (as an eighth-grader), third, fifth and now fourth. She would have liked to have run a personal best in her biggest race of the season, but was still satisfied with her time of 19:35.29.

“It was the best I could do so I’m proud of that,” she said.

Her plan was to let the pace setters go out early, keep them in her sights and then move on them around the two-mile mark. When she got to that point Saturday, however, the leaders had gotten too far ahead.

“We’re always looking for a top five finish so in that respect I’m very proud of the way she ran,” Lady Cubs coach Phillip Hartsfield said. “Her time was good. There’s nothing I’d complain about at all as far as how she ran.”

Nunnelly said she would compete in indoor track this winter. It will be her first time running indoor since she was a seventh grader at Ohatchee.

ALL-STATE: Calhoun County sent just over 100 runners to the state meet and at the end of the day more than 10 percent received all-state recognition.

Ohatchee sent their top two boys runners, Blake Noah and Gabe Hammonds, and both placed in the top 15 in the Class 3A race. Noah finished ninth at 17:21.72.

“I’m pretty glad about it,” Noah said. “’I’ve been running since seventh grade and I made sectional and all-county every year. This is the first year I got this, so I was really glad about it.”

Hammonds got the last spot. He outraced Houston Academy freshman Gunnar Smith to the wire for the final spot.

“He said do you have a kick and I said I’m going to show you and at the end I just took off,” he said. “There was a guy right in front of me that I had to pass him. I knew I was in 16th.”

Both runners said they benefitted from a good night’s sleep. Noah said he usually stays up into the wee hours the night before a race, but Indians coach Casey Howell had them room with him this weekend and made sure they were in at a reasonable hour.

“I slept good last night,” Hammonds said.

The other All-Star honorees were Haynes, Nunnelly, Jacksonville’s Mary Shelton and Ohatchee’s Brittany Caywood, PV’s Matisse Miller, Skyler Mcleod and Jacob Gladen, and PV’s Trinity Roberts and Gracie Hood.

LOCAL TEAMS: In case you missed it here are the Calhoun County team finishes in the state meet:

Girls – Pleasant Valley (2nd 3A), Ohatchee (8th 3A), White Plains (8th 4A), Jacksonville (11th 4A), Saks (12th 4A), Alexandria (7th 5A), Oxford (14th 6A).

Boys – Pleasant Valley (2nd 3A), Anniston (4th 4A), White Pains (9th 4A)

WORTH NOTING: White Plains’ Briar Poytress and Jake Moore (17:01) both broke their own school records with finishes at the top 25. Virtually all the Wildcats set PRs. … Sacred Heart’s Noah George was the fastest seventh-grader in Class 1A-2A, running 18:46.92 to finish in the top 40. James Middlebrooks was the fastest Cardinal, finishing 17th (17:49.27) … Pleasant Valley county champion Matisse Miller will sign to run at Jacksonville State Monday.

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