E.A. Sports Today

Raiders on the run

Pleasant Valley sweeps County Cross-Country Championships; Ohatchee goes 1-2 in boys race, Alexandria’s Nunnelly wins third girls title

Ohatchee’s Blake Noah leads teammate Gabe Hammonds across the line to win the boys county cross-country championship. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – Pleasant Valley’s road to historic double blue started Thursday at Choccolocco Park.

The Raiders swept the Calhoun County Cross-Country Championships for the second time in three years with a dazzling display of depth that didn’t give the field much chance to breathe.

The girls placed all five of their scorers within the top 12 and their first seven all PR’d by 30 seconds in deteriorating race conditions not conducive for such success. They scored 36 points and won by 22 over runner-up Alexandria.

The boys put their five scorers among the top 13 point-getters and their top six among the top 20 overall. They scored 38 points, 21 ahead of runner-up Ohatchee.

“We did a group run last week at White Plains, we ran the pace of our seven and won,” PV coach Brad Hood said. “Our depth is unreal.”

Ohatchee’s Blake Noah won the boys race in 17:21.92, five seconds ahead of teammate Gabe Hammonds. Alexandria’s Abby Nunnelly won the girls race in 20:30.63, 26 seconds ahead of PV’s Trinity Roberts; it was her third career county title.

The Raiders’ goal this year is nothing short of double state championships; both teams finished second a year ago. The girls may have their easiest road to victory than they’ve had in recent years based on who’s in and who’s moved out in Class 3A; the boys are heavy favorites.

“If I was Vegas and I could pick anybody in the state to win a state championship, I would look at 3A and say Pleasant Valley boys,” Hood said. “And I’ve never been able to tell them; I never fill them with false hopes. They tried to prove me wrong last year. This is the boys’ first in school history shot at a blue trophy.”

And it all started Thursday.

“This was our hard push,” Hood said. “It’s special winning county in a county that’s so strong. We’ve got so many teams that are top 3, top 5 in their classifications. That’s what makes it special.”

Noah takes this one

Blake Noah and Gabe Hammonds talk throughout the week of a race about who’s going to win between them once they get on the course.

This one went to Noah.

The Ohatchee senior pulled away from teammate Hammonds and Pleasant Valley’s Skyler Mcleod in the stretch run to win the boys county championship and for this week at least earn bragging rights among teammates.

“Me and him talk a lot to each other saying who’s going to win each week,” Noah said. “I guess whoever wins gets the bragging rights.

“We knew we were going to go first and second, we just didn’t know who was going to win. We knew it was going to be one of us though, because when me and him run up in the front together we just run together and take off from everybody else.”

Noah won the race in 17:21.92 with Hammonds pulling in behind at 17:26.19. Their 1-2 finish helped the Indians squeeze out a second-place team finish, two points ahead of White Plains. Mcleod finished third in 17:39.44.

Noah, Hammonds and Mcleod ran up front together for most of the race, easily swapping the lead among them. The ending was almost like a NASCAR race where teammates are teammates until it comes time to go for the win – without the big wreck, of course.

“He (Noah) kept telling me to pace with Skyler because Skyler had the lead and save it for the end; he had more save than I did,” Hammonds said. “I was happy for him, but kind of bummed I didn’t get it. Still fun, though.”

Nunnelly goes out with bang

Abby Nunnelly was laying out all the medals she had won in her high school running and track career in anticipation of her signing ceremony to North Alabama. It was an impressive display, but she needs to find some more space.

The Alexandria senior added her third career Calhoun County cross-country title – and second in a row – to the array when she led wire-to-wire and won the final county cross country race of her career in 20:30.63. It was a time similar to what she ran in Ohatchee’s Terrortorium race on the Choccolocco Park course two weeks ago.

“I wanted to win this bad, end it with a bang, I guess,” Nunnelly said. “I can’t believe it’s gone by so fast, six years. Realizing it’s my last county meet, it made me feel grateful for what I could do and how fast I could run. It just made me feel proud.”

She won her first county as a seventh-grader runner for Ohatchee and last year for the Lady Cubs – both at Oxford Lake.

“I can think back and remember the actually race,” she said. “It was when Calhoun County wasn’t big into running, they barely had enough for teams to actually compete. I guess I didn’t realize how big a deal it was being so little, but now that I look back I realize how big of a deal it truly was.”

To see more photos from the meet, visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

Alexandria’s Abby Nunnelly races to her third county girls cross-country title. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

Calhoun County Championship

Team scores:
Pleasant Valley 38, Ohatchee 59, White Plains 61, Oxford 98, Jacksonville 112, Alexandria 161, Donoho 219, Saks 241, Sacred Heart 263.

Top 15 Finishers
Blake Noah, Ohatchee 17:21.92
Gabe Hammonds, Ohatchee 17:26.18
Skyler Mcleod, Pleasant Valley 17:39.44
Coleman Haynes, Pleasant Valley 17:53.19
Christian Myles, Anniston 17:53.55
Reed Robinson, Oxford 17:58.40
Jacob Gladen, Pleasant Valley 18:04.17
Dylan Hulsey, Oxford 18:09.01
Luke Larson, White Plains 18:13.07
Kayd Hightower, White Plains 18:15.78
Evan Garner, Jackson 18:23.55
Carson Limbaugh, White Plains 18:23.71
Brayden Wright, Pleasant Valley 18:34.63
Jackson Hicks, Anniston 18:43.13
Kaige Roberts, Pleasant Valley 18:47.51

Team scores:
Pleasant Valley 36, Alexandria 58, White Plains 71, Ohatchee 97, Oxford 114, Jacksonville 187, Faith Christian 210, Saks 213.

Top 15 Finishers
Abby Nunnelly, Alexandria 20:30.63
Trinity Roberts, Pleasant Valley 20:56.21
Camden Wilson, White Plains 21:58.05
Eva Bryant, Pleasant Valley 22:08.70
Mia Munoz, Oxford 22:18.15
Michaela Moore, Alexandria 22:19.91
Kaylee Austin, Pleasant Valley 22:21.36
Michaela Watts, Alexandria 22:27.25
Savannah Yates, White Plains 22:30.07
Ashlee Keur, Oxford 22:39.85
Elizabeth Hall, Pleasant Valley 22:53.32
Juliana Ballew, Pleasant Valley 22:55.31
Jayda Fair, Ohatchee 22:57.80
Gracie Hood, Pleasant Valley 22:58.63
Brittany Caywood, Ohatchee 23:03.10

Elizabeth Hall leads a bloc of Pleasant Valley runners across the line that scored big points for the Lady Raiders. Behind Hall are teammates Juliana Ballew and Gracie Hood and Ohatchee’s Jayda Fair. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

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