E.A. Sports Today

Making history

Pleasant Valley boys make history with state cross-country title, school’s first boys team to win state

Pleasant Valley cross country coaches Rex McAllister and Brad Hood (R) check out the scoreboard that confirms the Raiders’ boys state championship Saturday.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OAKVILLE — Better off red may have sounded good to the Pleasant Valley boys cross country team the last couple years, but it wasn’t going to be anything but second-best this time around.

The Raiders harriers had one goal in mind when the season started back in the summer and they grabbed it with both hands Saturday. The Raiders claimed the first state championship in a boys sport in school history when they won the Class 3A title at the Oakville Indian Mounds Park course where they finished second each of the last two years.

Projected third in the virtual meet, PV scored 90 points and edged runner-up Bayside Academy by three for the precious blue trophy. The Raiders’ girls team, meanwhile, came home without hardware for the first time in four years, finishing third in their race, one point short of a red runner-up trophy (a margin of eight-tenths of a second).

“This is nothing that just so happened,” Raiders coach Brad Hood said of the boys’ title. “This is something we’ve been working on for three years with them. The last couple years they knew we weren’t ready to compete at this level yet and the red trophies were great the last couple years, and to last year even challenge ACA (American Christian) at state by the end of the season was a huge boost towards this year.”

But this year the push to win it all touched virtually every aspect of their being.

“We didn’t even make the red Gatorade; we made the blue Gatorade,” Hood continued. “They checked that cooler and made sure these last championship meets there wasn’t any red Gatorade in there; we were drinking the blue Gatorade. They don’t even like the word ‘red.’ When I need to motivate them in practice I can talk about the red trophy; it just fires them up.

“And there’s nothing wrong with that, but that just wasn’t their goal this year. Their goal was to do something that’s never been done before – to be champions. This is special for them, especially for the seniors to go out this way.”

There were two keys to the victory: Senior Skylar McLeod’s all-state fifth-place finish (17:14.6), staying up front all race and leading the Raiders across the line — with a PR by some 20 seconds in cold, sloppy conditions — and their sixth and seventh finishers, Caden Nelson and John Anthony Kritlow, coming across before Bayside’s fifth scored runner.

Nelson, an eighth-grader, and Kritlow, a senior, might not have gotten the points for their positions, but Bayside didn’t get those points either — and it was a seven-point gap.

The other counters in PV’s top five were Jacob Gladen (14 points), Coleman Haynes (16), Brayden Wright (23) and Kaige Roberts (32).

“That shows you you can look at a virtual meet all day, you can look at a computer, but we all race on the same course, under the same conditions, at the same time and the Nos. 3 and 6 (projected) teams go 1-2, three points apart,” Hood said. “That shows you you can’t look on that computer.

“You hear Nick Saban talk about ‘rat poison,” that’s what I call it. I show the kids what their competition has done, but I tell them at the same time that’s rat poison, because they look at that and they get discouraged.

“Trust your training, don’t hold back one percent and have no regrets and that’s the way those kids ran. If we’d have relaxed, Bayside would have walked off with the blue trophy.”

Mcleod is the embodiment of rise the Raiders have made to reach Saturday’s pinnacle. As an eighth-grader he missed making their 10-man travel roster by three-tenths of a second and used it as motivation for the rest of his career.

In the biggest and final race of his high school career, he ran with the leaders all race and when he got passed in the last 800 meters he used that last-race-mentality to push himself not to lose valuable track position. He was a solid fifth as a buffer between Bayside’s first two finishers.

“We were ranked third, behind by like 30 points, so coming out and doing this is insane; I’m so happy,” Mcleod said. “I believed in my team. I had so much faith in them. I knew we could win it from the start of the season.”

The moments immediately following the race were an emotional rollercoaster for the Raiders. While Hood and assistant coach Rex McAllister were intently checking their calculations at the scoreboard, the runners were back in the cozy confines of their team tent thinking they had done all they could but still finished second.

Their emotions flipped when the father of a former Raiders’ runner Matisse Miller showed them a picture of the electronic scoreboard that flashed their victory. The celebration was one man short, though, as Gladen went to find the coaches, so he literally was the last to know.

When he finally got the news he couldn’t have been happier.

The Raiders wanted to celebrate their historic victory by jumping in the lake on the course, but meet officials rebuffed their desire under penalty of disqualification.

Still, the dry celebration didn’t dampen their jubilation.

“This is history-making,” PV principal Mark Proper said. “It’s an awesome feeling knowing how hard this group has worked and how hard all the boys have worked over the years in all sports. It’s been an uphill climb competing with all these girls titles.

“I know the work these guys have put in, especially the last couple years and now it’s paid off. It’s just been a long path that’s been laid by a lot of people. This is a special time right here for Pleasant Valley High School, the history of the school, athletics, and right now the boys program. This is big.

“Winning breeds winning and we’re on the verge of a lot of things happening throughout the school in all of our programs.”

END OF A GOOD RUN: As soon as Alexandria’s Abby Nunnelly crossed the finish in the Class 5A girls race the realization hit “this is really it,” that her storied six-year high school running career was finally at an end.

She was a little sad, but that wasn’t the prevailing emotion.

“I’m more excited because I know I’m going to continue doing it,” the Lady Cubs senior said.

And that will be at North Alabama. The three-time County champion will formally sign with the Lions Friday morning in the Alexandria library.

Nunnelly finished seventh in her final high school race – another all-state showing here – with a time of 20:12.43 on a sloppy track that left the bottom of her shoes full of mud.

It might not have been as fast as she’d have liked, or as high a finish, but she did outsprint Beauregard’s Molly Conway down the stretch to gain a bit of from the sectional race at Choccolocco Park where Conway beat her by four seconds for the win.

And there are no regrets.

“I’m happy with what I did,” she said. “I’m happy with my whole career. I had a good one.”

ALL-STATE: Calhoun County had six runners earn all-state medals for finishing among the top 15 in their respective races. Here is the list:

CLASS 1A-2A – Boys: Blake Noah, Ohatchee; Gabe Hammonds, Ohatchee; Girls: Jayda Fair, Ohatchee.
CLASS 3A – Boys: Skyler Mcleod, Pleasant Valley; Girls: Eva Bryant, Pleasant Valley.
CLASS 5A – Girls: Abby Nunnelly, Alexandria.

FUN WITH NUMBERS: In one of the oddities of the qualification process for the state meet, Oxford’s girls didn’t place high enough in the sectional standings to send a team here, but the Lady Jackets did qualify enough individual runners to make enough for a mythical team score.

Had the Lady Jackets’ five runners been scored as a team Saturday, they would have secured 583 points, which would have placed them 21st. Of course, other teams in the field would have had their scoring impacted by where the Lady Jackets fell, but you get the idea.

Eighth-grader Mia Munoz was Oxford’s first across the line in 21:58.41, 56th overall.

At Oakville Indian Mounds Park

Boys team scores:
Pleasant Valley 90, Bayside Academy 93, St. Bernard 117, Westminster-Oak Mountain 146, Houston Academy 148, Westminster Christian 150, T.R. Miller 161, St. Michael 224, J.B. Pennington 236, Pisgah 269, Winfield City 274, Holly Pond 303, Prattville Christian 317, Saint James 320, Brindlee Mountain 365, East Lawrence 443.
Race winner: Cooper Reynolds, Westminster-Oak Mountain 16:49.29.
Calhoun County runners: 5. Skyler Mcleod, Pleasant Valley 17:14.69; 18. Jacob Gladen, Pleasant Valley 17:52.00; 20. Coleman Haynes, Pleasant Valley 17:54.41; 28. Brayden Wright, Pleasant Valley 18:12.79; 37. Kaige Roberts, Pleasant Valley 18:21.52; 40. Cayden Nelson, Pleasant Valley 18:31.48; 44. John Anthony Kritlow, Pleasant Valley 18:47.45; 102. Caleb Shaw, Pleasant Valley 20:22.16; 104. Mason Almaroad, Pleasant Valley 20:23.38; 108. Jacob Amberson, Pleasant Valley 20:29.70; 109. Jahir Ortiz-Rodriguez, Saks 20:30.65.

Girls team scores: Westminster-Oak Mountain 36, T.R. Miller 127, Pleasant Valley 128, Saint James 143, St. Bernard 160, Providence Christian 165, Holly Pond 177, St. Michael 211, Brindlee Mountain 251, J.B. Pennington 276, Bayside Academy 292, Glencoe 296, Westminster Christian 309, Colbert Heights 310, Pisgah 318, Winfield City 447.
Race winner: Presley Miles, Saint James 17:49.94.
Calhoun County runners: 14. Eva Bryant, Pleasant Valley 21:28.06; 23. Kaylee Austin, Pleasant Valley 21:55.74; 24. Juliana Ballew, Pleasant Valley 21:58.22; 36. Emma Hood, Pleasant Valley 22:32.56; Gracie Hood, Pleasant Valley 22:38.50; 57. Elizabeth Hall, Pleasant Valley 23:10.32; 62. Ella Whitehead, Pleasant Valley 23:20.84; 65. Trinity Roberts, Pleasant Valley 23:24.16; 108. Macey Roper, Pleasant Valley 24:40.64; 114. Katelin Dill, Saks 24:50.94; 140. Abbi Whitehead, Pleasant Valley 26:56.62.

Boys team scores:
Altamont 43, Cold Spring 61, Westbrook Christian 96, Ohatchee 117, Hatton 127, Holy Spirit 213, Asbury 226, Mars Hill Bible 251, Whitesburg Christian 264, Zion Chapel 296, Athens Bible 296, Pleasant Home 306, Falkville 320, St. Luke’s Episcopal 338, Cottage Hill 344, Skyline 428.
Race winner: Asher Desai, Altamont 16:31.17.
Calhoun County runners: 8. Blake Noah, Ohatchee 17:13.08; 9. Gabe Hammonds, Ohatchee 17:17.69; 27. Luke Fair, Ohatchee, 18:36.02; 32. Dalton Fitch, Ohatchee 18:40.32; 44. Kam Thomas, Donoho 19:10.73; 47. Levi Garrett, Faith Christian 19:15.23; 59. Tyler Mullinax, Ohatchee 19:44.62; 96. Christopher Cash, Ohatchee 20:38.77; 101. Austin Wyatt, Ohatchee 20:46.27; 107. Aaron Hicks, Ohatchee 20:56.06; 110. Dalton Maye, Ohatchee 20:58.08; 141. Tyler Hester, Ohatchee 22:34.73.

Girls team scores: Cold Springs 34, Altamont 91, Hatton 92, Ohatchee 110, Holy Spirit 172, Cottage Hill 193, Athens Bible 210, Cedar Bluff 224, Ider 241, Mars Hill Bible 260, Zion Chapel 260, Falkville 280, Section 288.
Race winner: Breia Smith, Cornerstone 20:57.82.
Calhoun County runners: 11. Jayda Fair, Ohatchee 21:54.86; 24. Clara Ryan, Ohatchee 22:57.77; 26. Brittany Caywood, Ohatchee 23:01.83; 27. Coalie Easterwood, Ohatchee 23:05.90; 49. Lauren Galloway, Ohatchee 24:24.85; 59. Hannah Salame, Donoho 24:41.61; 63. Victoria McRaney, Ohatchee 24:48.83; 73. Ashley Leath, Ohatchee 25:21.55; 80. Elizabeth Bedford, Faith Christian 25:43.99; 85. Erin McVeigh, Faith Christian 25:54.79; 92. Kiana Garber, Ohatchee 26:18.82; 111. Anna Bryant, Ohatchee 27:20.24.

Boys team scores:
Catholic-Montgomery 45, St. John Paul II 49, LAMP (Loveless) 82, Trinity Presbyterian 122, UMS-Wright 171, White Plains 202, DAR 232, American Christian 262, Rogers 277, Fairview 278, Haleyville 290, Priceville 309, Sipsey Valley 358, Northside 359, Lincoln 369, Deshler 376.
Race winner: Charlie Lott, Trinity Presbyterian 16:21.71.
Calhoun County runners: 21. Luke Larson, White Plains 17:30.34; 29. Christian Myles, Anniston 17:39.36; 30. Kayd Hightower, White Plains 17:40.09; 54. Evan Garner, Jacksonville 18:15.07; 56. James Middlebrooks, White Plains 18:23.99; 59. Carson Limbaugh, White Plains 18:28.11; 61. Jackson Hicks, Anniston 18:33.27; 97. Dawson Johnson, White Plains 19:15.24; 98. Ethan Burrage, White Plains 19:17.93; 104. Caden Johnson, White Plains 19:29.94; 109. Andrew Hill, White Plains 19:34.21; 127. Jalan Sturkie, White Plains 20:04.80; 144. Cole Sencilboy, White Plains 20:37.38.

Girls team scores: Catholic-Montgomery 47, St. John Paul II 76, UMS-Wright 124, Trinity Presbyterian 136, White Plains 167, American Christian 186, Rogers 208, Ashville 215, Montgomery Academy 218, Deshler 239, DAR 293, Haleyville 311, West Morgan 322, Fairview 349, Good Hope 350, West Blocton 461.
Race winner: Amaris Tyynismaa, Catholic-Montgomery 17:44.21.
Calhoun County runners: 30. Camden Wilson, White Plains 22:04.96; 37. Savannah Griffin, White Plains 22:24.98; 44. Savannah Yates, White Plains 22:38.82; 47. Adriana Sotelo, White Plains 22:44.54; 48. Anna Strickland, White Plains 22:44.87; 68. Baylie Webb, White Plains 23:15.36; 87. Cheyenne Cochran, White Plains 23:50.47; 93. Kennedy Sparks, Jacksonville 23:59.80; 98. Kaylee McElroy, White Plains 24:18.52; 99. Chloe Bell, White Plains 24:22.13; 106. Maddie Holt, Jacksonville 24:41.83; 111. August Poytress, White Plains 25:00.70.

Boys team scores:
Scottsboro 39, Randolph 130, Faith Academy 152, Springville 165, Briarwood 175, Arab 188, John Carroll 193, Lawrence County 222, Demopolis 255, Jasper 259, Beauregard 299, Boaz 348, Tallassee 384, Satsuma 388, Hamilton 449.
Race winner: Trent Malloy, Briarwood Christian 15:52.35.
Calhoun County runners: 35. Luis Rodriguez, Alexandria 17:48.33.

Girls team scores: Scottsboro 68, Briarwood Christian 87, Lawrence County 90, Randolph 116, Arab 135, John Carroll 150, Faith Academy 152, Southside-Gadsden 228, Alexandria 249, Jasper 294, Beauregard 305, Springville 309, Demopolis 369, Satsuma 380, Hamilton 409.
Race winner: Bailey Lansdown, Faith Academy 19:08.83
Calhoun County runners: 7. Abby Nunnelly, Alexandria 20:12.43; 44. Michaela Moore, Alexandria 21:55.08; 76. Michaela Watts, Alexandria 22:50.44; 100. Amie Lopez, Alexandria 23:48.54; 107. Catie Hulsey, Alexandria 24:03.76; 114. Alexandria Buchanan, Alexandria 24:26.98; 117. Katie Snow, Alexandria 24:41.25; 145. Jasmine Craft, Alexandria 32:24.82.

Boys team winner:
Race winner: Will Stone, Homewood 15:26.58.
Calhoun County runners: 57. Reed Robinson, Oxford 17:54.23; 59. Dylan Hulsey, Oxford 17:55.15; 109. Josue Alvarez, Oxford 19:04.55.

Girls team winner: Homewood.
Race winner: Lainey Phelps, Homewood 18:22.51.
Calhoun County runners: 56. Mia Munoz, Oxford 21:58.41; 78. Ashlee Keur, Oxford 22:30.11; 116. Tori Williams, Oxford 23:36.28; 157. Kaelyn Albright, Oxford 24:48.87; 176. Chelsea Haynes, Oxford 25:33.99.

NOTE: Race position indicates overall finish.

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