E.A. Sports Today

PV closing the gap

Raiders move within two points of state’s best 3A team, start push for state title repeat
By East Alabama Sports Today
Sometimes less really is more. The defending Class 3A state champion Pleasant Valley boys cross country team brought the barest of necessities to the Jesse Owens Classic Saturday and left the Oakville Indian Mounds Park course more confident than ever about their path going forward.
No tent, no trailer, no tarp, snacks in a backpack and six runners and the Raiders finished third in the Green Division with 101 points, just two behind runner-up St. Bernard, their biggest hurdle to a 3A repeat. Class 1A-2A Cold Springs, coached by former Ohatchee coach Casey Howell, won the division.
“It was unreal, they showed out,” PV coach Brad Hood beamed. “We raced the No. 1 team in 1A-2A and the No. 1 team in 3A and finished two points behind; that’s a good day. We’re really closing the gap on everybody.”
The Raiders could’ve brought the entire roster, but made a deal weeks ago they were only going to take runners who had broken 20 minutes to this race that amounts to a preview of the state championship – provided, of courses, everyone was on board. 
All five of PV’s counters finished in the top 40 and four of the five were within three spots on either side of their nearest St. Bernard runner.
Freshman Cayden Nelson led the effort with a fourth-place 17:15.87. Coleman Haynes was 12th among counters (17:56.04), Oliver Young (18:18.89) and Brayden Wright (18:19.66) were 22nd and 23rd, and Kaige Roberts (18:48.07) was 40th.
“Half the teams on the line we’d never heard of in our life; half were from out of state,” Hood said. “That was kind of intimidating because Alabama’s not known for being one of the strongest states for times. There were 41 teams and the top three were (Alabama’s) Cold Springs, St. Bernard and Pleasant Valley.
“They were on a mission to go out here and see where they were. It showed us we’re closing the gap on the No. 1 team in the state. It just gives us confidence moving forward. We knew we could run those times but hadn’t been on a (quality) course to actually prove it. Our five and their five are neck and neck and we’re showing growth every week.”
Ohatchee finished 13th with Luke Fair finishing right behind Haynes in 17:57.68.
Ohatchee’s girls placed sixth in their race. Jayda Fair was third (20:18.45), eight-hundreths of a second behind runner-up Madilyn Kerner of St. Bernard (20:18.37). Annabelle Cothran of Columbia (19:59.83) won the race.
White Plains’ boys finished third in the Bronze Division behind Class 4A runaway race winner St. John Paul II and 5A runner-up Randolph. The Wildcats were 10 points out of second and two points ahead of fourth-place Catholic-Montgomery.
The Wildcats placed four scorers in the top 35 and all five in the top 75. Junior Jake Moore was ninth among counters (16:56.02), Kayd Hightower was 20th(17:13.93) and James Middlebrooks 25th(17:17.90).
“We do the Jesse Owens every year just to get a feel for (the course),” White Plains coach John Moore said. “We have 12 who hadn’t seen the course before, so when we come back we’ll know what to expect. I like winning, but I’d rather focus on the county, sectionals and state, so if we’re using these races as training runs we got a really good training run in today. I want it to be one of our goals, but the best thing that happened today was the Auburn-Montgomery coach coming up and talking to me about James.”
Anniston’s Christian Myles finished sixth overall (16:42.06). Munford eighth-grader Dakota Frank was 21stoverall (17:12.54) and Lincoln’s J.R. Proctor finished right behind Hightower (17:14.99). Lincoln finished 12thas a team and Alexandria was 27th.
The White Plains girls were eighth with five 5A teams ahead of them. Jacksonville was 14thand Alexandria 16th. Jacksonville’s Olivia King was 11thamong counters (21:09.29). Savannah Yates was the fastest White Plains runners across the line (21:56.53), 25thoverall. 
Oxford was 23rdin the boys Silver Division race. Noah George was 59thoverall with a personal best 17:54.80.

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