E.A. Sports Today

Showdown in the park

Contending coaches expect an ‘absolute slugfest’ in Thursday’s Calhoun County Cross Country Meet; Oxford boys, White Plains girls favored in virtual meet

(Virtual meet)
Boys race: Oxford 45, Pleasant Valley 47, White Plains 75, Alexandria 94, Jacksonville 147, Faith Christian 179, Ohatchee 187, Donoho 215, Saks 220.

Girls race: White Plains 41, Pleasant Valley 43, Alexandria 84, Jacksonville 117, Oxford 120, Ohatchee 134.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

As usual, catch up with White Plains cross country coach John Moore and you’ll find him pouring over pages and pages of data and mile splits trying to ferret out that one little detail that could give the Wildcats the edge in the meet ahead. And this week finding that nugget is more important than any other race so far this year.

That’s because the Calhoun County Cross County Meet at Choccolocco Park Thursday promises to be even closer than last year – if that’s even possible.

White Plains won both races last year for their first ever county cross country crown by the closest margins in the race’s history – one point for the boys and six points for the girls – both over host Pleasant Valley. But this year there are more teams expected to be in the mix and the course is flatter.

“It’s going to be just the same as last year – super tight,” Moore said. “I mean, the girls spread from 1 to 3 is going to be about 10 points and the boys spread 1-2-3 is going to be about 10 points.

“I would love to predict the (boys) win for our team, but I think Oxford’s got it going on this year; they did a lot of summer training and their guys are hyped up. If I plugged in the numbers and the data as of today, I think it’s 44 (points for) Oxford, 46 Pleasant Valley, 50 White Plains.

“Trying to predict it out of those three is like putting Alabama, Auburn and Georgia (football) in a round-robin. All three are great teams and all have great competitors and all of them want to win.”

For the record, the virtual meet of season best times has Oxford winning the boys race with 45 points, followed by Pleasant Valley (47), White Plains (75) and Alexandria (94). On the girls side, it’s White Plains (41), followed by Pleasant Valley (43) and Alexandria (84). The top seeds going into the race based on their best posted times this season are Pleasant Valley’s Cayden Nelson (16:34) and Jacksonville eighth-grader Sarah Sloughfy (20:30).

Of course, the boys standings don’t take into account that White Plains’ top four runners missed several local races last month training in Colorado to escape COVID-19. 

Three of the four runners on the trip – reigning county champ Jake Moore, Kayd Hightower and Cole Senciboy – are all nine to 40 seconds faster on the Choccolocco Park course than they were a year ago. Plugging those times into the virtual meet, the Wildcats would shave 25 points off their current projection, and that would mean swiping spots from their opponents.

“It’s going to be super tight,” Moore said. “It’s anybody’s race that day. The old saying in football is ‘put a hat on a hat’ and it’s that way in cross country. You’ve got to know your opponent and those students of the game who know where they fall do better.”

White Plains and Pleasant Valley have been the driving for a showdown here all year, but Oxford has steadily inched its way into the conversation. The Yellow Jackets have three of the top seven fastest runners in the county and are just getting back in stride after having six of their top seven in COVID quarantine. PV has four of the top 10 and White Plains has three of the top 11.  

“I think it’s just going to come down to the best team that day,” Oxford coach Landon Delozier said. “I don’t think you can put a whole lot of stock in those (virtual) things – it’s the best (times) of the year – but at the same time my guys know it’s put a target their backs.

“The best team is gonna win at the end of the day. It’s just going to be an absolute slugfest. It’s going to be painful for every single kid involved. It’s going to be wide open. I think we’ve got three of the best teams in the county, maybe ever. It’s going to get ugly before it gets pretty for anybody.”

Cayden Nelson, Pleasant Valley (16:34)
Jake Moore, White Plains (16:39)
Christian Myles, Anniston (16:49)
Noah George, Oxford (16:50)
Chad Turner, Oxford (17:15)
Kayd Hightower, White Plains
Josue Alvarez, Oxford
Holt Bentley, Pleasant Valley
Jonah Medders, Alexandria
Oliver Young, Pleasant Valley
Carson Limbaugh, White Plains
Luke Fair, Ohatchee
Ben Wade, Alexandria
Evan Garner, Jacksonville
Nik Baggett, Pleasant Valley

Sarah Sloughfy, Jacksonville (20:30)
Trinity Roberts, Pleasant Valley (20:41)
Anna Strickland, White Plains (21:10)
Taylor Simmons, Donoho (21:34)
Michaela Watts, Alexandria (21:48)
Adriana Sotelo, White Plains
Elizabeth Hall, Pleasant Valley
Michaela Moore, Alexandria
Maddyn Conn, White Plains
Emerson Maniscalco, Oxford
Eva Bryant, Pleasant Valley
Baylie Webb, White Plains
Macey Roper, Pleasant Valley
Gracie Hood, Pleasant Valley
Laralee Church, White Plains

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