E.A. Sports Today

Keeping tabs

Nelson, PV boys open their season with a closely watched win in Wildcat Twilight Invite; Alexandria wins big school girls race by smallest of margins; Lady Cubs senior Moore gets her first win

White Plains’ Maddyn Conn hits the finish line to win the first cross country race of the season. On the cover, Cayden Nelson wins the boys 1A-4A race leading Pleasant Valley to that team title.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

It’s only the first race of the year, but it’s on. Oh, is it on.

When Pleasant Valley dropped to Class 2A in the latest AHSAA realignment, the consensus in the cross country community was the race for the boys state championship in November would come down between the Raiders and Cold Springs. It’s a showdown that is highly anticipated and expected to be tight.

The Raiders opened their season Thursday by winning the small schools boys race in the White Plains Wildcat Twilight Invite. Before the race was even over, Cold Spring coach Casey Howell, the former coach at Ohatchee, was on the phone with one of his former runners at the race asking how the Raiders were progressing coming across the line.

PV coach Brad Hood was more amused than insulted. He admitted he would have done the same thing and, in fact, plans to when the Eagles run this weekend.

“It’s going to be fun,” Hood said. “We know we’re not going to be racing each other, but we’re going to be chasing each other … every race.

“It makes it fun. It makes it fun to know somebody’s two and a half hours away, but you’re still watching each other. You’re wanting to motivate your kids, you want to tell them what they did. He’s wanting to tell his kids how well we did, so they’ll step it up in practice. He’s wanting to find any angle to motivate his kids like this is the bar and we need to get there and he’s going to motivate them.”

Hood’s boys scored 30 points with their first four runners finishing in the top 10. All five of their counters were bunched in the top 12 and their top seven were all in the top 25. Cayden Nelson won the race in 17:34.43.

Nelson didn’t hit his goal of a sub-17, but pushed hard for what he got in conditions he didn’t expect and posted the fastest time among all the boys. He broke away from a bottleneck with a power move midway through the race and was never threatened again. Faith Christian’s Carson Limbaugh was second (18:22.58).

“Cayden did what we (expected),” Hood said. “The thing I like about the rest of the guys, they no longer think of Cayden as a god. They know they can at least chase him and nip on him. Cayden will tell you that they’re nipping his heels now. At practice and on the first mile we had two guys on his shoulder, so they’re not afraid to chase him and all that’s doing is making them better.

“I’ve told you for years it’s not you’re 1, 2 and 3, it’s the 4, 5, 6, 7, 8; it’s those guys (who hold the key to winning). I was happy my 7 went 21 and some change, a ninth-grader, and my 6 was a low 20. It’s showing I may have a wild card, those 6 and 7 runners that I was not anticipating. The reason I think we’re competitive is because of our 5, 6, 7. I was more happy with them than the guys up front.

“The guys up front are going to get the T-shirts, but the guys in the back are the reason why we win or lose.”

In the other races, Alexandria senior Michaela Moore scored her first career win and led the Lady Cubs to a one-point victory over Pell City in the 5A-7A girls race; reigning county champion and 4A state runner-up Maddyn Conn of White Plains won the 1A-4A girls race by more than 90 seconds with Glencoe winning the team title; and Pell City’s River Richard won the the 5A-7A boys race while Lincoln placed five counters in the top seven to win the team title.

Moore won her race in 22:07.66. Eighth-grader JoJo Watson was nipped at the wire for second, but she beat the next Pell City to the line. In fact, each of the Lady Cubs’ first four runners finished ahead of Pell City’s corresponding first four to give them just enough cushion to clinch it with first-year freshman runner Zoe Wilson’s finish at 25.

The Lady Cubs finished with 51 points to Pell City’s 52.

“I’m ecstatic,” Alexandria coach Phillip Hartsfield said. “One of my parents asked me if I was expecting that and I wasn’t. I expected them to run well – we’ve been practicing –but I didn’t know how we would do as a team.

“Today was learning what kind of team we’ve got, what kind of ‘oompf’ we’ve got. We just told them today pass somebody in front of you and it turns out (No. 4 counter) Trinity Pope passed a Pell City girl (for 12th place). If it had been the other way, we’d have been second and they’d have been first.”

Moore took the lead midway through the race and stayed out front the rest of the way. Her best finishes before Thursday were a pair of seconds – in last year’s sectionals and in this race as an eighth grader. Pell City’s Reagan Edwards took second ahead of Watson by eight-hundreths of a second.

“It’s like I’ve always doubted myself and the whole time through the race when I felt like I was going to give up I just told myself I can do it, I’ve just got to believe in myself and push hard enough,” Moore said. “It’s just so hard to push through when you’re running. You don’t know what you’re capable of sometimes, especially when you feel like you’re going to die out. If I just keep believing in myself and keep pushing maybe I could reach those bigger goals I’ve been wanting to push for.”

Conn won the first race of the night in 20:11.50, the best time among all the girls. Motivated by her near-miss in last year’s Class 4A state championship meet, the White Plains sophomore smoked the field on her home course by 1 minute, 37 seconds. Glencoe’s Katie Giles was second, leading a 2-4-4-8 finish that carried the Lady Jackets to the team title.

“Last year I got second (at state), but it was like less than a second,” Conn said. “I was proud of myself, but I was a little disappointed. This year, I really want to come back and win. Every time I’m running all I think about is that (one second) and it pushes me a lot. I was just glad to start off good.”

Alexandria senior Michaela Moore bears down on the finish line in the 5A-7A girls race for her first career win. She finished second in this race as an eighth-grader.

Wildcat Twilight Invite

Class 1A-4A Girls

Team scores: Glencoe 34, White Plains 62, Jacksonville 66, Pleasant Valley 124, Sylvania 151, Ohatchee 152, Faith Christian 165, Hokes Bluff 187, Handley 217.

1Maddyn Conn, White Plains20:11.506Chloe Douglas, Glencoe24:40.68
2Katie Giles, Glencoe21:48.327Mallory Hill, White Plains24:43.18
3Sarah Sloughfy, Jacksonville22:13.668Jaxson Sizemore, Glencoe24:50.07
4Sarah Ponder, Glencoe22:48.999Aubree Cleveland, Sylvania24:56.19
5Emma Easterling, Jacksonville23:39.2110Mattie Todd, Piedmont24:57.67

Class 1A-4A Boys

Team scores: Pleasant Valley 30, White Plains 93, Jacksonville 110, Faith Christian 128, Glencoe 129, Hokes Bluff 137, Ohatchee 191, Donoho 192, Handley 205, Sylvania 207.

1Cayden Nelson, Pleasant Valley17:34.736Bryer Morrison, Hokes Bluff18:58.51
2Carson Limbaugh, Faith Christian18:22.587Jesse Baldwin, Handley19:13.14
3Conner Cothran, Glencoe18:31.918Alec Less, Pleasant Valley19:16.45
4Jaden Veazey, Pleasant Valley18:48.649Eli Mitchell, Faith Christian19:35.41
5Braxton Williams, Pleasant Valley18:51.2610Sawyer Conn, White Plains19:37.40

Class 5A-7A Girls

Team scores: Alexandria 51, Pell City 52, Clay Central 73, Lincoln 85, Sardis 107, Guntersville 130.

1Michaela Moore, Alexandria22:07.666Barit Snead, Sardis24:31.85
2Reagan Edwards, Pell City22:42.717Lorelai Byrd, Lincoln24:48.23
3JoJo Watson, Alexandria22:42.798Alexzandria Byrd, Lincoln24:49.95
4Kyndal Little, Pell City22:57.279Marissa Bozarth, Sardis24:55.86
5Jessa Nash, Clay Central24:20.1310Toryn Barnes, Alexandria25:06.89

Class 5A-7A Boys

Team scores: Lincoln 24, Pell City 61, Clay Central 100, Alexandria 101, Guntersville 136, Gadsden City 139, Sardis 154.

1River Richard, Pell City17:43.476Travis Cooley, Lincoln19:06.75
2Aaron Davis, Lincoln17:53.787Turner Chappell, Lincoln19:17.21
3Mithun Rameshkumar, Gad City18:33.558DeShaun Foster, Alexandria19:34.79
4Jack Wiggins, Lincoln18:37.349Austin Worthy, Clay Central19:36.82
5Ben Boudreaux, Lincoln18:55.0210Israel Baird, Pell City19:53.14

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