E.A. Sports Today

Faster track

Runners like new, faster Waffle House course; Oxford’s George, White Plains’ Conn win individual races; Alexandria girls win in Odenville

White Plains’ Maddyn Conn hits the wire just ahead of Oxford’s Katie Keur to win the Waffle House Invitational girls race Saturday. (Photo by Dana Stewart George). On the cover, Oxford’s Noah George and Evan Somers talk about their 1-2 finish in the boys race.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — They took the snake out of the grass and everybody had a fast race.

The runners in Oxford’s Waffle House/Yellow Jacket Invitational ran a new routing for the course at Choccolocco Park Saturday and almost to a man said it was a faster and more enjoyable run than they ever had in the old configuration.

In a design created by Jacksonville State for its college meets last year, the course basically took out the multiple switchbacks in the middle portion of the race for a smoother transition to the finish. The 2021 Waffle House had already been run when JSU changed the course, so this was the first time the race had been run on this layout.

“We could have run it the old way,” said Oxford coach Landon Delozier, whose team ran the new route in last year’s JSU Foothills Invitational high school race. “I let the kids have a lot of input in a lot of the things that we do and this is especially one of those.

“I asked the kids today was last year’s course better or this year’s course and they thought that this year’s course was faster. If you think it’s faster then that’s what you’re going to run better on anyway, so that’s what we rolled with.”

Oxford teammates Noah George (16:39.13) and Evan Somers (17:36.76) finished 1-2 in the boys race. White Plains’ Maddyn Conn won the girls race (19:31.58) with Oxford training partner Katie Keur right on her heels (19:32.81).

George won last year’s race on the old configuration in 16:58.92. Catherine Aaron of Catholic-Montgomery won last year’s girls race is 20:44.85. In fact, this year’s winning times were faster than all but one of the boys races since the Waffle House moved to Choccolocco Park in 2018 and all but two of the girls races in that span.

“They made a faster course,” Delozier said. “You take (out) that second grass loop, you make that immediate U-turn and you go back and U-turn again, you take a U-turn out and allow them to go straight down and make a 90-degree turn, that’s huge. That second turn-around is pretty major and pretty sharp. (Getting ride of it) allows you to really open up that stride and really be fast.”

For Somers, who had been running for only two years, it was his best career finish. For Conn, it was her second race win in a row. For Keur, it was a personal best by seven seconds and a school record in her first race of the year.

“When you open with a school record and PR, you’re set for a good season,” Delozier said.

Oak Mountain won both team races. Oxford finished second in the boys and Glencoe was second in the girls.

The girls race was a two-person race from the opening gun. Conn and Kuer went out shoulder to shoulder and stayed that way ahead of the pack until Conn made her push at the finish. Both runners collapsed after crossing the finish line.

The two had always been close on the stopwatch, but they became closer friends this summer when they roomed together at a summer running camp in Huntsville. Conn said Saturday’s race was “probably my favorite one so far” because of it.

“I think our training is pretty similar, so our methods of racing are kind of the same, too,” Keur said. “Which is nice to have someone to push you when your racing. I love having someone push me and be there with me the whole race. And it’s nice to have someone to finish with at the end, too.”

The boys race might have been close early, but George pulled away midway through and wound up winning by more than a minute. And it was Somers who followed him across the line, not one of the less familiar runners who was on his shoulder in the early going.

“I told Noah to run his own race the first loop and he did that perfectly,” Delozier said. “He really ran exactly where we thought he was going to run. I told him to kind of squeeze down the second loop and he did. Evan was fighting kind of in no-man’s land for the first little bit and made the pass into second about the 3K mark. From there I told him to squeeze try to separate and make everybody chase him and he did that also.”

16th Annual Waffle House/Yellow Jacket Invitational

Boys team scores: Oak Mountain 49, Oxford 56, Springville 76, Northridge 96, White Plains 128, Glencoe 158, Clay Central 186, Handley 200.
Girls team scores: Oak Mountain 32, Glencoe 71, Northridge 83, White Plains 88, Oxford 110, Clay Central 130.

Noah George, Oxford16:39.13Maddyn Conn, White Plains19:31.58
Evan Somers, Oxford17:36.76Katie Keur, Oxford19:32.81
David Robles, Springville17:49.02Faith Scardino, Oak Mountain21:22.12
Matthew Womack, Oak Mountain17:49.10Carmen McMaster, Springville21:23.35
John Shoemaker, Oak Mountain17:59.96Lauren Cole, Oak Mountain21:48.19
Anglin Young, Northridge18:21.31Emerson Maniscalco, Oxford22:02.56
Shawn Stevenson, Northridge18:33.41Katie Wright, Oak Mountain22:10.15
Conner Cothran, Glencoe18:43.22Sarah Ponder, Glencoe22:32.92
Houston Colley, Springville18:55.49Avery Daniels, Springville22:36.97
Elliott Denard, Springville19:03.94Brighton Bell, Oak Mountain22:54.02

St. Clair County Classic

ODENVILLE — Jojo Watson and Michaela Moore went 2-3 and the Alexandria girls placed their top four runners in the top 11 to claim their second win in as many races this season at the St. Clair County Classic.

Watson (22:43.02) and Wildcat Twilight 5A-7A girls winner Michaela Moore (22:55.64) finished right behind winner Mabry Free of Cullman (22:10.42), but the Lady Cubs also had the 10th and 11th counters and scored 45 points to edge Cullman by five in the team race.

Alexandria and Donoho finished third and fourth, respectively, in the boys race. Jonah Medders led the Valley Cubs to the line with a sixth-place 18:45.62. Riley Goodson was Donoho’s fastest runner at 20:22.78 (16th).

“I am happy with the way both teams ran today,” Alexandria coach Phillip Hartsfield said. “They are working hard and that hard work is paying off. Jojo was my first finisher and Michaela my second, so they have a battle going on between them, which is only going to make us better.”

Girls team scores: Alexandria 45, Cullman 50, Holy Spirit 65, Ashville 87, Cleveland 98, Leeds 156.
Boys team scores: Cullman 30, Ashville 59, Alexandria 78, Donoho 102, Holy Spirit 139, Shelby County 167, Leeds 186, Locust Fork 191.

Joe Stevens, Ashville17:06.41Mabry Free, Cullman22:10.42
William Nichols, Cullman18:03.48Jojo Watson, Alexandria22:43.02
Austin Stokes, McAdory18:14.95Michaela Moore, Alexandria22:55.64
Kenneth John Alonso, McAdory18:25.19Makayla Harris, Cleveland23:16.47
Andrue Barnett, Cullman18:45.25Hannah Kinney, Holy Spirit23:19.28
Jonah Medders, Alexandria18:45.62Bella Caretti, Cullman24:46.66
Lane Hopper, Cullman18:51.67Addison Vogelaar, Cullman24:49.08
Ryan Matthews, Ashville19:04.68Katelynn Harris, Cleveland24:54.53
Lex Sorensen, Oneonta19:26.31Anzlee Farmer, Ashville25:24.12
Jose Piceno, Oneonta19:28.74Elissia Acoff, McAdory25:30.51

Scottsboro Invitational

SCOTTSBORO — Carson Limbaugh finished sixth overall (18:30.76) and Faith Christian placed three counters in the top 20 to finish fourth in the boys small school race at the Scottsboro Invitational. Eli Mitchell counted 11th (19:32.04) and Cameron Rogers 20th (20:29.19) as the Lions scored 103 points.

The Faith girls finished seventh. Evie Garrett was their best finisher (24:19.61).

Boys team scores: Sand Rock 49, JB Pennington 67, Pisgah 76, Faith Christian 103, Holly Pond 111, Whitesburg Christian 112, Plainview 160, Section 207.
Girls team scores: Whitesburg Christian 35, Cold Springs 73, Westminster Christian 76, Pisgah 108, Plainview 128, JB Pennington 151, Faith Christian 175, Section 196, Collinsville 259.

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