E.A. Sports Today

Mixed emotions

Pleasant Valley’s boys not disappointed being third in 1A-2A, Oxford’s George falls, finishes 21st in final AHSAA race, Oxford’s Keur pleased with fourth in 6A girls race

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OAKVILLE — The Pleasant Valley boys didn’t bring home a trophy from the Class 1A-2A state cross country meet Saturday and the anticipated showdown at high noon with Cold Springs never materialized, but the Raiders may have the most courageous third-place finish of any team on the property.

Considering No. 1 runner Cayden Nelson was running sick, No. 2 Alec Vess made the effort despite a hamstring injury that knocked him out of the sectional and scored valuable team points for his finish, and several other runners were fighting flu-link symptoms, it may be as satisfying a run as they’ve had here without winning.

The Raiders scored 83 points and finished behind champion Cold Springs (44) led by runaway winner Ethan Edgeworth and runner-up Hatton (64).

“It was looking like we were hoping for a fourth or fifth, so moving up to third despite all the adversity, I was proud of them; they gutted it out,” PV coach Brad Hood said. “Cayden’s sick, my 2’s hurt, 6 and 7’s sick, and for them to come out in these conditions and compete I was proud of them.”

Nelson finished fourth overall, battling back from the middle of the pack midway through the race. Braxton Williams was the Raiders’ second-faster runner, finishing 14th overall, followed by Jaden Veazey (17th), Matthew Walden (26th) and Vess (27th). 

Nelson was fighting the flu earlier this week and was still coughing during the race. Vess had been out since popping his hamstring during the sectionals and practiced for the first time only Friday to determine if he could go. 

Nothing was going to keep either of them from running.

“It was hurting, but I had to push through it,” Vess said. “At the start of the week I didn’t know. I was doubting the ability I had … but I knew I needed to do my best for them. If we wanted to do good I had to do what I can for them. It no longer was a thing of I don’t want to, I had to. I had a responsibility and I couldn’t let them down.”

“We’re out here to compete,” Nelson said. “We’re not out here to whine and complain about who’s doing what wrong.”

Cold Springs44Ethan Edgeworth, Cold Springs15:53.26
Hatton64Jayden Allred, Cold Springs17:08.05
Pleasant Valley83David Layfield, Horseshoe Bend17:25.31
St. Luke’s123Cayden Nelson, Pleasant Valley17:31.62
Holly Pond158Dakota Kidd, Hatton17:35.03
Sand Rock166Garrett Dollar, St. Luke’s17:35.66
Pisgah171Tristan Little, Pisgah17:38.06
Athens Bible196Carson Masterson, Hatton17:45.26
Mars Hill212Calob Miley, Hatton17:49.38
Faith Christian291Caleb Yoder, Sand Rock17:50.41
Lexington316Sage Nelson, Cold Springs17:51.58
Holy Spirit317Jack Bradford, Athens Bible17:53.80
Zion Chapel355Isaiah Crosslin, Hatton17:58.33
Pleasant Home368Braxton Williams, Pleasant Valley17:59.12
Kinston376Justin Caffee, Cold Springs18:04.26

1A-2A GIRLS TEAM TOP 10: St. Luke’s 78, Cold Springs 103, Pisgah 143, Sand Rock 151, Hatton 161, Athens Bible 182, Pleasant Valley 211, Holy Spirit 215, Horseshoe Bend 239, Holly Pond 244.

INDIVIDUAL TOP 3: Victoria Woods, Lexington, 20:55.94; Paisley Whitlow, Cold Springs, 21:04.28; Anna Pezent, University Charter, 21:08.21

Oxford boys take a hard fall

Noah George was cold, wet, dirty and disappointed. This was not how the record-setting Oxford senior who had been so good for so long wanted his high school career to end.

The two-time Calhoun County champion ran the Class 6A state championship race that was going to be his crowning achievement of a decorated career with the Yellow Jackets. But he also ran in it at the height of the mid-morning rain.

He fell for the first time in his career at the 3/4-mile mark and collected himself enough to finish, but placed 21st overall (17:04.52), six spots out of an all-state certificate that was the minimum of expectations for the day. 

“I’m so mad,” he said. “I’m just so upset. I really wanted to go low 15s and even get a win today.”

The UAH pledge was running third in the race when the slip “came out of nowhere” in a tight turn. There were “a couple” runners around him when it happened, but no other competitors were collected. Still, he lost a lot of track position by the time he got to his feet..

“I think I just hit an unlucky spot,” he said.

While George was soaked and dirty from head to toe, almost all of his teammates had their backs covered in mud kicked up from a sloppy, borderline treacherous track. Workers at the wire hurriedly spread gravel in the finishing chute between races to keep runners from slipping. There was nothing they could do out on the course.

“It’s a different ballgame out there,” one local coach said.

The Yellow Jackets had hoped for a top three finish – maybe even a win under the right circumstances — with a team coach Landon Delozier has called the best in school history, but they finished fifth.

It was their highest finish ever at State and nine places better than their finish a year ago, which had Delozier over the moon, but it also fell well short of expectations.

Evan Somers was their second fastest runner, coming in 27th overall at 17:11.80. Their next three counters were all among the second 30. Delozier conceded the weather had gotten to them.

Mountain Brook won the team title with all five runners in the top 15 counters.The Yellow Jackets have one more shot at redemption. They plan to run in the Running Lane National Championship in Huntsville in mid-December.

“I’m just going to push past this and look forward to the next race,” George said.

6A BOYS TEAM TOP 10: Mountain Brook 47, Homewood 65, UMS-Wright 144, Randolph School 199, Oxford 204, Helena 215, McGill-Toolen 234, St. John Paul II 247, Cullman 268, Fort Payne 293.

INDIVIDUAL TOP 3: Charles Perry, UMS-Wright, 15:43.54; Clayton Collins, Mountain Brook, 15:56.03; William Porr, McGill-Toolen, 16:03.05.

OXFORD BOYS: 21. Noah George, 17:04.52; 27. Evan Somers, 17:11.80; 54. Andrew Nordan, 17:46.23; 64. Isaac Williams, 18:07.05; 70. Phil Copeland, 18:16.58.

Keur hits her stride

All of the work Katie Keur put in since last year’s state championship meet was geared for this moment. Or maybe this moment occurred because of all the work she had put in.

The Oxford senior ran her final AHSAA race and finished a solid fourth in Class 6A with a time of 19:06.91. A year ago here, she was 25th in just under 20 minutes. 

“I wanted third, for sure, but I’m not unhappy about it,” she said. “Last year I got 30th or so, so it’s a big improvement. So, I’m happy with it regardless.”

Keur made the big push to be a better runner over the summer. She attended a special running camp, where she became training friends with White Plains’ Maddyn Conn, who won the Class 4A girls race Saturday. This year, in addition to improving her finish in the state meet, she won Calhoun County and sectional titles.

“I’m the most proud of myself this season because my coach always talks about doing the little things right and I prioritized that this season and I think it really paid off,” she said. “I’m really happy with myself.”

She isn’t the only one. Oxford coach Landon Delozier was equally pleased to see all Keur has accomplished.

“I’ve got tons of good to say about Katie,” Delozier said. “I want to say that I anticipated what she did today, but I’m just impressed. To be able to do what she did, to be able to compete at the level she competed at, in the worst conditions I’ve ever seen a cross country race ran and still place fourth, I was over the moon.”

6A GIRLS TEAM TOP 10: Mountain Brook 33, Homewood 88, McGill-Toolen 104, Briarwood Christian 147, St. John Paul II 204, Fort Payne 211, UMS-Wright 225, Pelham 265, Randolph 268, Saraland 268.

INDIVIDUAL TOP 5: Reagan Riley, Mountain Brook, 17:57.30; Mary Mac Collins, Northridge, 18:20.67; Emma Brooke Levering, Homewood, 18:48.61; Katie Keur, Oxford, 19:06.91; Mary Katherine Malone, Mountain Brook, 19:13.93.

OXFORD GIRLS: 4. Katie Keur, 19:06.91; 44. Emerson Maniscalco, 21:22.19; 62. Aubrey Willford, 22:15.08; 158. Claire Maniscalco, 25:41.08.

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