Strong Field Expected in 8th Annual
Jesse Owens Cross Country Classic
By Arthur L. Mack
A loaded field is expected in the eighth annual Jesse Owens Cross Country Classic Invitational Saturday,October 7 at the Oakville Indian Mounds in Oakville, Ala. A total of 2,822 athletes representing 224 teams will compete in 12 separate divisions---Gold (Elite) Division boys, Gold Division Girls, Silver (Large School) Division Boys, Silver (Large School) Division Girls, Bronze (Small School) Division Boys, Bronze (Small School) Girls, Red Division (Large 'B'/JV) Boys, Red Division (Large 'B'/JV) Girls, Jr. High Boys (Large), Jr. High (Large) Girls, Jr. High (Small) Boys, and Jr. High (Small) Girls.
Teams from as far away as Virginia and Ohio will test their squads against schools from Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, and Georgia. They will match wits on a course that can be best described as scenic and fast.
Action gets underway at 9:00 a.m. CDT with the running of the Bronze Division Girls race, and wrap up with the Jr. High (Small Schools) girls at 12:20 p.m.
Here is a preview of what to expect in the major races (Gold, Silver, and Bronze divisions):
GOLD DIVISION: With several highly-ranked schools in the boys and girls races, it could result in some very fast races. The Gold Division girls race, scheduled to start at 10:20 a.m., features several strong squads from four states.
Heading this division is SE#5 Lake Braddock of Virginia, ranked fifth in the Southeast and No. 2 in Virginia. The Lady Bruins won their season opener at the Monroe Parker Invite and finished third at the Brentsville Relays (5 X 1.5 miles) behind Eleanor Roosevelt and Midlothian (who are ranked at the top of the Nike Southeast Rankings). Lake Braddock is led by senior Micheel Presley, an all-state cross country performer who has a personal best of 5 minutes, 01 seconds for 1600 meters and 2:14 for 800. In addtion, the Lady Bruins also have Christine Moore and Anna Corrigan, who have personal 3,200-meter bests of 11:11 and 11:30 respectively.
Two other out-of-state schools to watch are Minster of Ohio and Chapel Hill of Douglasville, Georgia. Minster--which is currently undefeated this season--is a five-time Ohio Division III Cross Country state champion, and led by sophomore Bernadette Burke, senior Bridgette Sherman, and junior Katie Dahlinghaus. Chapel Hill--which has only been in existence since 1999--has had five top 5 finishes at the state championships. The Lady Panthers are led by Abbie Robinson and Ashley Stovall.
The Alabama teams in this division are no slouches either. Heading the list is Scottsboro and St. Paul's. Both are always among the state's elite when it comes to girls' cross country. Scottsboro is the defending state 5A champion, while St. Paul's was the runner-up. Two other Alabama teams that could have strong performances are Hoover and Mountain Brook. Both are consistently among the state's best 6A squads, as Mountain Brook is the three-time state 6A champion and Hoover was last year's 6A runner-up.
The boys' race, which is scheduled for 11 a.m., features Chapel Hill, which looks to be very strong. The Panthers, ranked No. 1 in 4A and fourth overall in Georgia, are led by Taylor Lord, Chase Eldredge and Travis Voyles. Other out of state teams to watch are Lake Braddock and Memphis University School.
Hoover is Alabama's top team in this division. The Bucs have won seven of the last nine Alabama state 6A cross country championships, and are very strong this season. Hoover's top runner is Tim Landry, who set a course record enroute to winning the Mobile Challenge of Champions meet earlier this season. Another Alabama team, St. Paul's of Mobile, could make its mark in this race. The Saints, led by Lee Gilmer, are defending Alabama state 5A champions, and have been running strong this season. Other Alabama teams to watch are Smiths Station, Oak Mountain, and Hunstville.
SILVER DIVISION---While not as elite as the Gold Division, this division will be just as competitive. In the Silver Division boys' race, which features schools in 5A and 6A divisions, the teams from Alabama to watch are Mountain Brook, Mobile's McGill-Toolen Catholic, and Spain Park. Out of state teams include Jackson Prep from Mississippi, and Chattanooga Central from Chattanooga, Tenn.
Out of state schools that could make a mark in the Silver Division girls' race are Cleveland and Dickson County from Tennessee and Jackson Prep and Saltillo from Mississippi, while McGill-Toolen Catholic and Vestavia Hills are the Alabama teams that bear watching in this race.
BRONZE DIVISION---On the boys' side, it could be a very interesting battle between schools from Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, as this division has the largest field in the Jesse Owens Classic.
Two Alabama teams---Randolph and Shades Mountain Christian---are among the favorites. Randolph is the returning 3A-4A Alabama State Champion and looks very strong. Pontotoc, a Mississippi powerhouse with 16 state titles under its belt, will also be in the mix, as well as Harding Academy from Tennessee. All of them though, could be chasing Chattanooga Christian, which always fields strong teams and could be the overall favorite to win this division.
The girls' division is loaded as well. Bayside Academy of Fairhope, the defending Alabama state 1A-2A champions, is strong and could be a contender, along with Cold Springs, Lawrence County, and Rogers.
Out of state schools that could also make an impact on the race are Pontotoc (which has nine state titles) and Harding Academy of Tennessee. Pontontoc is currently undefeated in 4A in Mississippi.