Competition should be fierce at Alabama championships
Mtn. Brook girls, Hoover boys strong favorites in 6AA
By Arthur L. Mack
It could be a competitive day at the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s state cross-country championships on Saturday at the Oakville Indian Mounds.
Five different classifications—6A, 5A, 4A, 3A, and 1A-2A—will do battle, and it could shape up as one of the most heated championships ever, especially in the smaller divisions. There could be some great individual races as well.
Let’s take a look and see what could happen.
This division has the most individual star power in the persons of Hoover’s Patrick McGregor, Mountain Brook’s Madeline Morgan, Auburn’s Patrick Gomez, and Sparkman’s Katie Huston.
Team-wise, both Hoover and Mountain Brook have to be the overwhelming favorites in the boys and girls’ divisions, respectively.
Hoover’s boys are definitely not a one-man show, as McGregor will have plenty of help with teammates Nick Perkins and Philip Harvey. But they will definitely have to be on top of their game, as Mountain Brook will have a solid group of runners led by Layton Dorsett and Richard Murray.
If by some weird twist of fate either team has a bad day, then look out for Oak Mountain, led by Cory Jones and Shane Brogdon.
The team that could give Hoover the most trouble, though, happens to come from the eastern part of the state—Auburn. The Tigers, led by Gomez, won their sectional meet with ease. In fact, Gomez himself won the sectional race with a splendid 15:46.75. To say that he and McGregor will have a heated individual battle is a gross understatement.
Morgan leads a Mountain Brook girls’ squad that is considered virtually unbeatable in Alabama. Morgan herself is coming off an outstanding performance in her sectional meet, winning in 17:56.79, as the Lady Spartans took six of the first seven places. Sophomore Marie Demedicis and freshman Mary Catherine Farrar provide Morgan with some excellent backup.
Oak Mountain, led by Christi Gaskill and Abby Anderson, and Mobile’s McGill-Toolen Catholic, led by eighth-grader Carman Carlos and freshman Iliana Garcia, could very well be the only teams that have even a slight chance of beating Mountain Brook. Auburn, led by freshman Lauren Jones, could very well land a top five spot, but won’t have a chance to beat Mountain Brook.
Individually, look for Huston to have a strong showing in the state meet, as she appears to be the one runner who could give Morgan problems.
This division promises to shape up into a three-team battle on the boys’ side—defending state champion Mobile St. Paul’s, Scottsboro, and Spanish Fort, an up-and-coming team from Southwest Alabama’s Eastern Shore. Stuart Graham, who won the individual title in the 5A Section 1 race, leads St. Paul’s, which lost three runners from last year’s state championship team to graduation. In fact, the Saints were defeated by Spanish Fort in the Section 1 race, and could face an uphill battle.
Spanish Fort is a story in itself. Led by a talented cast, which include the Redman brothers, John and Ben, the Toros started off with a bang by winning the Challenge of Champions meet in September and haven’t looked back since.
All that may not mean a hill of beans, as Scottsboro seeks to reclaim state championship glory. The Wildcats have some very fast runners. The main runner to watch is sophomore Lucas Sieb, who ran a blistering 15:54.04 at the 5A Section 5 meet. If he runs only halfway decently at state, it could be a long day for St. Paul’s and Spanish Fort.
Other boys’ teams to watch are Brewer, along with Cullman, led by Brig Kilgore and Ryan LaGanke.
The 5A girls’ competition can be best described in one word—SCOTTSBORO. The Lady Wildcats, led by seniors Caitlin Chitwood and Hannah Thompson, are complemented by a young group of runners that include freshman Maggie Thompson and eighth-graders Jamie Delay and Savannah Roland.
In fact, thanks to Scottsboro’s youth-dominated team, the Lady Wildcats took eight of the top 10 places at the Section 5 meet.
The only other team that may even have a ghost of a chance is St. Paul’s, led by Margaret Harkness, who has had a fine season so far this year. Look for Harkness, Chitwood, and Thompson to wage a fierce battle for the individual title.
Other teams to watch include Spanish Fort, led by Anna Jarman; Cullman, and Briarwood Christian.
If sectional meets determined state champions, Mobile’s UMS-Wright would win hands down.
In its sectional meet, UMS-Wright’s boys, led by Robert Willett, took the first eight places. This is coming from a team that was 5A state runner-up last season and lost a couple of runners to graduation.
Willett has strong support from fellow senior Tucker McFarlane and junior Ritchie Huetteman. In fact, with the exception of Dan Drew and Haddon Mullins—both freshmen—the Bulldogs have a veteran crew.
UMS-Wright’s key competition on the boys’ side includes Lawrence County and Rogers, led by R. J. Howard.
It could be just a little bit tougher for UMS-Wright on the girls’ side. The Lady Bulldogs scored 17 points in their regional meet, and have a competent young crew in Charlotte Galloway (freshman) and eighth-graders Claire Kennedy and Kathryn Lazarchick. But Rogers, led by Katie Stewart and Taylor Matthews, and Lawrence County, led by Ari Stephenson, won’t just go away quietly.
Still, it should be a fun competition to watch, especially with Lawrence County trying to get a state title on its home course, and UMS-Wright liking nothing more than to take the blue championship trophy back down south to midtown Mobile.
What a competitive division this could turn out to be! On the boys’ side, there are three schools that could easily compete for the team title—Randolph of Huntsville, Bayside Academy, and Montgomery Academy.
Add to the mix Altamont, which had its runners take the first eight places in its sectional meet, and the boys’ race could very well be a barnburner.
Randolph, led by Keith Buell, had a strong showing at the Jesse Owens Meet, and could very well be the favorite. But don’t tell that to Bayside Academy, who won the 2A boys title last year and would love nothing better than to take a 3A blue trophy home to match the 2A hardware.
Stewart Shoemaker, who won the 3A Section 2 race in 16:45.36, leads Bayside Academy, which has the advantage of having a seasoned senior class. The Admirals won the sectional meet, and could make things interesting if Randolph has an off day. Montgomery Academy, led by Stead Hayes, could also be in the hunt for the title.
Individually, Buell, Shoemaker, and Catholic-Huntsville’s Mark Fisher could have a very heated race for the individual title.
It could be just as wide open in the girls’ competition, with a pair of Southwest Alabama schools—T.R. Miller of Brewton and Bayside Academy—in the thick of things along with Montgomery Academy and Randolph.
The Nelson twins—Karissa and Katie—lead T. R Miller, which has come on strong as of late in the last few meets. The Lady Tigers will have their hands full, not only with Bayside, led by Charlotte Gill and Isabella Harrison, but also with always tough Montgomery Academy, led by junior Maggie Rickard.
Randolph, which basically has a young squad led by seventh-grader Brooke Sheridan, but who also has a veteran in the likes of senior Mindy Rogers, could very well play the spoiler’s role in this competition.
On paper, this one could be a tough one to call, with several teams—Mobile Christian, led by Colby Harrington; Westminster at Oak Mountain, which beat Mobile Christian in the Section 2 meet; Athens Bible, led by Colby Phillips; and Hatton, led by Zeke Nichols—all capable of having a good showing at state.
They may all have to take a back seat to Cold Springs, which has two outstanding runners in Nathan and Nick Lewis. Both ran under 17 minutes in the Section 3 meet, and could very well finish 1-2 at state.
On the girl’s side, Cold Springs, led by Palee Myrex, is one of the favorites, along with American Christian Academy, led by Sara Gibson. Athens Bible, led by Chelsea Burgess, and Westminster at Oak Mountain (led by seventh graders Katie Brooks Boone and Morgan Reynolds), are solid teams that should also be in the mix.