Kathy Kroeger TN 18:08 winner of Elite Girls race;
SE#5 Hoover AL takes Elite Boys race behind Pat McGregor's 15:48 Arthur Mack Stories
: Kroeger Dominates Elite Field
- Of Layoffs, Setbacks, Concussions and Breakdowns
Results from cfpitiming.com: Varsity Girls
- Varsity Boys
- JVs/Freshmen, More
KROEGER DOMINATES ELITE GIRLS FIELD IN JESSE OWENS CLASSIC
Independence High’s Kathy Kroeger runs away from field with an 18:08.26 clocking in Elite Girls’ division; Hoover’s Pat McGregor overcomes recent auto accident and fast-closing field to take Elite Boys’ individual title.
By Arthur L. Mack
OAKVILLE, AL.—For the early part of October, it was warm and very dry in the northwest section of Alabama. After all, this region has been under a severe drought for several months. It definitely showed at the Oakville Indian Mounds Park, where dry beds marked where rivers and streams once stood.
That, though, did not stop more than 2,800 runners in 12 separate divisions from giving it their all at the Jesse Owens Cross Country Invitational. And when it was all over, it was Alabama teams which pretty much dominated the competition, despite the hot and dusty conditions on the course.
This was a meet where there were several memorable performances—not to mention several human interest stories. It was about long layoffs, injuries, automobile accidents, and breaking down on the road (see related story), as well as tight competition and personal bests.
Here is a breakdown of what happened:
GOLD (ELITE) DIVISION
By far, the story of the meet was the appearance of 2006 Footlocker champion Kathy Kroeger of Independence High of Tennessee. Despite several attempts to keep her appearance at this meet low-key because it was her first true test of the season, Kroeger passed that test big-time as she ran away from the elite girls field—which included last year’s winner Jennifer Dunn of Decatur (Ala.) Austin, and last year’s runner-up, Sparkman’s Katie Huston.
An Alabama team, Scottsboro, walked away with the Elite Girls’ team title, defeating Hoover 70-80, with Bob Jones third (86), St. Paul’s fourth (116) and Auburn fifth (135).
Kroeger’s winning time of 18 minutes, 08.26 seconds was impressive enough even with the hot, dusty conditions and long layoff. But she admitted after the race that she had some serious butterflies.
“I was pretty nervous coming into the race, but I was thankful that I was healthy and being able to run,” she said. “I hadn’t raced in nine or 10 months because my doctor said I needed to gain weight, and then I had to deal with a stress fracture.”
Kroeger led a pack of five runners—which included Dunn, Scottsboro’s Emily Thompson; St. Paul’s Mary Carleton Johnston and Sparkman’s Adrianna Poole—through the first mile in 5:40. At that point, Huston was in eighth, content to hold back for a while.
A half-mile later, though, Kroeger broke away from the pack and suddenly found herself ahead by 70 meters. Huston also made her move, overtaking her teammate Poole and the others and settling into second. Meanwhile, Kroeger was going through the toughest part of the course—a long, twisting uphill and downhill section of the course known as “The Snake”—at full tilt, trying to maintain her lead.
“I was just trying to be relaxed the whole time during the race,” she said.
Huston finished strong with a time of 18:31.66, while Dunn was third in 18:38.37. Thompson and Poole were fourth and fifth with times of 18:43.02 and 18:43.67 respectively. For Huston, it was her second time finishing as a runner-up in the meet, but given the fact that she had knee problems at the start of the season, was pretty satisfied with her performance.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to run faster in the next race (Great American) she said. “I felt fine after the first mile, and the hills didn’t give me any problems.”
Scottsboro placed three runners in the top 15—Thompson, Caitlin Chitwood (11th) and Hannah Thompson (15th) to ensure itself of the team title, but Lady Wildcat coach John Eslinger was at a loss for words to explain how his team—which has dominated Alabama 5A girls’ competition for almost a decade—could pull it off.
“I don’t have a clue,” he said. “The girls are just working hard. We just try to take it one person and one race at a time. But we’ve been emphasizing pack running, trying to teach them how to run together. During the season, we had a gap in the middle, and we closed it a little today.”
An almost superhuman effort by front-runner Pat McGregor helped Hoover to a team title in the Elite Boys’ division, as the Bucs defeated Auburn 28-56. Mobile’s St. Paul’s was third with 103 points, with Scottsboro (114) and Oak Mountain (123) rounding out the top five.
Hoover placed all five of its scorers in the top10. All five finished under 17 minutes, with McGregor—who suffered a concussion in an automobile accident a few days before the meet--winning in 15:48.19. McGregor’s guts, plus the pack running pleased Bucs coach Devon Hind.
“Auburn gave us a little bit of a scare, but our kids ran real well,” he said. “Our goal is to keep improving every week, and from what I’ve seen today, has the makings of a great state meet (in November). We’ve worked real hard over the season, and I’ll find out the true caliber of this team in the Great American Race. If we ran like we did today, we’ll run with some people.”
Huntsville, Ala. coach Steve Baker wanted to make sure his team had enough confidence to handle competition, so he entered his girls’ team in the Silver Division. And although it didn’t have the luster and names of the Elite Division, Baker’s decision ultimately proved to be a wise one as his team, behind Khadiji Clay, trounced St. Benedict at Auburndale, Tenn. 83-155. Pelham was third with 157, while a couple of Alabama teams—UMS-Wright and Murphy, both of Mobile—were fourth and fifth with 174 and 178 points respectively.
Clay was first overall in the Silver Division girls’ race with a time of 19:07.78, and Marybeth Strickland and Tatum Perry were seventh and eighth overall with times of 20:16.16 and 20:20.48 respectively to ensure Huntsville of the win.
“I thought they were going to be over their heads (in the Gold Division) so I put them in the Silver Division,” said Baker. “But our girls have been working hard and we’ve had some good workouts. Khadiji ran really effortlessly, and we had two others to get into the top 10. Right now, we want to worry about position instead of times.”
An Alabama team that was running in the Jesse Owens Classic for the first time—Mobile’s UMS-Wright—took top honors in the boys’ Silver Division, edging David Lipscomb of Tennessee 104-107. Spain Park was third with 159 points, while a couple of Tennessee teams, St. Benedict at Auburndale and Columbia Central, were fourth and fifth with 169 and 182 points respectively.
UMS-Wright’s top runner, John Robert Taylor, was ninth overall in 16:59.11, while Robert Willett was 11th in 17:16.09. However, the Bulldogs were able to run more in a pack. Despite David Lipscomb’s Ryan Johnson winning the Silver Division boys’ race over Chattanooga Christian’s Matt Coniglio with a time of 16:29.76, Lipscomb was not able to pack its runners as much as UMS-Wright.
“I figured we were in the top five, but we had no way of knowing how well we did because there were so many runners,” said Bulldog coach Pat Galle. “We wanted to run in a really big meet, because we didn’t run in this meet last year and it cost us at the state championships.”
A pair of eighth-graders—Katie Stewart and Maggie Hamner—led Rogers to close win over Pontotoc, Ms. in the girls’ Bronze Division race.
Stewart finished fourth in 20:42.50, and Hamner was seventh overall in 20:59.81 as Rogers defeated Pontotoc 52-56.
Rogers had all five of its scorers in the top 20 to seal the team win. Cold Springs was third with 136, while Harding Academy was fourth with 148, and host Lawrence County fifth with 166 points.
Individually, Fairview’s ChaLyce Stancil was the winner with a time of 20:29.30.
Pontotoc got a measure of revenge in the boys’ Bronze Division, defeating Randolph on a tie-breaker. Both teams had 89 points, but Pontotoc’s sixth runner Kelsey Barnes finished 40th overall and 38th in scoring, while Randolph’s sixth runner, Skylar Call, scored only 62nd.
Harding Academy was third with 134 points, while Bayside Academy of Fairhope was fourth (141) and Athens Bible (164) was fifth.
Cold Spring’s Nathan Lewis was the individual winner with a time of 16:54.25.
Hewitt-Trussville placed six runners in the top 15 to defeat Hoover, 37-43, despite Hoover’s Megan O’Brien winning the Red Division girls’ race in 21:35.07.
The Lady Huskies’ top five finishers were as follows: Olivia Brady (2nd, 21:59.75); Shelby Hallmark (6th, 22:42.01); Rachael Sims (8th, 23:06.19); Maggie Meacham (9th, 23:16.30) and Kinsey Waylander (12th, 23:36.72)
Rounding out the top five were Oxford (90), McGill-Toolen (109), and Huntsville (114).
If Hewitt-Trussville was impressive in the Red Division girls’ competition, Hoover was downright dominating as its top seven runners placed in the top 15 to defeat Spain Park 19-69. Hoover’s Austin Taylor and David Meinberg were 1-2 for the Bucs, as they ran 17:43.03 and 17:53 respectively.
Josh Smith (18:30.31) and Taylor Stinson (18:38.20 were fourth and fifth for Hoover, while Donovan Lucas was eighth overall (19:25.25), and Dillon Daugherty (19:33.87) and Will Gambla (19:34.55) were 12th and 13th overall respectively.
Hewitt-Trussville was third (72), while UMS-Wright and David Lipscomb were fourth and fifth with 125 and 168 points respectively.
St. Andrew’s, led by Rebecca Johnson’s winning time of 13:58.74 over the 2.1 mile course, placed all five of its scorers in the top 10 as it defeated Central-Florence 22-57 to win the Small Junior High girls’ division.
Randolph’s Aaron Merijanian and James Van Bebber went 1-2 in the Small Junior High boys’ race. Merijanian ran 12:45.36 and Van Bebber 12:49.36 as Randolph—who placed all five of its scorers in the top 15—defeated Cold Springs 31-62.
Mountain Brook dominated the Large Junior High division, trouncing Pearl, Ms., to win the girls’ division. The Lady Spartans missed a perfect score by one point, as Catherine Diethelm’s winning time of 11:54.35 led a 1-2-3-4-6 charge.
On the boys’ side, Mountain Brook defeated Hoover 34-54, thanks to a 1-2 finish by Jack Morgan (11:14.90) and Mitchell Lloyd (11:18.75).
OF LAYOFFS, SETBACKS, CONCUSSIONS, AND BREAKDOWNS
Winners turn misfortune into great performances at the Jesse Owens Classic
By Arthur L. Mack
OAKVILLE, AL—The Jesse Owens Classic has always been known for its high drama and stellar performances.
This year has been no exception, as there were some major surprises.
Oh sure, every one expected 2006 Footlocker champion Kathy Kroeger of Independence High in Franklin, Tenn. to come out and simply smoke the field in the girls’ Gold Division. In fact, everyone expected a blazing time.
Problem was, Kroeger had laid low for the past 10 months as a result of her doctor telling her she needed to gain weight before she could compete. And, as if that wasn’t enough, she had a stress fracture while doing summer training.
So here is Kroeger, coming off the long layoff and running in a few practice meets so she could simply get back into the running groove. She enters the Jesse Owens Classic to test herself against the best the Elite division has to offer. And guess what? She breaks open a close race after 1½ miles, and wins by 23 seconds over her nearest competitor, Sparkman’s Katie Huston—who dealt with knee problems before her summer workouts started.
Kroeger’s winning time of 18:08.26 was slower than last year’s winning time, partly due to the unseasonable October heat. But if one thought Kroeger was disappointed, guess again.
“I was just thankful being healthy and being able to run,” she said after the race. “I was trying to stay relaxed the whole race and trying not to put too much pressure on my self.”
Sounds sensible—especially with the Great American Race coming up in a week and another possible battle with Huston and Decatur Austin’s Jennifer Dunn, last year’s Jesse Owens Elite girls champion.
Of course, things could have been worse for Kroger—she could have been in a car accident the Monday before the Jesse Owens meet like the Elite boys’ race winner—Hoover’s Pat McGregor.
McGregor, who ran 15:48.19 to hold off fast-closing Lee Gilmer of Mobile’s St. Paul’s Episcopal (2nd, 15:49.88), and Auburn’s Howard Graves (3rd, 15:55.03), was sent to the hospital with a concussion, and missed a couple of days of running as a result. But on Saturday, McGregor toed the starting line and set a blistering pace, going through the first mile in 4:48, and even though he did not reach the kind of time he wanted, was nevertheless grateful for the win.
“I was rear-ended by a guy going 40 miles an hour,” he said about the accident. “I was hurting during the race, and I wanted to shoot for a 15:20, but was unable to go that fast. Still, I was happy to get to compete.”
“Pat didn’t run as fast as he wanted to,” Hoover coach Devon Hind said. “But I’m glad he’s not in a cast. This was the first time he’s gone out by himself in a race, because at other times he’s being hanging back, and it’s cost him.”
McGregor’s early pace was so fast, Gilmer and Graves set new 5K personal bests.
“I expected it to be a lot cooler today,” said Gilmer. “We went out pretty quickly and I hit the first mile at about 5:00—right where I wanted to be. We’ve been putting in a lot of hard workouts, and the time was a culmination of hard work.”
“He really took it out hard,” Graves said of McGregor. “Lee and I were trying to hang with him, and at about mile two we picked him up. I’ve been sort of ready for a fast race all season, and I sort of knew I wanted it today.”
Then, there’s the deal with Mobile’s UMS-Wright—namely, a mechanical breakdown that threatened to spoil the team’s first ever-trip to the Jesse Owens Classic.
UMS-Wright was headed to the meet on Friday, but the bus in which they were traveling in broke down. By the time the bus was repaired, the team was not even able to check out the course. But the Bulldogs bore down and ran a strong team race, defeating David Lipscomb 104-107.
“We broke down in Montgomery yesterday and spent four hours on the side of the road (on Friday) said UMS-Wright coach Pat Galle. “We didn’t even see the course before the race, but we wanted to run in a really big meet, because we didn’t do it last year and it cost us when the state meet rolled around.”
But the Bulldogs did it—broken down bus or not.
Sometimes, even bad breaks can work out for the best….