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Dunn, Hubers set course records in blowing away field at Jesse Owens Invite, look forward to future competition
Ben Hubers, McEachern GA sr, accepts his award (left). At right, Decatur-Austin AL winner Jennifer Dunn has separated from the competition. Photos by Steve Bedsole
By Arthur L. Mack
OAKVILLE, Ala, Saturday, October 7---One would have expected that Decatur (Ala.) Austin's Jennifer Dunn and Marietta (Ga.) McEachern's Ben Hubers would be jumping for joy after both smashed course records in the eighth annual Jesse Owens Cross Country Invitational.
Instead, it was more like, "Let's get ready for the next race."
Both had truly amazing record-breaking performances, with Dunn winning the girls' race with a spectacular 17 minutes, 54.33 seconds, while Hubers became the first runner in the history of the race to run under 15 minutes with a very strong 14:58.00.
Dunn, who had run the Jesse Owens Classic four times before and was used to the course, was just content to improve and get ready for the Alabama state meet next month. Hubers, who won the Great American Race the week before, felt he could have run faster.
"No, I wasn't surprised about my time, because it's almost the same time I ran at the end of last year," Dunn said. "I'm just hoping to get back to the state meet.”
"I didn't run fast enough," said Hubers, who is preparing for his regional championships in the next three weeks. "I was shooting for the 14:40s or at least the low 14:50s. It was hard to stay focused out there and keep going as fast as I should have been going."
But Hubers' coach, Travis Gower, was certainly pleased with the race--especially with Hubers running virtually by himself.
"(He) was all by himself and it warmed up pretty quickly once the sun came out. So to be out there by himself the whole time and running as fast as he did, I was pretty happy with it," said Gower. "When he has someone to race against, he's going to be that much better."
Dunn spent the early part of the Elite Girls' race biding her time with a pack that included Sparkman (Ala.'s) Katie Huston, Birmingham Altamont's Elisabeth Molen and Mountain Brook (Ala's) Madeline Morgan. But Dunn--who has been running for Austin's varsity since the eighth grade---put her experience to work and distanced herself from the rest of the pack, finishing 23 seconds ahead of Huston, who ran a not-so-shabby 18:07.57 for second.
Molen, the defending Alabama 1A-2A girls' state cross country champion, was third in 18:11.85, while Morgan finshed fourth in 18:19.97.
"I don't remember it," Dunn said about the first mile. "But there was a good pack in the front. Usually, a lot of times there's not, and sometimes they're strung out. We didn't go out too fast. We went out at the pace I wanted to, because sometimes they tend to go out really fast and I don't really want to let them go. I'm just glad the pack ran good even times."
The even pace early on enabled Dunn to plot her strategy for mile two--by far the most difficult part of the course with twisting curves and hills that some runners call 'The Snake.' But having run the course 13 times over a five-year period gave Dunn a big advantage.
'I knew exactly how the hills are, and I'm pretty strong on them," she said. "I've run this course so many times, I knew what to expect."
Hubers didn't hang around with the pack in the Elite Boys' race. He broke out in front of the field of 200 from the gun and had a 100-meter lead over fellow Georgians Taylor Lord of Chapel Hill and Zack Flickinger of Lassiter before the first half-mile.
Hubers--who believed he went through the first mile in 4:40---appeared to be in total control of the race with his silky-smooth stride. Nobody knew it at the time, but despite the apparent smoothness of his strides, he was affected by lack of competition and the hills which came at mile two.
"I really didn't have much company up there after the second mile, and I think that's what hurt me," he said. "There was really no one up there to help me (run faster) and push myself up the hills. Right after that, those hills hit me pretty hard and I guess that I didn't get up them fast enough. I didn't know what that was--I guess it wasn't enough mental drive. That's something I need to work on."
Despite not reaching his goal, Hubers was well ahead of Lord (15:41.95) and Flickinger (15:53.93). Ross Laporte of Oak Mountain (Ala.) was fourth in 15:57.70, while Chapel Hill's Chase Eldredge was fifth in 15:59.36.
"I slowed down too much on the hills, and there wasn't enough time to make it up," Hubers said. "But I'm still pretty happy with it (the victory)."
IT WAS WORTH THE TRIP - Teams from Minster, OH and Lake Braddock, VA get rewarded for making trip to Jesse Owens Cross Country Invitational Meet andget treated like royalty in the process.
By Arthur L. Mack
It's not often that high school cross country teams get on a plane from the Midwest and Atlantic Coast, travel to the Deep South, and compete in a prestigious cross country meet.
But Minster, Ohio's and Braddock, Va.'s Lake Braddock girls cross country teams did just that, and were rewarded for their efforts as they finshed 1-2 in the Gold (Elite) girls' division. Minster scored 68 points, while Lake Braddock had 95.
It was their first time competing in the Jesse Owens Classic, and to have Minster coach Jessie Magoto and Mike Mangan, the coach of Lake Braddock put it, the meet was more than just competition.
"I can't believe how awesome the people have been," said Magoto. "They just treated us so great. All of the teams and all of the officials, they've gone out of their way to make sure we know what we were doing and feel real comfortable here."
"This is about what Southern hospitality really is,” said Mangan. "The (meet) staff picked us up at the airport, and the hotel staff was just incredible. In order to help us get here, one of the staff members drove in front of us so we wouldn't get lost. The long trip was worth it, and we're staying the night and we're not flying out until Sunday night. We're going to have fun, Decatur (Ala.) style.
Both coaches said the course was to their teams' liking.
"It was a great experience for us," Magoto said. "The team has been running well and we just wanted to give them a new opportunity. The course? Gosh, we just love it! It's just awesome! Before they even raced, they felt so excited to be here and to be able to run on this course.
"I thought we ran pretty well," said Mangan. "We're in the middle of our season, so we're not getting ready to peak by any way, stretch or form. We have 35 days before our state meet, so we're doing a good job. The course is flat and fast, and it's pretty different from our state meet course. But whatever the course is, you have to go out and earn it. I can see us coming back (here) again."
Meet director Stan Johnson said that having teams such as Minster and Lake Braddock gave the Jesse Owens meet even more publicity and national recognition.
"I thought this year's meet was awesome," he said. "The competition level was at its peak this year. The objective of having the meet was to promote cross country and turn people on to running. It looks like it did just that, based on the number of teams and fans we had here."