Photo: Ashville High’s Joe Stevens (pictured at right) stands at the awards podium after finishing third out of 167 runners in the Class 4A boys race at the AHSAA state cross country meet last Saturday (Nov. 5) in Oakville. Pictured with Stevens are winner Dakota Frank of Munford (center) and runner-up Augustin Lemuz of LAMP. (Submitted photo)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Three local teams and several area individual runners finished in the top 10 at the AHSAA state cross country meet last Saturday (Nov. 5) at a rain-soaked Indian Mounds Park in Oakville.
Ashville High senior Joe Stevens braved the inclement weather to finish third out of 167 runners in the Class 4A boys race. The defending state champion’s time of 16:06.36 beat his season PR by 11 seconds. Stevens’ performance helped the Bulldogs finish fifth out of 16 teams.
Stevens went stride for stride with winner Dakota Frank before the Munford junior pulled away over the final 100 yards for a first-place showing of 16:00.86. LAMP’s Augustin Lemuz edged Stevens at the finish line by approximately one second.
“To be honest, if it wasn’t me, I wanted Dakota to win,” said Stevens. “I’m really happy for him. Dakota’s legs were feeling better than mine near the end, so it was his day. I love running against that guy. I’d much rather run in the rain in the heat, so I felt really cool and I enjoyed the race.”
Stevens, who is being recruited in cross country by Gadsden State, Huntingdon College and the University of Mobile, was satisfied to end his high school career on one of his favorite 5K courses.
“I’m definitely sad to leave high school cross country, because it’s my favorite sport and they’re my favorite people to be around, but I’ve got nothing to complain about.”
Ashville’s Ryan Matthews finished in the top 25 with an 18th place time of 17:39.72. Also running for the Bulldogs were Bruce Pantoja (18:19.31), Auggie Lemonds (18:39.38), Coby Caswell (20:41.82), Kanyon White (20:45.10) and Owen Whiteman (20:54.29).
The Glencoe girls came in third in Class 3A out of 148 runners in the 15-team field, placing behind Altamont and Whitesburg Christian. Senior Katie Giles paced the Lady Yellow Jackets with a sixth-place time of 20:50.77. Also finishing in the top 10 was Sarah Ponder with a ninth-pace time of 21:07.88.
Giles, who was state champion in 2020 and came in 11th last year, was pleased to finish out her prep career with her third straight all-state performance.
“It didn’t really go as well as I’d hoped, but the conditions had a lot to do with that,” she said. “I tried to go out somewhat conservative just so I wouldn’t burn out. I was okay through the first mile and moved up like I wanted to, but there were so many spots where you just couldn’t get any traction, which made it hard to pass. There was hardly anywhere on the course where it wasn’t muddy. If you tried to go around somebody, you wouldn’t know what you’d be stepping in. But it was our highest finish as a team on both the boys and girls’ sides, so it’s definitely something I won’t forget. A lot of us are seniors, so it was an awesome experience.”
Giles was also happy with Glencoe finishing as the top public school in the state for the second straight year.
“That was something we’re really proud about. It was a big deal for us. It just goes to show that all the work we’ve put in was worth it.”
Giles has narrowed her scholarship offers to UAH, the University of North Alabama in Florence and the University of South Alabama in Mobile.
“I’m still thinking through a few things and still trying to decide, but hopefully I’ll make a decision in the next few weeks.”
Also running for Glencoe were Chloe Douglas (22:39.98), Elizabeth Harrison (23:12.81), Allie Jo Amos (23:49.24), Jaxson Sizemore (24:00.67), McKinley Kay (25:12.02), Allie Willett (25:15.37), Kaitlyn Ponder (27:15.86) and Mary Elizabeth Edmondson (28:21.03).
The Southside boys finished fourth out of 16 teams. Leading the way for the Panthers were senior Jackson Griggs and sophomore Evan Christopher, who placed sixth and eighth out of 159 runners with respective times of 16:14.93 and 16:21.09. Griggs edged American Christian’s Carson Renicks by two seconds at the finish line.
The result was extra special for Griggs due to the fact that he dealt with hip and Achilles issues for much of the season following the Panthers’ season opener.
“Placement-wise, I feel like I race better in wet conditions like that,” said Griggs, who finished ninth at state last year. “I’ve been on only about four weeks of regular training, so my times haven’t quite been the best this year. The county meet (in mid-October where he finished runner-up) was really my first meet back. So I’ve been running consistently since then. But it’s been a good year and I’m happy with how things went.”
Also in Griggs’ favor at Oakville was a lack of anxiety prior to the start of the race.
“That was actually the first time ever that I wasn’t nervous before a race,” he said. “I went out to run my own rac,e and Evan caught up to me after the first mile. I was on full throttle the rest of the way, and we stayed with each other until near the end. Just being able to compete at state after how this season went was a blessing just being able to run, regardless of the time.”
Griggs has received offers from UAH, Samford, Troy, South Alabama and Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.
“I’m waiting until the spring to see how much money I’ll get academically, so I’ll probably be a very late commitment,” he said.
Max Valentine helped the Panthers with a 20th-place time of 17:10.52. Also competing for Southside were Hayden Tucker (18:06.86), Bram Van Gils (18:23.13), Sanjay Wright (18:27.32), Jackson Brown (18:50.25), Matthew Battles (19:03.93), Alberto Ruggieri (20:22.67) and Kirtan Patel (20:22.67).
The Southside girls also turned in a fine performance, coming in sixth out of 14 teams. Sarah Burger led the Lady Panthers with a time of 21:42.07, followed by Zoie Menk (22:48.85), Taylor Dortch (23:04.69), Marlee Tucker (23:05.37), Mallory Tucker (23:15.33), Riley Hulsey (23:36.53), Madelyn Chandler (23:42.69), Adalyn Phillips (24:31.01), Hannah Stanfield (24:38.67) and Kennedy McGlathery (27:10.12).
Bryer Morrison’s 24th-place time of 18:31.73 out of 152 runners helped the Hokes Bluff boys finish eighth out of 15 teams in Class 3A. Following Morrison for the Eagles were Mason Miller (19:13.46), Ethan Patterson (19:33.59), Kooper Young (20:27.21), Seth Johnson (20:56.84), Micah Brasher (21:03.94), Trey Harbin (22:20.39), Aaron Barnard (23:34.41), Aiden Tucker (24:19.93) and Peyton Abercrombie (28:49.91).
Also making All-State were Ashville’s Taylor Knight and West End’s Karlee Tarpley. Knight finished 15th out of 146 runners in Class 4A girls with a time of 20:56.29, while Tarpley placed 14th out of 141 runners in Class 1A/2A girls with a time of 22:10.89.
Hokes Bluff’s Emma Godfrey finished 23rd out of 148 runners in Class 3A girls with a time of 21:49.46.
Other local runners competing were Gadsden City’s Skylar Stevens (24:03.26) and Patricia Brooks (30:53.36) in Class 6A girls; Gadsden City’s Mithun Rameshkumar (20:06.46), Chatham Griffith (20:15.86) and Jackson Camp (20:29.50) in Class 6A boys; Sardis’ Barit Snead (21:58.85) in 5A girls; Ashville’s Molly Northam (22:49.22), Anzlee Farmer (23:58.49), Alana Whiteman (24:09.31) and Keely Massey (27:23.66) in Class 4A girls; Glencoe’s Conner Strawn (19:16.65), Cason Arther (20:54.81) and Reid Drenner (21:32.09) in Class 3A boys; Hokes Bluff’s Coley Sims (25:23.42) and Westbrook Christian’s Noel Griffin (28:34.44) in Class 3A girls; West End’s Triston Chaney (21:24.47) in Class 1A-2A boys and West End’s Jada Wright (24:13.11), Kaylee Tarpley (25:49.11), Toree Chaney (27:40.63), Kyra Brusaw (27:49.52), Trudy George (28:15.53), Peyton Hall (29:59.11), Tyree Chaney (31:33.50) and Sadie Umphrey (31:42.09) in Class 1A/2A girls.