Strozier, Hazouri finish first at section

Spain Park's Steven Crain crosses the finish line in the 6A boys' cross country section meet Nov. 3 at Veterans Park. (Reporter Photo/Kala Bolton)

By KALA BOLTON / Staff Writer

HOOVER — Mary Grace Strozier knows how to win races.

The Pelham High School cross country runner, who  finished top five in the state last year, is looking to place again by taking down some of the state’s fastest cross country runners in the state this year — and for the next four years of her high school career.

Just an eighth grader, Strozier took first place in the girls Class 6A cross country section meet Nov. 3 at Veterans Park with a time of 20:00.96, beating runner-up Haley Davidson from Oak Mountain by 34 seconds. Thompson’s Anna Puckett took third place with a time of 20:47.55.

Strozier and Puckett braved the cold and rain to qualify as individuals for the upcoming state meet, and Davidson and Allie Ingram, who finished eighth with a time of 21:21.94, will accompany the rest of their Eagles as Oak Mountain earned a team spot in the final race.

“It was hard, but it felt good,” Strozier said. “I liked how it was cold and wet, it felt refreshing.”

Shelby County’s Jacqueline Head finished second in the Class 5A girls section meet with a time of 20:41.87, falling short to John Carroll’s Rachel Roberts, who crossed the finish line with a time of 18:55.07. Briarwood Christian’s Becky Thielman, Anne Kelly Patrick, Taylor Smith, Evan Riddlesperger and Emily Sanders rounded out the top 10. Briarwood will advance as a team. Jacqueline Head and teammates Brookelynn Smith, who placed 16th, and Marjorie Head, who placed 22nd, will advance as individuals.

“I was looking to kind of use a different race style today and start out a little bit harder than I’ve been doing,” Jacqueline Head said. “I was looking to, hopefully, 19, but I’m happy with my performance. I’ve got another big race coming up, so I’m very excited.”

John Carroll runners snagged the top four spots in the 5A boys run with Briarwood’s Trey Long finishing fifth with a time of 18:55.65.

“I was really nervous,” Trey Long said. “We haven’t not made it to state for a while, but I think we did really well. Everybody stepped up to the plate.”

Jarred Long placed eighth with a time of 19:13.83, and Sam Whorton placed 13th with his time of 19:53.89, both for Briarwood. Briarwood qualified to compete as a team in the boys’ state competition. Shelby County’s Bobby Shoemaker, who finished 27th with a time of 22:34.71, and Nick Beasley, who placed 28th with a time of 22:35.48, qualified as individuals for state.

Spain Park’s Brandon Hazouri and Steven Crain placed first and second in the boys Class 6A run with their times of 16:15.75 and 16:34.55, respectively. The Jaguars qualified to compete as a team at state.

“We warmed up pretty good, and we run this course every day,” Hazouri said. “It was a good race. I was happy with it.”

Thompson’s Michael Johnson came in eighth, earning an individual bid to state with his time of 17:27.09. Johnson’s teammate, Jordan Smith, finished 14th with a time of 17:39.45, also earning an individual berth.

Oak Mountain’s Will Hamaker, Tanner Syx and Travis Rocha finished 13th, 15th and 21st, respectively, and all earned a bid to the state meet, which will be held Nov. 12 at Indian Mounds Park in Oakville.