Which cross-country teams will make it to state?

Published 1:14 pm Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Cole Stidfole, Caleb Van Geffen and Sean Drummond should lead the Oak Mountain Eagles out of the incredibly tough 7A Section 3. (Contributed)

Cole Stidfole, Caleb Van Geffen and Sean Drummond should lead the Oak Mountain Eagles out of the incredibly tough 7A Section 3. (Contributed)

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

On Nov. 5, each cross-country sectional race across the state will take place, from 1A up through 7A, and the field will be set for the state cross-country meet on Nov. 14. Only three teams from each section advance to the state meet, which can cause some problems in some loaded sections, like 7A Section 3 for example, but we’ll get to that later. There are a number of good teams sprinkled throughout Shelby County, and a handful of very good teams. Let’s take a quick look at some of the cross-country squads set to have a big day.


Westminster School at Oak Mountain, 1A-2A Section 2.

The Lady Knights of the Westminster School at Oak Mountain should walk away with the 1A-2A Section 2 title while the boys should easily place in the top three as well on Nov. 5 in Bremen. Maddie Hoaglund is the only girl in the section to have broken 20 minutes this season while Hoaglund, Sarah Kate Lipperd and Camryn Neal have three of the top four fastest times in the section overall. The boys will not be able to match Cold Springs, as each of the Eagles’ top five runners all have run times faster than the Knights’ No. 1, Pierce Moffett. Moffett should be able to lead the Knights to a second-place finish however, as Altamont’s average time is more than 12 seconds off of Westminster’s currently.


Indian Springs, boys, 3A Section 2

It will be a stretch for either Springs squad to make it to the 3A state meet. Both are ranked fourth in Section 2 behind three strong teams, but the boys have a better shot of hopping into the top three than the girls do. The boys’ average time is 19:54.78 while the third place team from Holly Pond is averaging 19:20.94. Greyson Flint, Thomas Barr, Ken Jiao, Zak Heino and Vito Aberham will have to run the races of their lives to give themselves a chance, but crazier things have happened.


Helena, 5A Section 2

Helena won’t win the section meet in either race, the girls team from Alexandria and the boys team from Beauregard are too strong for that. However, both should finish in second place and advance to the state meet. Brother and sister tandem Blake and Claire Vaughn will help lead the way for the boys and girls teams, while Maggie Lucas will challenge for a top-five finish overall.


Shelby County, girls, 5A Section 2

Shelby County’s average time is more than four minutes slower than Helena’s but is still almost two minutes faster than Calera’s, the fourth-ranked team in the section. The Lady Wildcats won’t challenge either Helena or Alexandria, but will still make it to state with little trouble.


Briarwood, 6A Section 3

Both the boys’ and the girls’ team should have no trouble placing in the top three of the section meet, but neither will win. The Lions are in the same section as Homewood, one of the strongest teams in the state regardless of classification. Gardendale may have a big day in the girls meet, knocking the Lady Lions to third, but they won’t fall past that. The boys are firmly in second as well. With an average time almost a minute and a half off of Homewood’s pace, but better than over a minute from the third place team.


Chelsea, boys, 6A Section 3

The Lady Hornets would have to have a Herculean outing to make state this season, but the boys team, led by Christian Fauer and Matthew Gilchrest, have the Hornets poised for a state outing as long as they can hold off a pesky Pinson Valley team.


Pelham, 6A Section 4

It’s no secret that Mary Grace Strozier is carrying this Pelham team on her shoulders. The senior Samford signee has the fastest time in the section, and one of the fastest times in the state this year at 18:26.39, better by almost two minutes than the next-quickest Lady Panther, her younger sister, Katie Strozier. The Lady Panthers won’t beat John Carroll or Walker, but won’t even be challenged by Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa and will make the state meet. The boys, on the other hand, are a little more balanced than the girls, and have three runners in Robby Letson, Peyton Strickland and Jacob Colvert all capable of running under 18:20. The Panthers are a lock for either the second or third place seed out of the region.


Oak Mountain, boys, 7A Section 3

This is easily the toughest section in the state. Year in and year out, the great teams are left home in Section 3 of 7A, like the Spain Park team from last season, due to the rule that only three teams from each section move on. This season, five of the top-10 fastest boys teams in the state are in the section and four of the top five fastest girls teams are as well. Whether that rule should be changed or is fair is a discussion for another day. As it stands, Oak Mountain is the only boys team in the county getting out of this region. Cole Stidfole is the fastest kid in the state, and it’s honestly not that close, while Caleb Van Geffen and Sean Drummond also have top-15 speed as well to help the Eagles escape the section.


Spain Park, girls. 7A Section 3

Using best times as a metric, Spain Park is the third-quickest 7A team in the state. The quickest team, Mountain Brook, is also in the section, as is Vestavia and Hoover, the fourth and fifth-fastest teams in the state, respectively. One of the top five teams in the state won’t make it out of its section in this meet. Mountain Brook has the three fastest girls in the section and will most likely grab first place, but second place through fourth place is going to be a dogfight. Sarah Sims McGrath, Isabel Caddo, Zoe Shore, Holland Lidikay, Emily DiMercurio and Bailey Condone need to all have banner days to keep their season alive.