A quick look at the state cross-country meets

Published 3:24 pm Wednesday, November 11, 2015


The Westminster School at Oak Mountain Lady Knights are the only cross-country team in the county projected to take home a state championship on Nov. 14. Can they do it? (Contributed)

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

The 2015 cross-country state championship fields are set, and now all that’s left to do is run the races. The state meets for all seven classifications will take place on Nov. 14 at Oakville Indian Mounds Park in Moulton. Shelby County has a wide array of teams that will be competing at the races this Saturday, 12 to be precise. Let’s take a quick look at them all, using each runners’ fastest times this season as a measuring metric.


Westminster at Oak Mountain, 1A-2A meet.

Westminster was one of four schools in the county to send both its boys and girls teams to state. The Lady Knights are the only overall favorite from Shelby County as they head into the 1A-2A meet, and will be in a dogfight with St. Bernard for the title. The top five runners for both the Lady Knights and the Lady Saints have run 10 of the top 17 fastest 1A-2A times in the state this season. Westminster is projected to beat St. Bernard by two points if the current times hold, but the Lady Knights are going to be in a battle either way and will need big days from Maddie Hoaglund, Sarah Kate Lipperd and Camryn Neal, who all have posted top-10 1A-2A times this year.


The boys from Westminster placed third in their section and are also projected to place third in state. The 1A-2A winner, Cold Springs, will most likely walk away with the state title, but Pierce Moffett and John Porterfield will keep the Knights toward the top of the leaderboard.


Helena, 5A meet.

Another school that is sending both its boys and girls squads to state is Helena. The boys, winners of the 5A Section 2 meet, are projected to finish sixth at the state meet, one place behind the Beauregard team the Huskies beat in sectionals. Blake Vaughn is the front-runner for this Huskies team, while Justin Ritondo and Spencer Hodges also are going to need big days for Helena to be a top-five team.


The girls’ team, which finished second at the sectional race, is projected to finish fifth. Seniors Maggie Lucas and Claire Vaughn, older sister to Blake, will lead the Lady Huskies as they make a push for a top-five finish as well.


Shelby County, girls, 5A meet.

The Lady Wildcats snuck into the 5A state meet with a third-place finish at the 5A Section 2 meet. Shelby County averaged a 27:17 5K for its top-five finishers at the section race, and the Lady Wildcats are projected to finish 10th out of 11 teams overall, and will just be happy to be making an appearance as one of the fastest teams from across the state. The only Shelby County runner who has a time in the top-50 this season is Marjorie Head, whose 20:16.60 is the ninth-fastest 5A time in the state to date.


Briarwood, 6A meet.

Briarwood is another program that is sending both squads to the state meet. The girls’ team, third-place finishers at the 6A Section 3 meet, is projected to finish 14th overall out of 18 teams competing, and Anne Kelly Patrick is the only Lady Lion to post a top-50 time among 6A girls this season. The boys’ team, which finished second at the 6A Section 3 meet, is projected to finish eighth, but could hop into the top seven over Baldwin County if all five runners can have big days. Senior Griffin Oaks and sophomore Zach Howard have both posted top-30 times among 6A runners this year.


Pelham, 6A meet.

The fourth and final school to send both its teams to the state meet, Pelham is one of two schools in the county that will most likely see an individual state champion on the day when Mary Grace Strozier takes to the track. Strozier has the fastest time among 6A girls this season at 18:26.39, which is 31.01 seconds faster than the next-closest 6A competitor. Strozier, barring some freak event, will be the individual 6A state champion on Saturday. Overall, the Lady Panthers are projected to finish 10th at the meet. The Pelham boys are projected to finish 12th, but could jump John Carroll Catholic, projected to finish 11th, if all have a big day. Senior Robby Letson, who has run a 17:17.44 this season, will look to finish his high school career with a bang.


Chelsea, boys, 6A meet.

The Hornets are another team that will just be happy to be participating in the state meet as one of the fastest 6A teams across the state. Chelsea finished third in 6A Section 3, behind probable state champion Homewood as well as Briarwood, and are projected to finish 17th out of 18 teams at the state meet. Seniors Christian Fauer and Matthew Gilchrist are the only Chelsea runners to have posted top-100 6A times this season, and will both want to finish their high school careers in style.


Spain Park, girls, 7A meet.

The Lady Jaguars finished third in the 7A Section 3 meet, and are also projected to finish third out of 12 teams in the state meet. Looking at the current fastest times in the state, the Lady Jaguars are only 10 points off of the first place projected Mountain Brook Lady Spartans, who coincidentally won the Section 3 meet. Spain Park is projected to beat Hoover, the No. 2 team at the section meet, while Huntsville is projected to finish second at state. Sarah Sims McGrath, Isabel Caddo and Zoe Shore have all run under 19 minutes this season, although Caddo did not run at the sectional meet.


Oak Mountain, boys, 7A meet.

The boys’ team from Oak Mountain will most likely see the second individual cross-country champion in Cole Stidfole. Stidfole has been the fastest runner across the state since the first day of the season and has never relinquished that position. The 15:20.45 he ran earlier this season is nearly 20 seconds faster than the next-fastest 7A time this year. The Eagles as a team will not challenge either Auburn or Mountain Brook for the top two slots, but will be in a three-way dogfight with Baker and Hoover for the No. 3 spot on Nov. 14.