Local boys XC teams compete under the lights at Spain Park meet

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

HOOVER – At the high school level, we always hear about Friday Night Lights and high school football, but on Sept. 26, cross country teams got their time in the spotlight, creating Saturday Night Lights.

Teams from across the state, including several local teams, traveled to Veterans Park in Hoover off the campus of Spain Park High School to compete in the Twilight Meet Under the Lights event, which sees teams running on a lit up course in one of the more anticipated events of the cross country season.

And for local teams Spain Park, Oak Mountain, Briarwood, Thompson and Westminster at Oak Mountain, they took advantage and capitalized on the opportunity with impressive performances.

At the end of the 5,000-meter run, Keith Warner made sure it was a Spain Park Jaguars standing atop the podium after the sophomore finished the race in 17:04.64 to claim the top spot in the race by seven seconds.

That first-place finish wasn’t just special for him, but was one of two top five finishers for the Jags in the event, as they went on to finish second in the overall team standings behind Hoover.

The other top-five finisher was another sophomore, as Kenneth Bishop finished 13 seconds behind his teammate with a time of 17:17.78 to claim fourth in the event.

But Hoover’s three finishers in the top six and six in the top 20 made the difference in the final standings with the Bucs posting a low of 38 points compared to Spain Park’s 68.

Just behind the Jaguars in third were the Oak Mountain Eagles and junior Reese Bell was a big reason why. He finished seventh in the race thanks to a time of 17:46.74. With no Walker Cole, one of the state’s best runners, Bell was able to post his second highest finish of the season.

The Briarwood Lions and Thompson Warriors also finished highly in the team standings with the Lions claiming fifth and the Warriors sixth.

The two teams also claimed the eighth and ninth spot in the individual standings via Jackson Hamlin and Trent Malloy.

Hamlin finished eighth for Thompson with a time of 17:49.24, which was just behind Bell for the Eagles, while Malloy continued an impressive season with a time of 17:53.61 to finish ninth.

That actually marked Malloy’s lowest finish of the season to show how dominant he has been. The senior has second twice, first once and now ninth.

Each team also had several more finishers in the top 30 of the standings.

The host Jaguars were led by Garrett Bishop and Jackson Cooper with Bishop claiming 16th behind a time of 18:19.94, while Cooper finished 22nd with a time of 18:31.67. Freshman Webb Harper finished just outside the top 30 in 31st with a time of 18:58.39.

Briarwood’s two other top 30 finishers were Joseph Bell and Patrick Hnizdil, both of who have had strong seasons so far. Bell finished the race in 18:15.42, which was good enough for 15th, while Hnizdil finished 30th with a time of 18:56.70.

Oak Mountain had three more finish in the top 30 with Bryce Caton, Noah Arrington and Luke Black all putting together strong performances. Caton finished 17th with a time of 18:20.56, Arrington finished 27th with a time of 18:52.23 and Black finished 28th with a time of 18:55.21.

Matthew Womack and Ryan Cox finished just outside the top 30, finishing 32nd and 33rd, respectively.

Westminster School at Oak Mountain finished ninth in the team standings and was led by Andrew Purcell, who finished 34th with a time of 19:03.13.

Micah Adams and David Haskins added top 50 finishes for the Knights as well. Adams claimed 47th with a time of 19:43.17, while Haskins finished 48th thanks to a time of 19:43.35.