By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
Nothing seems to slow down St. Bernard.
Despite trekking through sloppy conditions and missing one of their top runners in Logan Ayers, the Saints continued to impress on the cross country circuit by taking home a first-place finish at Saturday’s Fairview Invitational in Town Park.
Coach William Calvert’s crew edged Cullman for the top spot in the varsity girls’ division by a mere six points, while Cold Springs followed behind its two rivals in third place.
“I was very pleased with how the girls performed,” Calvert said after the meet. “The temperature was great, and the humidity was low. Times were down. We’ve had a few good weeks of practice, so hopefully we are right on track for the rest of the season.”
It was a total team effort for St. Bernard, as four of its top five
runners placed inside the top seven.
The Saints’ Ayleana Mami crossed the finish line ahead of the rest of the pack with a time of 19:17.11, while Jaden Edge (third, 20:11.67), Leahrose Mami (fourth, 20:14.40), Ivy Edge (seventh, 20:43.69) and Allison Hubert (27th, 23:19.79) all contributed to St. Bernard’s victory.
With Ayers off taking the ACT, it was up to Mami and her teammates to carry the torch for the Saints, which is exactly what they did.
“We knew we had to work our butts off since Logan wasn’t here,” Mami said. “It was almost like missing a shoe out there running without her. But we did well.”
For the second-place Bearcats, it was Marisa Franklin’s sixth-place finish (20:36.40) that set the pace for her team. Other contributors were Anna Bailey, eighth (20:54.78); Hillary Crider, 10th (21:16.82); Megan Pendley, 14th (21:36.79); and Savannah B. Smith, 16th (21:38.64).
Cold Springs’ Cassi Still led for a good portion of the race before eventually being overtaken by Mami. Still finished about 10 seconds behind first place with a time of 19:27.90.
Katie Huffstutler, 11th (21:26.43), and Emily Campbell, 12th (21:32.49), were the other top runners for the Eagles.
Fairview’s Maddie McNutt, 47th (25:07); Holly Pond’s Starsha Trimble, 64th (27:39); Good Hope’s Mikayla Adams, 76th (31:04); and Hanceville’s Alex Hudson, 83rd (33:20), were the top finishers for their respective county schools.
With a win fresh in hand, the Saints will turn their attention to next weeks’ Kudzu Hills Invitational at Cold Springs, where the top schools around the county will meet up with tons of schools they’ll likely see later on in the year at sectionals.
“It’s a momentum-builder going into one of the most important meets of the year,” Calvert said of his team’s win. “They’re going to be lots of top teams there. Overall, I’m very proud of our performance today.”
Added Mami: “I think everyone’s ecstatic heading into next week. Racing here and getting good times, I think we’re all happy about it.”
Over on the boys’ side of the action, it was Cullman’s Nicholas Fillinger who once again stole the show for the Black and Gold. The fleet-footed Fillinger finished runner-up to Grissom’s Cameron Thomas with a time of 15:46.22, marking his third straight appearance in the top three after earning a win at the Pepsi XC Challenge and another second-place finish at the Scottsboro Invitational a couple of weeks ago.
Fillinger’s time also broke a school record previously set by Brigg Kilgore (15:52).
“I had a lot of good summer training,” he said. “We had a couple of camps out at St. Bernard getting in those good summer miles.”
The Bearcats rode the performance of Fillinger, as well as Samuel Murphree, 12th (17:07.70); JD Warner, 13th (17:15.57); Kyle Norris, 18th (17:46.94); and Joey Franklin, 19th (17:47.98) to a second-place showing.
Sparkman was the top dog, while Cold Springs placed third and St. Bernard, fifth.
“We did pretty well as a team,” Fillinger added. “This isn’t a race we want to peak at. It’s more team-oriented. There’s plenty of time for us down the road at the Jesse Owens Invitational and at state. We are definitely getting better and developing our top five runners a little more.”
Cold Springs’ Kramer Crider, fourth (16:23.90), and Morgan Smith, sixth (16:54.59); St. Bernard’s Steven Mami, fifth (16:52.34); and Vinemont’s Nathan Handley, eighth (16:59.55) rounded out local runners in the top 10.
Fairview’s Reece Walker, 29th (18:35); Hanceville’s Chase Guthery, 34th (18:50); Good Hope’s Wyatt Petrimoulx, 39th (18:58); Holly Pond’s Payden Smith, 42nd (19:06); and Vinemont’s Matthew Harrington, 88th (21:05) were the top performers for each respective county school.
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at email@example.com.