Saturday’s massive Chickasaw Trails Invitational took place at the very site many local cross country teams will be fighting to get back to for the state meet in two short months.
The Oakville Indian Mounds in Moulton played host to more than 3,000 runners from around the state and region, including Cullman’s Nicholas Fillinger, who had another strong showing in the large-school division (Class 5A-6A), and St. Bernard and Cold Springs, which showed out in the small-school races (1A-4A).
One week after wrapping up a win at the Pepsi XC Challenge, Fillinger turned in a personal-best 5K time of 16:30.54, good for fifth overall in a field of nearly 400 participants.
Fillinger’s impressive finish, as well as sub-20-minute performances from Samuel Murphree, 92nd (18:09.73); J.D. Warner, 93rd (18:10.55); Kyle Norris, 138th (18:43.90); and Walker Caretti, 218th (19:44.36), boosted the Bearcats to 20th as a team, ahead of section rivals Fort Payne and Arab.
The Black and Gold’s top-five girls — made up of Marisa Franklin, 78th (21:44.86), Hillary Crider, 96th (21:57.67), Anna Bailey, 118th (22:21.74), Savannah B. Smith, 131st (22:43.32) and Megan Pendley, 137th (22:56.21) — landed in 22nd.
While a few area teams made the trek to Lawrence County just last week, St. Bernard made its season debut on Saturday, and did so in grand fashion.
Because it was “so doggone hot and humid,” Saint coach William Calvert said his top tandem of Logan Ayers and Ayleana Mami went out more conservative than they did at this point last year, which might’ve actually helped the squad’s younger runners.
Logan Ayers was 14th (21:04.83) and Jaden Edge 20th (21:33.48), as St. Bernard cruised to a runner-up finish in the girls small-school division. Leahrose Mami, 22nd (21:42.88); Ayleana Mami, 24th (21:47.18); and Allison Hubert, 71st (23:53.29), rounded out the Saints’ counting scores.
Harpeth Hall out of Nashville, Tenn., ran away with the team title, claiming the second through seventh spots to finish with a razor-thin 20 points.
Behind another top-10 time from Cassi Still, Cold Springs sprinted to a fifth-place result, just seven days after the school’s girls and boys claimed team championships at the Pepsi XC Challenge.
Still, a senior, sprinted to ninth (20:39.35), while Katie Huffstutler was 49th (23:02.14) and Emily Campbell 56th (23:12.61). Abbi Burrow, 67th (23:36.32), and Camryn Krider, 75th (24:00.07), added to the Eagles’ effort.
Kramer Crider’s 11th-place run (17:59.34) propelled Cold Springs’ boys to an eighth-place result. Jared Stanley, 39th (18:52.30), Morgan Smith, 46th (19:00.27), and C.J. Lang, 98th (20:14.12), all snagged top-100 positions, while Austin Burwell rounded out the group in 129th (20:51.02).
St. Bernard’s boys, rebuilding after losing Will Faulk and Seamus Russell to graduation, were close behind the Eagles in 13th.
Steven Mami was the Saints’ top student-athlete in 23rd (18:24.62). Calvert said Mami stuck with the lead pack off the line but faded a bit as the race — and the humidity — wore on.
Capping off St. Bernard’s contributors were Oscar Perez, 66th (19:35.21); Nate Griffin, 115th (20:38); Thomas Russell, 141st (21:12.54); and Will Sciaroni, 158th (21:32.90).
Fairview sophomores Reece Walker and Jerrami Browder stuck together in the boys large-school race, while the Aggies’ Maddie McNutt and Alexus Lindsey did the same in the girls’ run.
Walker was 116th (20:39.63) and Browder 117th (20:40.38). McNutt was 126th (25:38.38) and Lindsey 129th (25:40.81).
Sandwiched between the Chickasaw Trails Invitational and the state meet is the larger-than-life Jesse Owens Classic, which will also be held at the Oakville Indian Mounds on Oct. 5.
Many teams from The Times’ coverage area will compete at the Scottsboro Invitational next Saturday, the Fairview Invitational Sept. 21 and the Kudzu Hills Invitational Sept. 28.
% The Times’ sports editor Rob Ketcham contributed to this report.