By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
ST. BERNARD —
With sectionals just two weeks away, six local cross country teams looked to gain some valuable momentum at this year’s City-County Classic.
Cullman and St. Bernard were the two squads able to do just that on Thursday afternoon, with the Bearcats taking home first as a team in the boys’ 5K and second in the girls’ 5K, while the Saints swapped places, winning the girls’ 5K and placing second in the boys’ race.
Fairview’s boys placed third, as did Cold Springs on the girls’ side.
St. Bernard’s Will Faulk crossed the line first with a time of just over 17 minutes, but Cullman rode solid top-10 efforts from Devan Hall (second), Nicholas Fillinger (fourth), Stephen McNeal (sixth), Mark Gomez (seventh), and Jesse Burroughs (ninth) en route to a nine-point victory over the Saints.
Hall, who held a slim lead over the eventual winner at the 1-mile mark, said he was right there with Faulk for first until the very end.
“We went back and forth most of the race,” the Bearcat said. “He just pulled away there on the last straightaway.”
Hall believed a grueling week of training played a factor into his endurance midway through the 3-mile course.
“I did a lot of speed work during the week,” he said. “After that first mile, I could tell I was getting some leg fatigue. But, I am happy with a second-place finish. Now we just have to rest and recover and be mentally prepared for sectionals.”
Faulk, along with Seamus Russell in third and Steven Mami in eighth, made up St. Bernard’s top performers. Oscar Perez (11th) and Isaias Robles (16th) were the team’s final two contributors.
“I did pretty good,” Faulk said. “The plan was to stay close until the end and use my speed to pull away late.”
Kramer Crider and Morgan Smith finished fifth and 10th, respectively, for Cold Springs, rounding out the top 10.
Fairview’s top runner was Jerrami Browder in 18th, West Point’s was Joey Riggs in 22nd and Holly Pond’s was Parker Smith in 30th.
On the girls’ side, Logan Ayers once again led the way for her team, registering a time of 20:26 to secure the junior’s sixth first-place finish of the season.
Teammates Ayleana Mami and Jaden Edge were close behind to cap an all Saint top-three finish.
Edge said her goal for the race was to stay consistent and added having teammates like Ayers and Mami help her when it comes time to compete.
“They are really persuasive,” she said. “Ayleana likes to give pre-game pep talks to pump us up.”
Fairview’s Porcha Hunter and Cold Springs’ Emily Campbell were the next two to cross the line, claiming top-five finishes along the way.
Campbell, who’s had a solid season thus far, credited the tough terrain for pushing her to the limit.
“That finishing hill killed me,” the sophomore said. “Other than that, I thought my time was just OK, but I wasn’t really happy with it.”
Campbell added the goal from here on out is to improve her individual time, as well as push St. Bernard in future races.
“I want to get my time into the 20s,” she said. “I also want our team to get closer to the top three and start pushing other teams as well.”
Marisa Franklin and Megan Pendley motored to sixth and seventh to help Cullman’s girls grab second as a team. Hillary Crider (ninth), Anna Bailey (16th) and Emily Graves (21st) also contributed to the result.
Cold Springs’ Cassi Still (eighth) and St. Bernard’s Caitlyn Varquez (10th) rounded out the top 10.
West Point’s top runner was Juliane Parrott in 12th, and Holly Pond’s was Haley Higginbotham in 30th.
Saint coach William Calvert was quick to point out the strong efforts by his team, especially the upperclassmen.
“We’ve finished 1-2-3 in a couple of races this year, so that’s always good,” he said. “The girls, as well as my seniors, ran with a lot of confidence today.”
He specifically mentioned Faulk, Russell and Varquez.
“I am proud of Will,” he said. “It was nice to see him win his last race here at home. Seamus also ran well, and Caitlyn had her best time of the year.”
With the regular season now in the books, teams will shift their focus to sectional meets, which will take place Nov. 1. Cullman’s will be Nov. 3.
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.