By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
COLD SPRINGS —
They say home is where the heart is.
And for Cold Springs’ varsity cross country squads, that saying couldn’t have rang more true on Saturday morning.
The Eagle boys took home first place in the small-school division (1A-3A) at the ninth annual Kudzu Hills Invitational, while the girls finished in third to give the Blue and White a solid one-two punch heading into next week’s Jesse Owens Invitational at Oakville.
Morgan Smith set the pace for Cold Springs with a third-place finish and time of 16:52, while teammate Kramer Crider came in sixth at the 17:16 mark. Jared Stanley (11th, 17:33), C.J. Lang (29th, 18:19) and Adam Carney (35th, 18:38) all played a key role for the Eagles in the team victory over second-place Hatton, which finished 12 points back.
St. Bernard finished fifth overall on the back on Oscar Perez, 17:46, and Steven Mami, 17:57, whom finished in 14th and 16th place, respectively.
“It was a good day for us,” Eagle coach Clay Campbell said. “This race has been a good thing for us, too. We wanted to run and finish it for Nicholas (Fillinger).”
Other top finishers for local teams included Hanceville’s Matt Burns (18th, 17:59), Holly Pond’s Colton Teeling (65th, 19:38) and Good Hope’s Zack Isbell (87th, 20:21).
In the large-school division, West Point’s Joey Riggs came in 28th sporting an 18:43 time, while Fairview’s Jerrami Browder was 45th at 19:32.
Over on the girls’ side, it was all Westminster Christian in the small-school division, as it rolled to a first-place finish with five runners inside the top 17.
Fresh off a week away from the gauntlet, St. Bernard’s Logan Ayers (19:42) placed third individually to lead the Saints to very solid second-place showing. Ayleana Mami (sixth, 19:59) and Leahrose Mami (eighth, 20:20) also had good runs for St. Bernard on the day.
Ayers was pleased with her performance, as well as her team’s effort, in the race.
“I’m pretty happy with me,” she said. “We did well as a team, too. This year, I’ve started working really hard in practice. My times haven’t reflected it yet, but toward the end of the year, it’s really going to show.”
With his two teams rearing its heads yet again in the top five, St. Bernard coach William Calvert couldn’t have been more proud of his kids, especially considering the tough week they have faced in regards to the accidental death of Cullman’s Nicholas Fillinger.
“I think we did well under the circumstances of the week,” he said. “It's been a difficult one. We had some good individual performances. All in all, I was very proud of them today. They did an outstanding job as far as perseverance. Young peoples' resiliency never ceases to amaze me.”
With big meets such as the Jesse Owens, Cullman Invitational and Oktoberfest Invitational coming up, Calvert likes what he’s seen out of his runners so far in the season.
He just hopes they can keep improving and riding their momentum to a solid showing when it counts most.
“We're making progress,” Calvert said. “I saw a lot of good things to get excited about today. I think we are right on schedule to make a run at having a good show at state.”
Cold Springs’ Cassi Still placed seventh with a time of 20:08, while teammates Katie Huffstutler (17th, 21:01) and Emily Campbell (24th, 21:39) were also steady for the Eagles.
Holly Pond’s Nikki Christie finished 34th with a time of 22:05, while Fairview’s Maddie McNutt (38th, 24:55), West Point’s Abby Wilson (45th, 26:07), Good Hope’s Katie Middleton (84th, 25:34) and Hanceville’s Chandra Barnes (92nd, 26:13) were other top contributors for local area teams competing in the event.
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.