By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
If some is good, then more is better.
That phrase certainly rang true for St. Bernard’s varsity girls cross country team on Saturday, as the Saints defended their Oktoberfest Invitational crown by a whopping 34 points over second-place Hatton.
Coach William Calvert’s squad placed five runners inside the top eight in the small-school division (Class 1A-3A), with Logan Ayers taking home the No. 1 spot with a time of 19:59.
Leahrose Mami (second, 20:28), Jaden Edge (fifth, 20:42), Ivy Edge (sixth, 20:44) and Ayleana Mami (eighth, 21:03) also trekked the tough course extremely well for the Saints.
“I'm very proud of the girls,” Calvert said. “They ran awesome today. They were three points away from a perfect score in a big invitational, so we are coming into form with sectionals a couple of weeks away. Hopefully, all that training is paying off. We want to be peaking at the right time.”
Ayers was once again in terrific form for St. Bernard, as the senior runner took a slim lead early before leaving the pack in the dust during the home stretch. She crossed the finish line a full 40 seconds before her teammate Mami.
She said the plan coming in was to dominate on their home turf and continue getting better prior to the sectional meet.
“We talked about that before this event,” said Ayers, who’s won three straight events. “These last four meets of the season are important to coach Calvert and to our team. We just want to improve.
“I’m incredibly proud of our girls today. We’ve all worked so hard to get these good times. It makes me even more excited for sectional and state coming up.”
Hanceville’s Jade Hollingsworth placed 45th overall with a time of 27:01 to pace the Bulldogs to a fifth-place finish.
Meanwhile, on the large-school side, Cullman’s girls captured a respectable fourth-place finish in a 16-team field.
Anna Bailey (seventh, 21:09) paced the Black and Gold, while Marisa Franklin (20th, 21:54) and Hillary Crider (22nd, 22:03) were also solid for the Bearcats.
Fairview’s Maddie McNutt (67th, 24:30) and West Point’s Hannah Wisener (96th, 26:19) were the top performers for the remaining county schools in the event.
Although St. Bernard’s boys couldn’t match the girls with a title, they still managed to place second out of 11 teams.
Steven Mami finished runner-up to Whitesburg Christian’s Paul Richardson with a time of 17:39. Oscar Perez (11th, 18:31), Thomas Russell (18th, 19:08), Isaias Robles (20th, 19:16) and Nate Giffin (21st, 19:17) also ran well in support of Mami.
“The guys have improved,” Calvert said. “Some of them tremendously. Steven had a great race and so did the other guys. They are going to have to run well to qualify for state, and they know that. I'm proud of their improvement.”
Hanceville’s Matt Burns was the top runner for the Bulldogs, placing 24th with a time of 19:23.
Cullman continued its strong season with a fifth-place showing in the large-school division. Kyle Norris (seventh, 17:00), Sam Murphree (15th, 17:42) and J.D. Warner (30th, 18:23) placed inside the top 30.
West Point’s Nick Johnson (34th, 18:29) and Fairview’s Reece Walker (65th, 19:32) also led their respective teams in times.
With 36 teams and plenty of excitement to go around, Calvert was quite pleased with how this year’s event turned out.
“I think it was successful,” he said. “It always looks a little chaotic on the inside, but we got a lot of positive comments about the campus and the race. It's a very competitive trek on a great course. It's grown every year. It was a great day.”
Cold Springs flexed its small-school muscles at the University of Alabama's annual event, with the girls placing seventh in a 16-team field and the boys coming in eighth out of 18 teams.
Cassi Still, 15th (20:35), Ashleigh White, 41st (22:03), Emily Campbell, 43rd (22:13), Camryn Crider, 48th (22:22) and Abi Burrow, 63rd (23:27) were the top-five runners for the Eagles.
Meanwhile, Kramer Crider, 15th (17:15), Jared Stanley, 31st (17:46), Morgan Smith, 48th (18:10), C.J. Lang, 61st (18:34) and Austin Burwell, 94th (19:34) helped the Blue and Gold boys take home by far the best finish from a small school in a field packed with 5A and 6A schools.
Still and Crider each received medals for their top-30 finishes.
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.