By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
TRUSSVILLE — For years, Pinson Valley cross country coach Ed Palmer has been an enthusiastic figure at local meets. With bullhorn in hand, he cheers the lead competitors — and often those well back in the field — down the home stretch to the finish line, be they his own Indian runners or those from other teams.
In Thursday’s AHSAA Class 5A cross country sectional at the Trussville Country Club, Palmer really had something to shout about. But since he wasn’t running the show meet, the megaphone wasn’t there.
But the enthusiasm still was very much in evidence, as the Tribe won the sectional meet for the first time since Palmer took the coaching reins in 1997.
Led by individual runner-up Luis Gonzalez and fourth-place Larry Victor, Pinson Valley won with 28 points, just ahead of neighboring Center Point’s 50. Moody was third, securing the last team qualifying spot for next week’s state finals near Moulton.
Palmer thought he had a special team going into the county finals. After Thursday, he knew it for certain.
“Absolutely, this is the best,” Palmer said. “These guys have really learned how to pull together, and that every little thing you do is significant... We have to capitalize on every single moment.”
The Indians placed five runners in the top 10 points-scoring positions. Gonzalez, who won last week’s Jefferson County Schools individual title, was 4.6 seconds behind Dean Dillon, who was running unattached as Benjamin Russell didn’t field the minimum of five runners. Likewise for John Isley of Springville, who finished third overall.
Slade Shellnut placed eighth overall and sixth in the scoring standings, Ty Jenkins was 12th/9th and Lance Crawley was 10th/13th.
Gregory Wilson led the Eagles in seventh place, fifth in scoring positions. Herbert Moye was two spots behind.
Mortimer Jordan placed fourth in the team standings, just out of the state qualifying spots. Andy Gross (sixth overall) and Will Harris (22nd) qualified individually.
The Indians were one of four local teams to qualify for the state finals. Jordan’s girls placed third in Class 5A, just three points behind runner-up Eufaula.
Center Point won the girls’ division, placing all five scoring runners in the top 10 positions. The Eagles’ Cheyenne Ponder was the individual winner with a time of 21:42.20, almost two full minutes ahead of teammate Tiara Seals. The Blue Devils’ Savannah Greene was third.
In Class 4A, Corner will send both its boys and girls teams to the state meet. The girls placed second behind Oneonta at the sectional, as Katie Criswell led the way with a second-place finish, 13 seconds behind leader Leslie Gonzalez of Oneonta. The Jackets’ Payton McCaleb was fourth, and Bailey Blackmon ninth.
The Corner boys placed third, in a tight three-way battle with St. Clair County and Oneonta. The Saints and Redskins tied for first with 62 points each, but St. Clair won the tiebreaker. The Jackets were 10 points behind. Daniel McClain finished second individually for Corner, and Hunter McCarty was eighth.
In Class 6A, Gardendale failed to qualify its teams for state finals, but the top four Rocket girls will run as individuals. Mountain Brook and Hewitt-Trussville dominated the division; Alexa Kauffman of Gardendale was the top runner who wasn’t with the Spartans or Huskies, and was 14th overall. Cristen Gant, Morgan Goolsby and Mary Allison Caufield also qualified. The Rocket boys were shut out.