By Rubin E. Grant
Vestavia Hills senior Crawford West and Mountain Brook junior Reagan Riley distanced themselves from the field throughout the cross-country season.
So it wasn’t a surprise to see them claim individual titles Nov. 6 at the 66th Alabama High School Athletic Association State Cross Country Championships at the Oakville Indian Mounds Park & Museum 5K course near Moulton.
West turned in the fastest girls AHSAA time since 2014, clocking 17:06.33, the second-fastest time in AHSAA girls cross-country history, to win the Class 7A individual title. She also won the race as a sophomore in 2019.
“It felt special this time because I wasn’t able to finish last year,” West said. “It was great to win in my last high school cross-country meet, a great way to go out.”
West’s finish was three seconds shy of the state record 17:03.04 time run by then Montgomery Catholic eighth grader Amaris Tyynismaa.
“I wasn’t expecting to run that fast,” said West, who signed a track scholarship with the University of Alabama last week. “I can’t complain about not setting the state record because I ran my personal best. I’m very happy with a personal record.”
Riley crossed the finish line at 17:39.62 to claim the individual Class 6A girls title. Coming off hip surgery, she finished 18th in 2020 with a 20:16.64 time.
“It was super exciting to win and a ton of fun,” Riley said. “I just wanted to stretch it out. I knew there was a lot of good competition in 6A, but I knew if I could hold the pace I could out-hold anyone.”
None of the other Class 7A runners challenged West. Huntsville junior Ava McIntosh was second at 18:32.24, followed by sophomore teammate Sarah Cobb, who crossed the finish line at 18:35.73. Baker’s Lindsey Baker was fourth (18:52.29), and Auburn’s tandem of sophomore Rylee Plexico and eighth grader Olivia Tole finished fifth and sixth with times of 19:52.95 and 18:57.48, respectively.
Auburn captured the Class 7A team title with 68 points, followed by Vestavia Hills, 80, and defending state champion Hewitt-Trussville, 95.
Rebels freshman Claire Spooner (19:08.29) and sophomore Kaitlyn Wende (19:10.92) finished eighth and ninth, respectively.
Spain Park senior Mackenzie Culpepper was seventh (19:06.49) and Hoover freshman Lila Hunter was 12th (19:14.64).
Mountain Brook won the Class 6A girls title, claiming its first state championship since 2015 and its 24th overall with a very strong score of 26 thanks to five runners finishing in the top 10.
“That was incredible,” Riley said. “I could not say too much about my teammates. They are the hardest workers and the coolest people and they are all so encouraging.
“Our goal all year was to win it. We went undefeated in Alabama as a team all year and that was special to be a part of. We expected to win, but we still had to put in the work to do it.”
It was the first time since 2015 that Mountain Brook won the individual and team titles in the same meet. Frances Patrick won the individual Class 7A title in 2015.
The 24 girls state cross-country crowns is a new AHSAA state record – breaking a tie between Mountain Brook and Scottsboro, with each owning 23 all-time titles entering the meet. The Wildcats finished third with 131 points and three-time defending Class 6A state champion Homewood was runner-up with 104 points.
Spartans junior Clark Stewart finished second behind Riley, clocking 18:13.50. Northridge junior Mary Mac Collins, the 2020 runner-up, was third at 18:29.64.
Other top 10 finishers for the Spartans were senior Hunter Anderson sixth (18:34.78) and sophomores Mary Katherine Malone (18:52.40) and Lucy Benton (18:54.67) eighth and ninth, respectively.
“Reagan ran really well and the whole team ran really well,” Mountain Brook coach Michael McGovern said. “We always say we want to run our best at the beginning of November, and we did that. We blew away the record for the lowest average team time. It was very impressive as a group.”
Mountain Brook’s average time for its top seven runners was 18:27.00 compared to Homewood’s time of 19:36.18 and Scottsboro’s time of 19:55.98.
Homewood freshman Emma Brooke Levering finished fifth in 18:34.26 and Briarwood Christian freshman Mary Grace Parker was seventh in 18:46.74.
On the boys side, Hoover finished third in Class 7A with 99 points. Huntsville won its fourth straight title with 54 points. St. Paul’s Episcopal was second with 82 points.
Hoover’s top two finishers were Elijah Joseph, who finished seventh with a time of 15:50.67, and Charles Morris, who was 15th with a time of 16:02.85. Vestavia Hills’ Will Jordan was 11th, clocking 15:58.93.
Huntsville senior Will Pinson led the Panthers winning effort with a time of 15:13.61 to claim the 7A boys individual title.
In Class 6A, Mountain Brook finished second with 79 points behind Scottsboro, which won its sixth consecutive boys championship and a state-record 16th boys state title overall. The Wildcats won four Class 5A titles from 2016-19 and the 6A title last year.
Scottsboro’s 16th boys state cross-country championship broke a tie with Hoover for the AHSAA state record. The Bucs have 15 titles.
Chelsea senior Miles Brush won the 6A race with a winning time of 15:23.96. Junior Evan Hill of Scottsboro was second, clocking 15:32.43.
The Spartans’ top two finishers were Davis Plowden sixth (15:47.75) and Clayton Collins 11th (15:48.19). Homewood’s Andrew Laird was 15th (16:13.49).
More than 2,000 runners competed in the championships.