By Rubin E. Grant
Mountain Brook senior Reagan Riley has served notice that she’s the one to beat when the 2022 high school cross-country season commences in the fall.
Last week, Riley blew away the competition during the Alabama High School Athletic Association All-Star Sports Week North-South cross-country competition.
In the girls 5,000-meter race at Montgomery’s Gateway Park, Riley, the 2021 Class 6A state cross-country champion, set a new all-star event record, winning with a time of 17:59.25. The previous All-Star Week record was set in 2018 by Amaris Tyynismaa of Montgomery Catholic.
Lawrence County’s Savannah Williams, the Class 5A state champion last season, also surpassed Tyynismaa’s mark with a time of 18:54.61 to finish second. Her twin sister, Taylor Williams, was third, clocking 19:20.26.
The North girls won the race against the South, 19-38.
“That was great,” Riley said. “That was my first cross-country race in some time, so it was a good baseline to see what kind of fitness I need to work on. Our first race (for Mountain Brook) isn’t until Sept. 1, so it’s a little over a month.”
Riley didn’t only have to beat the competition in the All-Star race but also the heat.
“It was really hot,” she said. “We were supposed to start at 7:30 a.m. but it got pushed back to 8. It was 84 degrees and all in direct sunlight. The course was just ground and grass, so it wasn’t the best footing.
“I was sweating so much when I finished that my uniform was completely soaked.”
Riley’s record-setting race was among a few notable performances by Over the Mountain athletes during the All-Star week in Montgomery, including MVP efforts from Spain Park’s Emily Breazeale in volleyball and Oak Mountain’s Keirson McDonald in girls soccer.
Breazeale Steps Up
Breazeale helped the North earn a hard-fought 3-2 victory in the All-Star volleyball game last Thursday at the Cramton Bowl MultiPlex.
In the final game of the five-game match, Breazeale, a senior outside hitter, stepped up to spark the North – showing the same kind of play she did in the 2021 Class 7A state championship match for the Jaguars. She closed out the match against the South with two big points for a 15-11 win.
Breazeale recorded 14 kills and 10 digs to earn MVP honors, becoming the first Spain Park player to be named MVP in the AHSAA All-Star game.
“It was a lot of fun meeting new girls I hadn’t met before, and getting a chance to play with them was great,” Breazeale said. “It was exciting to be named MVP, but I couldn’t have done it without them. The coaches did a great job of making sure we stayed positive and played with energy.”
Vestavia Hills’ Savannah Gann contributed 10 kills to the North’s victory.
The North won the first two games 25-20 and 25-18, but the South won the next two games 25-21 and 25-23, setting the stage for Breazeale’s heroics.
Who, Me, MVP?
McDonald, an Oak Mountain senior, didn’t go into the North-South All-Star girls soccer expecting to be an MVP.
“I didn’t even know they named an MVP, one for each team,” McDonald said. “They called out the name of the girl from the South (Amiya Brown of Opelika) and then they said, ‘From the North, No. 20.’ I started asking who’s No. 20 because my regular jersey number is 17.”
But for the All-Star game, McDonald donned No. 20 and she indeed had been tabbed MVP. A defender, she attempted six shots on goal with one finding the back of the net and played a key role on defense as the North shut out the South 5-0 last Wednesday at Emory Folmar Soccer Complex.
Spain Park’s Madison Davis also scored a goal and Homewood’s Maddie Massie had two assists.
“It was a lot of fun,” said McDonald, who has committed to play in college at Alabama. “I only knew a couple of people before I went down there, so it was different getting to talk to all of them and play with them. We all worked well together, so it was easy for me to do well.
“Although we won 5-0 it was definitely a hard-fought game.”