By Blake Ells
Vestavia Hills’ varsity cross-country teams are both off to impressive starts. While the boys may have expected it, the girls had a young group coming in.
At the Randolph Cross-Country Classic in Huntsville on Sept. 18, the girls finished with a 24, enough to seal a meet victory for the first time in quite some time. They had six of the top 10 finishers, including second through fourth places; freshmen Crawford West and Katy Lambert finished second and third and sophomore Sarah Comer placed fourth, all completing three-mile runs in under 21 minutes.
“We’ve not run there before, and it was definitely a new challenge for us,” said coach Brett Huber. “We have a great group of freshmen that are doing a great job. The girls are really training well together and bonding together. They also had a great outing at the Chickasaw Trails Invitational. They’re off to a great start.”
The Rebels’ best girls team was their 2005 group, which finished as the state runners-up. Huber believes this team has the potential to reach the same heights.
“When it’s all said and done, as they get older, this may end up being our best group,” Huber said. “That doesn’t mean that they are national champions. It means they train really well. The things that you would look for in a good team, they have those. And they’re making those better each day. They care about each other. We’re not surprised, but we’re excited to see them doing so well this early in the season.”
In addition to West and Lambert, the girls’ freshman class is led by Margaret Patton, who finished eighth at the Randolph Cross-Country Classic. It’s a group that will be exciting to watch for years to come.
It’s All About the Training
“It’s a fine balance when you come in as a freshman,” Huber said. “You want to be respectful to your older runners, but you also want to do your best and train well. They’re doing that. They’re doing a great job as young athletes; learning how to do the things that we do, but also doing the best they can and not holding back.”
Huber credits the coaches at Pizitz and Liberty Park Middle Schools for making his job easier.
“I couldn’t ask for two better coaches than coach (Jason) Williams at Pizitz and coach (Jonathan) Jeff at Liberty Park,” Huber said. “They’re great at helping young student-athletes grow into competitors and team players. It’s just my opinion, but I’d say they’re the two best middle school coaches in the state.
“I can’t describe how much they mean to what we do. They care about their programs and their kids. They’re the first building block to the varsity program. If the kids don’t want to train or if they don’t want to be a team player, that all starts at the beginning. If they don’t catch that when they’re young, a lot of times, they’ll never catch it.”
The boys’ team also finished on top at the Randolph Cross Country Class with a 33. Sophomore Ethan Strand and senior Bryce Hutchinson finished first and second, while junior John Ingram finished 5th and junior Andrew Precise finished 11th.
One of the biggest annual meets in the state is next on the calendar.
“We’ll train through the next week and we’ll be back in Moulton for the Jesse Owens Classic on the first weekend of October,” said Huber. “There will be over 5,000 athletes at that meet. It’s one of the biggest meets in the Southeast.”