News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

McGregor hammers the gold
Hoover junior the fastest at 9th annual Jesse Owens Cross Country Classic

By Michael Wetzel · 340-2462

OAKVILLE — Hoover High coach Devon Hind had a simple request for star pupil Pat McGregor before Saturday’s running of the ninth annual Jesse Owens Cross Country Classic.

“I told him to go out and hammer it and leave everybody behind,” Hind said after McGregor did as he was told.

McGregor, a junior at the Birmingham-area school, ran the 5-kilometer course at the Oakville Indian Mounds in 15 minutes, 48.19 seconds to win the boys gold elite division. He edged St. Paul’s Lee Gilmer, who ran a 15:49.88.

“There’s always great competition at this race and I look forward to it every year,” said McGregor, who ran a 15:57 last year to take second. “This year was a little different. It’s a change having the bulls-eye on my back instead of seeing it on someone else’s.

“Today’s time was a win, but I can do better. I am looking forward to coming back here for the state in a few weeks. I had a target time of 15:20 today, but there’s a pain barrier I haven’t been able to break through.”

He added: “Today early on, I didn’t have anyone to run with, but I never felt I was going to lose the race. Lee and Howard Graves of Auburn are great competitors, and they ran great today, too.”

McGregor said he would love to run cross country for Alabama, but has big plans to accomplish with plenty of prep races still in front of him.

“I won’t ever be satisfied with my times,” the 16-year-old said. “But I am shooting for a time under 15 (minutes) when I’m a senior next year.”

On Nov. 10, McGregor will be at the Indians Mounds trying to capture his first state championship. He has advice for his competitors.

“They’ll have to run out of their minds to beat me that day,” he said. “I want that thing and believe I am the best in the state.”

McGregor and his teammates won the gold elite team crown with a 16:28.42 average. Five of the top 10 boys finishing the race were from Hoover.

Austin High ninth-grader Matthew Dunn was the top local runner in the gold elite division with a 17:58.50 time, good for 34th overall. His senior teammate Peter Nevels ran an 18:47.94 for 65th. At 19:12.65, Black Bear junior Jeff Holm was 72nd. Austin boys finished 11th in the gold division.

In 2006, Bill Hubers of Powder Springs, Ga., set the meet record at 14:58. He now runs for the University of Indiana.

In the girls gold elite division, Kathy Kroeger of Franklin, Tenn., ran 18:08 to run away with the title. Austin High senior Jennifer Dunn took third with a 18:38.37 time.

Kroeger, a junior at Independence High and 2006-2007 Footlocker national champion, showed why she was the pre-race favorite.

“She’s a great athlete,” Dunn said. “I was excited to see how I could do. Today, I just wasn’t able to run with her. She’s doing something right.”

Dunn set the meet record last year with a 17:54.33 time.

Sparkman sophomore Katie Huston was second and 23 seconds behind Kroeger. Huston’s coach, Charlie Gover, just shook his head about Kroeger’s ability.

“Kathy showed all of us here why she is a national champion,” said Gover, who formerly coached at Danville and Falkville. “When you’re the best in the United States, you are for a reason. She was definitely the class of the class today. I thought it was a good barometer for the girls here to run against somebody as good as she is.”

Decatur sophomore Sally Adams was 10th in the gold elite at 20:22.12. Her sister, Meg Adams, a senior, ran 20.48.44 for 24th. As a team, Decatur finished ninth, and Austin 10th.

Most of the runners said the early morning heat kept the times from record-setting paces.

In boys silver (Class 5A-6A), Brewer High finished 15th and Decatur 20th. Individually, Brewer senior Nathan Hamilton was 50th at 18:28.90. Decatur sophomore Samuel Hand was 62nd at 18:40.75.

In girls silver, Brewer sophomore Emily Trotter ran a 21.29.51 time, good for 24th. Brewer ninth-grader Bree Watkins was 33rd at 21:58.28.

In boys bronze (1A-4A), defending champion Lawrence County slid to sixth this year. Athens Bible was fifth, Hatton ninth, Speake 30th and East Lawrence 31st.

Athens Bible junior Colby Phillips finished 11th in the 304-runner division. Phillips ran a 17:44.88. Falkville senior Justin Blanchard was 16th at 18:02.05. ABS sophomore Brandon Fisk was 21st at 18:18.96.

Hatton senior Zeke Nichols was 22nd at 18:22.71. Lawrence County senior Logan Underwood finished 26th at 18:26.60, and Lawrence County sophomore William McWhorter was 30th at 18:31.77.

In the girls bronze team event, Lawrence County seventh-grader Victoria Draper led the team to a fifth-place finish with her 16th-place finish at 21.57.37. The division had 230 finishers.

Individually, Emily Robbins, a Falkville sophomore, was 13th with a 21:37.83. Athens Bible junior Chelsea Burgess was 22nd at 22:26.03. Lawrence County eighth-grader Kerri Lynn Letson was 30th at 22:55.88. Megan Kelley of East Lawrence High was 31st at 22:57.82, and Courtney Rutherford, a ninth-grader at Hatton was 32nd at 23:01.74.

In all, 2,265 runners from five states finished in 12 events.

The Jesse Owens Runners Club, Inc., had more than 100 volunteers assisting at the event Saturday.

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