Daily photo by Michael Wetzel|
Lawrence County High seniors preparing for their final prep cross country meet are, from left, James Tobias, Joshua Crumpton, Logan Underwood and Collins Montgomery. After winning state titles in 2003 and 2004, the Red Devils have finished second the past two years. The state championships are Saturday at the Oakville Indian Mounds and Education Center.
Gunning for another ring
After winning state titles in 2003 and '04, Lawrence Co. runners eager to win one again
By Michael Wetzel
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MOULTON — Lawrence County High senior Collins Montgomery is looking for that elusive third ring.
The top cross country runner for the Red Devils said state titles seemed to come easy, but for the last two years, that hasn’t been the case for the Moulton school.
And he’s looking to right that ship when Lawrence County goes after the Class 3A-4A state title Saturday. The state championships begin at 9 a.m. at the Oakville Indian Mounds and Education Center.
As an eighth-grader and ninth-grader, Montgomery and his teammates were fitted for state championship rings. The past couple of years, the Red Devils have slipped, not far, but their runner-up finishes aren’t satisfying, they say.
“Getting that third ring would mean everything to me,” said Montgomery, who won the Class 3A-4A sectionals last week with a 5-kilometer time of 17 minutes, 34 seconds.
“Getting that ring will make all the time we’ve put into training and running worth it. For some of us, it’s our last chance.”
Montgomery said he hopes this year’s effort will help him forget about his 19th-place finish in 2006.
Lawrence County’s boys have won six state titles (1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 2003 and 2004), and they enter the state event as a favorite in their division.
At the sectional meet at Cold Springs High, Lawrence County ran nine of the top 10 times. Red Devils sophomore William McWhorter finished second at sectionals with a 18:03 mark.
“Collins is our guy,” Lawrence cross country coach Stanley Johnson said. “He’s having his best year ever. He trains hard and races hard, but we need the entire team to have good runs Saturday.”
The Red Devils are looking up to Randolph of Huntsville, the two-time defending state champions.
Johnson said this year’s squad is “very close” to the 2004 team, the last one of Lawrence County’s six state titles.
“We have a little more inexperience and youth, and our competition is stronger this year,” Johnson said.
Johnson continued, "At the beginning of the year, I thought we might have a shot at winning the state, and we started off fast. Really, it's been a roller-coaster year, but we've won our last six races. Our guys seem to be ready."
With a 17:09 time, senior Logan Underwood finished fourth last year. He is recovering from pneumonia, but should be ready Saturday, Johnson said.
Not hesitating, Johnson pointed to Randolph and Montgomery Academy as the Class 3A-4A teams to beat.
For his girls team, Johnson is counting on big days from sophomore Ari Stephenson, eighth-grader Lyndsie Warren and seventh-grader Victoria Draper.
Alabamarunners.com's Tim Loreman said he would not be surprised to see a Lawrence County sweep.
Numbers back up his comment. Lawrence County completed that task in 2003.
At the Nov. 1 sectionals at Cold Springs, Stephenson, Warren, Draper and Samantha Black ran to top-six finishes.
Back from an ankle injury, Stephenson blitzed the 3.1-mile layout in 19:57.
Last year at the state championships, Stephenson clocked a third-place time of 19:26 and Warren was in ninth place at 20:50.
Rogers, Montgomery Academy and Randolph are expected to challenge the Lady Red Devils for the Class 3A-4A crown. Montgomery Academy is the defending state champ.
Falkville's Justin Blanchard and Austin High's Jennifer Dunn are two area runners seen as serious contenders for individual titles.
Blanchard finished second in the Class 1A-2A sectionals with a 17:29 time. His teammate Cory Hill was fifth.
At 18:28, Dunn, a senior, finished second in the Class 6A sectionals. She owns four top-six finishes at the state cross country championships, including second place last year and in 2005.
State high school cross country meet
The following area schools had teams or individuals qualify for the state cross country championships at Oakville Indian Mounds and Education Center on Saturday. Competition begins at 9:40 a.m.
Athens Bible, Austin, Brewer, Clements, Decatur, East Lawrence, Falkville, Hatton, Lawrence County and Speake.
Athens Bible, Austin, Brewer, Clements, Decatur, Decatur Heritage, East Lawrence, Elkmont, Falkville, Hatton, Lawrence County and Speake.
The pre-race favorites
Projected favorites for the state prep cross country championships at Oakville Indian Mounds and Education Center on Saturday.
Hoover, Smiths Station, Auburn and Mountain Brook.
Cold Springs and Bayside Academy
Top male individuals
Patrick McGregor of Hoover, Nathan Lewis of Cold Springs
Mountain Brook (ranked No. 6 nationally)
American Christian Academy of Tuscaloosa
Top female individuals
Madeline Morgan, Marie Demedicis, Catherine Diethelm of Mountain Brook, Jennifer Dunn of Austin, Katie Huston of Sparkman.
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