Sixteen has been both a sweet and sour number for the girls’ cross-country runners at St. Paul’s Episcopal High School. From 1983 to 1998, the Mobile squad set a national high school record by winning the Alabama state title 16 straight times.
But after claiming the crown in 2000, the Saints had to wait 16 years before having the opportunity to hoist another state trophy. The skid finally ended during the recent championships at Oakville Indian Mounds Park in Moulton.
It is not like St. Paul’s fell off the face of the earth. They finished as the runner-up to Scottsboro High School a remarkable 10 times. That hurdle was finally cleared with the Lady Saints’ 54 points — just enough to surpass Scottsboro’s total of 57. Two-time defending champion Lawrence County finished a close third with 60 points.
“The girls’ goal for this season was ‘to bring cross-country back’ to St. Paul’s and we did exactly that,” veteran head coach Jim Tate said. “This win was our school’s 20th state team championship in girl’s cross-country, and the 105th track or cross-country [combined] state team title in school history.”
With the win, St. Paul’s recorded a rare “calendar year” sweep. In February, the girls’ program won the Class 5A indoor track title. In May, they added the state outdoor track crown.
“This year’s team — with our top eight runners all being either 8th- or 9th- graders — earned a hard-fought and well-contested 5A girls state team title where a mere six points separated the top three teams,” Tate said. “The meet was so close that if just one of our top four finishers had finished 7 seconds slower than what she ran, we would have finished second.”
Leading the way was freshman sensation Isabel Valenzuela, who captured her third consecutive individual trophy, covering the 5K course in 18 minutes and 21 seconds. This was 47 seconds faster than the runner-up, and among the top five times among all classifications.
All runners finishing among the top 15 in their class earn all-state recognition. Joining Valenzuela were teammates Mary Howard Singleton (8th), Sydney Jane Hendryx (10th) and Palmer Waechter (14th).
Faith Academy finished in sixth place. Earning all-state honors were Olivia Andrews (7th) and Bailey Lansdown (9th).
Results for other local teams and all-state performers follow. For a complete list of competitors and their finishing times, visit tinyurl.com/h65km3u.
Class 7A girls: Grace Jenson of McGill-Toolen finished second overall (18:18.06). She was the only local runner to make the all-state roster. Top teams were McGill-Toolen (6th), Fairhope (8th) and Baker (9th).
Class 7A boys: Earning all-state honors were Jay Day (10th) and Nathan Whitton (11th), both of Baker. Top teams were Baker (4th), Fairhope (11th) and McGill-Toolen (12th).
Class 6A girls: Named all-state were Mandaline Thomas of Daphne (6th) and Brook Duplantier of Spanish Fort (15th). Top teams were Spanish Fort (5th), Daphne (6th) and Saraland (15th).
Class 6A boys: Tyler Priest of Baldwin County was the highest local runner (18th) to place. Top teams were Spanish Fort (7th), Baldwin County (8th) and Daphne (13th).
Class 5A boys: The top local finisher was Myles Stoots of Faith Academy (9th). St. Paul’s team finished 7th. Faith did not have the required five runners to earn team points.
Class 4A girls: Brenda Ellis of UMS-Wright was the highest local finisher (22nd). The Lady Bulldogs were 4th overall.
Class 4A boys: The highest local finisher was Evan Webster of UMS-Wright (33rd). The Bulldogs did not have enough runners to place as a team.
Class 3A girls: Bayside Academy had two runners capture all-state honors, Abigail Warner (4th) and Lauren West (15th). Grace Thompson of Mobile Christian was 14th. Bayside was 4th in the team rankings, while Mobile Christian did not have enough runners to place as a team.
Class 3A boys: Ernest Ladd of Bayside Academy just missed winning the state title, as the freshman finished less than two seconds behind Taylor Ray of American Christian (16:34.68). Alan Munyon of Cottage Hill Christian Academy was in 14th place. Bayside was 3rd in the team standings, while no other schools had enough runners to place.
Class 2A-1A girls: Kaelyn Horn of St. Luke’s Episcopal claimed all-state honors (10th). No local schools placed in the team standings.
Class 2A-1A boys: The highest local finisher was Andy Sykes of St. Luke’s (105th). No local schools placed in the team standings.
Let’s go Bowling
• Thanks to a dramatic 35-28 win over New Mexico State, the University of South Alabama Jaguars finished with a 6-6 record. USA has accepted a bid to play the Air Force Academy in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl on Friday, Dec. 30. The game in Tucson will kick off at 4:30 p.m. central time.
Air Force capped an impressive 9-3 record by knocking off 19th-ranked Boise State in their last outing, 27-20. They were 5-3 in the Mountain West Conference.
“A lot of positive things happened this season,” USA coach Joey Jones said. “We beat an SEC team in Mississippi State — which is huge for our program — and a Top 25 team in San Diego State, the Mountain West Conference champions. We lost some close conference games, but we’ve pretty much been in every game.”
Ticket prices range from $25 to $65. For more information call 251-461-1USA (1872).
• USA junior running back Xavier Johnson was named the SBC Offensive Player of the Week after the win. He had a career-best 154 years on 21 carries, while tying a single-game school record with three touchdowns.
The previous week, Jalen Thompson was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Week after recording a career-high 10 unassisted tackles in a loss to Idaho. The sophomore cornerback from Mobile also intercepted two passes.
• The Dollar General Bowl has selected Ohio University (8-5) from the Mid-American Conference and Troy University (9-3) from the Sun Belt to meet in Mobile’s 18th annual postseason game. The contest is set for 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 23, at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Teams are set to arrive in Mobile next Monday. The Mayor’s Luncheon at noon on Thursday, Dec. 22, will feature Steve Spurrier. The always-popular Mardi Gras-style parade will begin at 6:30 that night, followed by a pep rally in Bienville Square.
Tickets for the game are $45 for sidelines and $15 for general admission. They can be purchased online at www.DollarGeneralBowl.com or by calling 251-635-0011.