Photo by Sam Chandler.
Hoover High School senior Tommy McDonough, pictured running in the 1,600 meters at the Class 7A, Section 3 track meet last spring, should contend for a state title on the cross-country course this fall.
If the Hoover High School boys cross-country team wants to bring home a state title in mid-November, it’s going to have to perform when it counts.
In the past, that’s something head coach Devon Hind said his Bucs have struggled with.
“Our guys are very good, and they’ve run some really good times, but a lot of them, when they get in the big-time meets, they don’t run their best,” Hind said. “If they can figure it out and have confidence in themselves when we get to state meet, we can beat anybody.”
The Hoover boys return five of their top six runners from 2015 and enter the fall season with a realistic shot at clinching the program’s first blue trophy since 2007. Led by seniors Tommy McDonough and John Paul Rumore, all five of the Bucs’ projected scorers have run under 17 minutes for the 5K distance. McDonough has broken 16 minutes and should contend for an individual Class 7A state championship.
“I definitely see a lot of potential,” Rumore said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys that just haven’t realized how good they can be.”
Rumore said he expects a trio of juniors — Alex Leary, John McCrackin and Joe Leventry — to help propel the team to a level it hasn’t reached during his high school career.
The Bucs finished second at the state meet in 2014 and third in 2015. Last fall, they trailed annual contenders Auburn High School and Mountain Brook High School in the team standings.
To help bolster his team’s chances of knocking off those rival squads this year, Hind will be taking the Hoover boys and girls to a pair of competitive, out-of-state meets during the regular season.
In September, the Bucs will travel to the Memphis Twilight Classic in Memphis, Tennessee, and the Bob Firman Invitational in Boise, Idaho. Hind said he hopes the level of competition at the elite meets will strengthen his runners’ confidence and sharpen their racing acumen before they get to the state meet.
“State meet should be a step down from these other meets,” Hind said. “We’ll be running against much better competition at these other meets, so I mean if they can do well there, there’s no reason why they can’t think, ‘Hey, we can do it here.’”
The Hoover girls find themselves in a similar position to the Hoover boys, though they lack the presence of senior leadership. With no 12th-graders on the roster, the team will be paced by standout juniors Sydney Steely and Ava Weems, along with sophomores Amellia Rumore and Haley Stallworth.
Steely is a three-time All-State performer in cross-country and has been the Bucs’ top runner since she was an eighth-grader at Bumpus Middle School.
“I think we’ll be in the running for a state championship,” Hind said. “We’ve got to see a lot of improvement if we’re going to get over the hump and challenge Mountain Brook, but I say it every year, we have the potential.”
The Mountain Brook girls have won state the past 13 seasons. In order for Hoover to end the Spartans’ reign, Hind said his team will need to buy into the cross-country mentality. The Hoover girls have traditionally excelled on the track, but have never won a state title on the cross-country course.
“They all believe they’re track runners, but they haven’t bought in that they’re cross-country runners,” Hind said. “When they start thinking, ‘Hey, we are cross-country runners,’ I think we’ll be very tough to beat.”
The Hoover boys and girls cross-country teams will kick off the 2016 season at the Montevallo Early Bird Classic on Friday, August 26.