Photo by Frank Couch.
Hoover cross country
Hoover girls cross-county team members including Caroline Franklin, Presley Weems and Amanda Sargent begin a training run after school.
The Hoover High cross-country program is in hot pursuit of another state title this fall.
The Bucs program is one of the elite programs in the state. The boys won seven of nine state championships from the late 1990s through the mid-2000s, but the competition has become fierce, especially among the South of Vulcan schools.
Coach Devon Hind led the boys to a second-place finish to Auburn in 2014, and the girls racked up a third-place finish as Mountain Brook took the 7A title.
Hind, who is also the track coach, said his runners have done pretty well in the early stages of the season, with the boys and girls both winning the Montevallo Early Bird Twilight Classic to open the season.
Hoover’s Tommy McDonough repeated as the individual winner for the boys. McDonough, who won in 16:50 last year, had the performance of the night running 15:58 for the first sub-16 minute performance of the season. He followed that with a 15:53 at Chickasaw Trails Invitational at Oakville Indian Mounds State Park in Moulton, where the the state championship is held.
McDonough, a junior, was fourth in the state championships as a sophomore, posting a 16:04.74.
“Tommy is just 100 percent into running,” his coach said. “He’s smart, sets high goals, is a hard worker … and he’s still learning.”
McDonough said he’s happy with how his season started off.
Knowing your own strengths is important, he said. He said he’s experimented to figure out what works for him.
“It’s visualizing, thinking ahead, knowing when to attack and when to surge, knowing when runners are weak and knowing when to pick up the pace,” McDonough said.
He has high hopes for himself and the team. Fellow runners John Paul Rumore and Evan Franklin are among those improving every day.
“J.P. is not far behind Tommy,” Hind said. “He works hard, tries to stay right with him.”
On the girls’ side, Presley Weems ran her first sub-20-minute 5K (19:39) to finish second at Montevallo.
“Presley Weems has been our top runner all fall,” Hind said. “She’s state champion in the 800 in indoor track, but she’s just starting to take cross country seriously. She’s still learning cross country.”
Weems, a senior, said she wants to run in college, and she’ll have to be more than a distance runner.
“I trained a lot this summer, and it’s helped me a lot,” she said. She thinks she finished seventh on the team last year at the state cross country championships, so she’s made a big jump.
She hasn’t taken any official visits yet, but she’s got an early list of favorites that includes Samford, UAB, Auburn and Alabama.
Weems said the girls team is relatively young. She said freshman Amelia Rumore, J.P.’s sister, is one of the young girls who is impressing her. “It’s nice she’s stepping it up because we count our top five runners.”
Hind has been excited to see Rumore’s improvement.
“She’s broken 20 minutes already, and she’s pushing Sydney (Steely) now. She’s really stepping it up.
Steely is another top runner. She finished sixth at the state finals last year as a freshman. “Me and Sydney always run together and try to push each other,” Weems said.
The sectionals will be Nov. 5-7. The state championship will be at Moulton Nov. 14.