Photo by David Knox.
Hoover Cross-country 2014
Hoover's cross-country team gets in some road work.
You want cross-country? Hoover High’s girls and boys cross-country teams can tell you about cross-country.
Hoover coach Devon Hind took some of his team on a little training excursion back in August: running 32.5 miles along the Chief Ladiga Trail from Anniston to the Georgia border on Day 1; cycling to Smyrna, Georgia, and back on a 122-mile round trip on Day 2; and running the 32.5 miles back to Anniston on Day 3.
Twenty-four of his team members did at least some of the trek, and four did the whole thing.
“They thought that was fun,” Hind said.
Training like that begs for a reward, and that’s where another part of the cross-country bit comes in, when Hind will take his team to New York City for the Manhattan Invitational in mid-October. The course is at the legendary Van Courtlandt Park, where cross-country runners have traversed for more than 100 years.
“We’ll have a few days sightseeing, take in some Broadway plays, go to the 9/11 Museum,” Hind said. “It’s a great learning experience on and off the course.”
That’s true, because the Manhattan Invitational will be the strongest field the Buccaneers will have crossed. But the Bucs are no slouches; Hind’s teams sailed out to wins early in the season, sweeping the Montevallo Early Bird Classic and the Spain Park Invitational.
The boys have been paced by a pair of sophomores, Tommy McDonough and John Paul Rumore, but seniors Carson Tullo and J. Harvey, who’s been battling knee issues, are right there also.
“We’re a young team with good senior leadership,” Hind said. “That’s a good place to be. Our goal is the state championship. It’s been a long time since the boys have won the state championship, and their goal is to be the first Class 7A champions.”
“It takes a strong top five to score in cross-country,” Hind said. “They’ve been pushing each other and making each other better. When we don’t practice, they’re out here running.”
On Labor Day, Hind said, by 8 in the morning 20 runners were out running. One of the top five was not among them, so the group simply ran to his house, woke him up, and he joined the session.
“They’re a hardworking group, and whether they win state or not, it’s fun to coach kids like that,” Hind said.
The girls are led by Sydney Steely, a freshman who has been the Bucs’ top female for the past three years.
“She’s just a really great talent, and a phenomenal athlete, not just a runner.” Hind said. “She comes from a very active family, that’s what they do for fun … cycles, rock climbs.
“She still needs to get a lot better,” Hind said. “She’s not the best runner in the state, so she’s got work to do. Things have come easy for her in the past. She works hard, but my challenge as a coach is to get her to work really hard, understand that she’s approaching a new level of competition. The talent in this state right now is so good.”
The restructure to seven classes led to just four sectionals in 7A; the Hoover and Hewitt-Trussville sectionals, always strong, have been combined into one, and Hind is not a fan of that. “Only three teams out of that sectional will qualify for state. You better not have an off day.”
He’s puzzled why all 32 7A schools can’t compete in the state championships at Oakville Mounds in November. “That course could easily accommodate that,” he said. Only a dozen teams this year will compete at state.