Photo by Sam Chandler.
Tommy McDonough won the Class 7A state title on Nov. 12.
Tommy McDonough entered the Nov. 12 AHSAA State Cross Country Championships with a race strategy suited to his strengths.
The Hoover High School senior, who has run a 4 minute, 13 second mile, said he wanted to stay relaxed, tuck behind the leaders and then use his speed to outkick the competition.
He executed the plan perfectly.
McDonough summoned his fast-twitch fibers in the Class 7A boys race as he tore down the homestretch on a cool morning at Oakville Indian Mounds Park. Positioned in third with 400 meters to go, he blew past Auburn’s Joshua Escoe and then nipped Hewitt-Trussville’s John Ngaruiya at the line by one-tenth of a second.
McDonough finished in a 5K personal-best 15:39.7, and Ngaruiya finished in 15:39.8. Escoe placed third in 15:42.26.
“If I just stayed behind in the last 100 [meters], last 50 [meters], I could catch them,” McDonough said after the race, “because it’s easier when you’re behind somebody to catch them than to fend somebody off. I knew that coming in, so I just relaxed and just kicked.”
McDonough’s photo-finish victory represented the first individual state title of his prep career, though he had come tantalizingly close in the past. McDonough is a five-time state runner-up on the track in events ranging from 800 to 3,200 meters.
Just minutes after capturing his long-awaited triumph, McDonough said he came into the race more concerned with helping his Hoover team than with garnering personal accolades.
‘It’s cool, but overall it’s the team that matters,” McDonough said, “and that’s what I love about cross-country — the bond and everything.”
Notably, McDonough became Hoover’s first state cross-country champion since former standout Pat McGregor took top honors in 2007.
The senior’s gold-medal effort propelled the Hoover boys to a third-place team finish with 93 points. Auburn defeated Mountain Brook, 59-69, to defend its title for a fourth straight year.
Hoover had entered the meet with championship aspirations, but fell short on race day.
“Our guys did not run well. We beat ourselves,” head coach Devon Hind said after the meet. “We did not get beat today, and those are hard for a coach to swallow.”
John Paul Rumore, a senior, was the only Hoover runner other than McDonough to place in the top 20. He earned All-State honors with a 15th-place finish in 16:16.24.
John McCrackin (24th, 16:28.65), Alex Leary (32nd, 16:35.63) and Will Couch (40th, 16:47.59) rounded out the team’s scoring runners.
Hind praised the performance of Couch, a sophomore who clocked a 36-second personal best when his team needed it most.
“He was a bright spot,” Hind said.
Propelled by All-State showings from Sydney Steely and Ava Weems, the Hoover girls tallied a fourth-place team finish with 96 points. Huntsville beat Mountain Brook, 51-61, to end the Spartans’ 13-year state title reign.
“I’m not disappointed with our girls finish because we got beat,” Hind said. “We ran well, and we got beat, and I can live with that.”
Steely placed eighth in 18:52.19, and Weems placed 13th in 19:00.96.
Emma Langley (25th, 19:34.92), Erin Cannon (30th, 19:40.13) and Caroline Sall (33rd, 19:43.14) capped the team’s scoring runners.
The Spain Park girls posted a seventh-place team finish with 206 points. They were led by Mary Katherine Tedder’s 27th-place effort in 19:36.17.
Although the Spain Park boys team did not qualify for state, it advanced three individuals. Morgan Becker (31st, 16:34.07), Charlie Trower (33rd, 16:35.93) and Jacob Warner (35th, 16:36.94) all registered personal bests on Nov. 12.