A hint of exhaustion in his voice, Stanley Johnson took a few moments to discuss his week.
There aren’t many holes in his schedule. Not with the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s cross country championships coming to town on Saturday.
For the 11th straight year, the AHSAA state meet will be held at Oakville Indian Mounds, and the Lawrence County-based Jesse Owens Runners Club signed a contract with the AHSAA this summer to keep the event in Oakville through 2014.
“We had to rebid (for the state meet) this year because our contract was up, and we actually had another place in Birmingham bid against us,” said Johnson, who is Lawrence County’s cross country coach.
“I’m glad we were able to keep it here because of the economic impact it has on Decatur, Cullman and Lawrence County. Plus, the course is popular among runners and most coaches. We don’t hear many complaints.”
Several local teams and individual runners qualified for the state meet, and there are already some interesting storylines emerging.
One of those is a new rivalry that’s forming between two of the area’s top runners: Athens’ Tate Carden and Lawrence County’s Justus Montgomery.
During the Class 5A, Section 5 meet last week at Heritage University in Florence, Carden beat Montgomery to win the individual title by a few tenths of a second. Both are expected to finish in the top 10 this week at the state meet.
“Whenever we’re out there racing, my goal is to always try and keep up with Justus,” Carden said. “The race I ran last week (at the sectional), that was my best race of the year. Hopefully I can do it again.”
Johnson said the competition has helped both runners.
“Tate seems like a real classy guy,” the Lawrence County coach said. “Every time they’ve raced this year, they’ve been close together. It’s a good rivalry for both of them, and it should be an interesting race this weekend.”
Three area teams have legitimate shots at winning state titles. Hatton’s boys are one of the top teams in Class 1A-2A, while both Lawrence County teams have enough talent to contend in Class 5A.
Rested up: Glancing through Week 10’s high school football results, a few people might have noticed something peculiar.
There wasn’t a lopsided Tanner win. In fact, the Class 2A top-ranked Rattlers didn’t even play.
Tanner coach LaRon White opted not to play a Week 10 game this season with hopes of having a rested team for the playoffs, which begin Friday.
Tanner hosts Sand Rock in the opening round of the Class 2A playoffs.
Strong finish: Football season didn’t bring many highlights for Clements. DeMarcus Johnson helped change that last Friday.
Johnson returned interceptions 70 and 20 yards for touchdowns and recovered a fumble, helping the Colts beat Pope John Paul II 28-7 for their only win of the season. He also rushed for 111 yards.
Johnson’s performance didn’t go unnoticed. The Clements junior was selected as one of three finalists for the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s defensive/special teams player of the week, finishing behind Enterprise’s Shaq Solomon.
Clements finished the season 1-9.
Tipping off: Even though the AHSAA football playoffs begin this week, a few area basketball teams have already hit the hardwood.
Falkville’s girls basketball team opened the season Monday in a tournament at Vinemont.
There are two local basketball games scheduled for Friday. Clements travels to East Limestone, and Priceville travels to Danville.
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