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The James Clemens cross country preps for the 2022 season and begin their trek as ranked No. 2 in the state in both boys and girls divisions. Photo Contributed

James Clemens Cross Country Team Ready To Win It All

MADISON- After the best season in school history finishing fourth in both boys and girls in the State Championships, the James Clemens cross country team begins the new 2022 season ranked No. 2 in the pre-season Class 7A state polls.

“This is the best team I’ve had here at James Clemens and I look forward to watching this team excel to their best talents,” said Drew Bell, the only head coach in the history of the James Clemens program.

The girls’ squad returns four runners who made the top 21, including two All-State performers, in last year’s competition: Ella Carter, Kylie Gero, Emma Bothern and Kayla Willett. The boys’ team has five returning top 21 athletes: Luke Alverson, Cole Robinson, John Luke Stovall, Dylan Dryer and Garrett Gallagher.

Side facts about those returning include All-State (Top 15) performers Ella Carter, Luke Alverson, Kylie Gero and Cole Robinson. In addition, the squads include 10-mile state record holder Kayla Willett, boys National Champion and All-American in the 800-meter Dylan Dryer, All-American track athlete Luke Alverson, John Luke Stovall who was All-State in track and a No. 11 finish at the National Junior Olympics in the 1500-meter, Summer Mountain Trail Series Champion Cole Robinson team captain and All-State track athlete Garrett Gallagher.

“We had our best ever summer program as our athletes put in 10 weeks of 40-60-mile efforts over 2,000-foot elevation gain each week,” added Bell. “Our workouts include hurdle dynamic balance, flexibility drills and an extensive weight lifting program we hold twice a week.”

The squad also attended its annual trip to the Brevard Distance Running Camp in the Carolinas where the boys placed four among the top five in the challenging eight-mile run that includes a 1,500-foot elevation change. At the summer treks over the State Meet course, Garrett Gallagher won the opening race while Luke Alverson took the top position in the last race of the summer. The girls also had a tremendous summer including their best performance at the Brevard Camp, State Meet course races, the Elkmont runs and Ella Carter won the Running Lane Summer Trail Race on Monte Sano Mountain.

The Jets have practice runs each weekday morning at 5:30 a.m. and after-school efforts totaling 40-60 miles a week. Plus weight training and hurdle dynamic drills twice a week. To add to their top possible performances, the squads also hold meetings throughout the week. Bell added, “We meet prior to each practice where each athlete sets goals and communicate on what needs to be in completed in each workout. At the end of each week, a team meeting is held where the athletes discuss what was good about the week, what changes need to take place and set race goals for upcoming races. All coaches and athletes must participate and agree on a game plan.”

The team agreed on a motto for the 2022 season: “If you have a dream don’t just sit there, gather courage to believe that you can succeed and leave no stone unturned to make it a reality.”

Bell has what he feels is a tremendous coaching staff which help shape the athletes to be the best in competitions. The staff includes Daniel Guinn, a former high school state champion, Joshua Johnson, who competes in numerous races in the area, and Beth Manning, a triathlete and former college soccer player. For Bell, in his 10 years at James Clemens, his teams have claimed two State Championships and five runner-up trophies in either cross country or track.

The Jets open the season at the Scottsboro Invitational on Aug. 27 where some of the top ranked teams in Alabama will gather to kick off the 2022 campaign in grand style with excellent competition.

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