Summer Sonic Highlights: Oak Hall cross country

Oak Hall girls cross country team 2022 state 1A champions
Oak Hall girls cross country team 2022 state 1A champions with 1A Coach of the Year Courtesy of Edwin McTureous (far left).
Courtesy of Edwin McTureous

Editor’s note: This is the third part of a summer series revisiting the best of Mike Ridaught’s 2022-23 weekly sports interviews at locally owned Sonic Drive-In of Gainesville. Ridaught and Marty Pallman will debut the 2023-24 show on Wednesday, Aug. 23.

The Oak Hall girls cross country team with their coach, Edwin McTureous, joined Mainstreet Sports Director, Mike Ridaught, and co-host Marty Pallman, on The Prep Zone Sports Show, to discuss their state championship victory, their strategy to get back on the podium and the team’s close relationship. 

The Eagles have been on the podium 10 times since 2010, and it does not look like their streak will be ending anytime soon.  

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Below are excerpts from the Nov. 30, 2022, interview—edited for length and clarity—of The Prep Zone’s interview with the Oak Hall cross country girls team and coach right after their win. You can listen to the full conservation online.  

Q: Coach McTureous, do you want to talk about Sydney Miller and what she’s meant to the program. 

McTureous: Yeah, Sydney is just one of those work horses for me. She’s probably the most competitive person I’ve ever met. I’ve been very fortunate to have coached her since she’s been in kindergarten. She was, you know, probably even in a running career is more of a 400/800 runner. She’s been in the top five, second, and third in the 800 at state. But she really has just been devoted to developing, you know, as a distance runner as well.  

After losing Lauren Jones last year as a number one runner, she stepped in the role and she took the bull by the horns, and, again, just a phenomenal state meet for her. We weren’t sure if she was even going to be running on the state day because she was sick all that week, she missed two practices. But I know if anybody could be sick and still run great to be her because, like I said, she just really is the most competitive person. She’s going to give 100% and she does it in all the sports that she does there for Oak Hall.  

Q: And, you know, defending champions, Cambridge Christian, at least the way Ricky Quintana wrote it, sounded like they were clearly the favorite going in. Did that kind of serve as motivation? Because for Buchholz, it was different. Everybody was gunning for them; they had already won a state championship. When you’re the hunter, sometimes I wouldn’t say it’s easier, but maybe the pressure is not quite there when you’re the hunted? 

McTureous: Oh, definitely and we’ve been in that role where we’ve been first or second seat. For the first time since 2010, I think we haven’t been on the podium. Except for three times, we’ve been first or second since 2010. All but three years. We’ve had that target, and this was probably the first year in a while that we weren’t favored to be on the podium, and we kind of used that as fuel for fire throughout the season.  

It kind of took off the pressure. We had nothing to lose. That being said, I think the team and the girls knew as the season was going on that we had that chance to do it. And obviously for that state championship any year, you’ve all got to do it on that one day. When we talk about the regular season, it’s great to go and do well regular season meets, but we focus on two meets. It’s the regional championship and it’s the state championship, and those are the two meets that we want to run the best. We were able to do that this year. 

Oak Hall teammates Sydney Miller (left) and Alivia Dragstedt finished third and fourth, respectively, at Saturday's Region 2-1A Championships at Santa Fe College.
Photo by Seth Johnson Oak Hall teammates Sydney Miller (left) and Alivia Dragstedt.

Q: How’s it feel going out your senior year? You won the state championship; just describe what it was like?  

Sydney Miller (SR): It was super exciting. I really wanted to end on a bang, individually. But more importantly, as a team, I really want to end on bang. And just as a finale really just sum up what we’ve been working for this whole season. I knew they could do it every step of the way. And it was just, it was just so exciting to turn back and see all of them finishing and kind of knowing in my head like, wow, I think we won.  

Q: There’s only eight of you on the team, so I mean, I have to think you guys are pretty close.  

Mackenzie Klein (JR): Yeah, we do a lot of team bonding over the summer, and we have a cross country camp. We’re there together for a week, and we’re working together, playing games, and having fun. We’ll do our runs in the mornings, so I think that’s definitely where we formed some of those connections with each other. Throughout the season, we really just like we’re together all the time. I love my teammates. They’re all such good girls.  

Q: Tell me how it feels to win a state championship. What was it like? 

Alivia Dragstedt (SO): It’s honestly unbelievable. After we found out when we crossed the finish line, and we’re all together as a team, after we run, and we heard the score that we had 59 points against Cambridge with 79. We could not believe it. Like it really just did not feel real. 

Q: Lola Murfee, one of the eighth graders, actually did quite well. In fact, a personal best by 16 seconds. That is kind of uncommon to beat a personal best by that much. What was the key for you?  

Lola Murfee (8): I knew I wanted to run for Sydney, because I knew it was her last year. I knew that once I finished the race, I would have a long time to recover. So, I told myself that I might as well go hard for 19 minutes.  

Q: [Valeria Beaver] is in eighth grade. What was that experience? What was it like running against all those girls? 

Valeria Beaver (8): I think that running the state championship, especially at my age, was a pretty amazing opportunity. And that I got to the place where I placed it was pretty amazing. Because I remember last year, I placed in the 60s, and this year, I was able to be in the top 25, and my time drastically changed. So, I was very proud. It was a new PR for the season.  

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