By Rubin E. Grant
The bigger the meet, the better Homewood senior Jasmine Griffin performs.
“She’s competitive,” Homewood track and field coach Tom Esslinger said. “She has a killer instinct. When she steps to the line, she’s going to put everything in it, especially in big meets.”
Griffin was at her competitive best last weekend in the 49th AHSAA State Indoor Championships at the Birmingham CrossPlex.
She claimed titles in three events, winning the 60-meter dash with 7.62 seconds, the 60-meter hurdles with 8.95 seconds, and the 400-meters with 57.47. She also was part of the Homewood’s 4-x-200 relay team that finished first with a winning time of 1:43.56.
“Competing has always been my thing,” Griffin said. “The more competition I have helps me run better. And I like winning.”
Griffin’s superlative performance helped the Homewood girls run away with the Class 6A state title. The Patriots totaled 167.50 points to set a new AHSAA all-time indoor team scoring record while winning their fifth consecutive championship. Pelham was a distance second with 72.50 points and Paul Bryant finished third with 65.
Homewood’s boys also won the Class 6A title, scoring 103.50 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Opelika, which had 56.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” Esslinger said. “There were so many highlights. The girls did a great job across the board and the boys stepped up when they needed to. This was really more than I could have ever imagined.”
Of course, Esslinger expected Griffin to be at the forefront, considering she won three events — the 100-meter dash, 300-meter hurdles and 400-meter run — along with a relay in the state outdoor meet last May.
“She’s got crazy athletic ability,” Esslinger said. “But things haven’t always come easy for her. She struggled in the eighth, ninth and even 10th grades. The evolution of where she started from and where she is now has been fun to watch.”
Griffin remembers those early struggles. “I was a little shaky,” she said.
She also played basketball then and the extra sport took a toll on her right knee, leading to surgery her freshman year. She dropped basketball and became an exclusive track athlete her sophomore year, following in the footsteps of her older sister Elysa.
Elysa, a three-time individual state champion when she was at Homewood, is now a sophomore on the University of South Alabama track and field team.
Jasmine Griffin also will run track in college. She has signed with Southern Miss.
“I picked Southern Miss because they are kind of like our team,” she said. “Their team is like a family and doesn’t have any drama. Plus, I didn’t want to go to the same school as my sister.”
Griffin probably isn’t the only girl on the Homewood track team who will compete at the next level.
Sophomore distance runner Lainey Phelps continues to shine. She did the 1,600-meter run in 5:12.49, and the 3,200 in 11:11.20, just ahead of teammate Celie Jackson, who finished second. Phelps finished second to Pelham’s Katie Strozier in the 800 with a time of 2:17.47.
The Patriots’ Aiya Finch won the triple jump with a leap of 37-03.75 and the long jump with a leap of 17-02.50. Alex Brooks cleared 10 feet to win the pole vault. Homewood’s 4-x-800 relay team finished first with a time of 9:49.08.
On the boys side, Will Stone clocked 9:37.03 to win the 3,200-meter run and won the 1,600 with a time of 4:24.39.
Logan Justice edged Helena’s Blake Vaughn by a nose, winning the 800-meter race with a 2:02.62 time. Vaughn clocked 2:02.71.
The Patriots’ Eli Brooks won the pole vault, clearing 13-03.
Homewood’s 4-x-800 relay team finished first with a time of 8:30.07 time.