By Rubin E. Grant
A few months after enjoying one of the best days of his young life, Crawford Hope experienced months of misery.
As a freshman at Scottsboro High School, Hope won the Class 5A 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs at the 2018 Alabama High School Athletic Association Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
But that summer, Hope suffered a stress fracture of his femur because his still-developing legs weren’t strong enough to take all the toll he was putting on them. The fracture was severe because it was in the neck of the femur, going into the hip.
So, when he transferred from Scottsboro to Homewood before his sophomore year because his dad, Gregg Hope, accepted an assistant track coaching job at Homewood, Crawford Hope was unable to run for the Patriots during the 2018 cross-country season. He was sidelined for six months.
“It was really tough,” Crawford Hope said. “I was on crutches for four months. That was tough mentally and physically. And then for the next two months I was barely moving.”
Finally, after the doctors cleared him to start running again, Hope resumed his training in February – with great difficulty.
“When I started running again, I was out of shape and was winded after 10 or 15 minutes,” he said. “My legs felt like Jell-o.”
Then Hope started training with Will Stone, Homewood’s celebrated distance runner, who was a senior at the time. Suddenly, Hope returned to form.
“It was kind of a phenomenon what happened,” Hope said. “I started working out with Will and everything just came back.
“Will was one of the best teammates anyone could ask for. I learned a lot from him during our one year together, and not just about running.”
After missing the cross-country and indoor track seasons, Hope had a strong showing in the 2019 ASHAA outdoor meet as Homewood claimed its second consecutive Class 6A title.
Hope joined Stone, Logan Justice and Jack Gray as the Patriots’ 4×800 relay team won with an impressive time of 8:00.01. Hope also placed second to Stone in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs.
“Crawford Hope was exceptional,” Homewood track coach Thomas Esslinger said after the meet. “If we don’t have Will, he wins two state championships.”
Gregg Hope was blown away by what his son accomplished at the outdoor meet, especially after his lengthy time away from running because of his injury.
“I told Crawford that how he came back would define his running career,” Gregg Hope said. “He attacked his rehab and really got after it. To run the way he did at the outdoor meet three months after coming back from his injury was impressive.”
With Stone now starring at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, Hope, a junior, is the Patriots’ top distance runner.
On Oct. 19, Hope won the 28th Husky Challenge at Hewitt-Trussville with a sterling time of 15:43.74 while leading the Patriots to victory in the meet.
A week earlier, Hope recorded a personal best time of 15:06.61 while finishing fifth in the prestigious Coach Wood Invitational in Whitesburg, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. The Patriots took first place in the boys competition in the 24-team event.
Hope is favored to win at a Class 6A sectional meet Thursday at Hewitt and is the favorite to claim the individual state title on Nov. 9 at Moulton.
“i ran against some of the top runners in my class at Hewitt, and if I am able to do what I did at Hewitt, I think I’ll have a good chance to win,” Hope said.
Dedication to Training
Hope has a strenuous training regimen. He runs about 70 miles a week, running three miles in the mornings and seven in the afternoons.
He took up running when he was in the third grade, following in his dad’s footsteps. Gregg Hope was a state champion distance runner at UMS-Wright in Mobile in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
“He used to bike a lot and I ran beside him,” Crawford Hope recalled. “I ran competitively from the third grade until the fifth grade, then I took a break in the sixth grade. After the sixth grade, I started to take it seriously.”
Gregg Hope enjoys watching his son compete.
“He reminds me of somebody I used to know,” Gregg Hope said, jokingly referring to himself. “It’s getting easier to watch him, but it’s not easy, if you know what I mean.”
Before coming to Homewood, Crawford Hope almost ended up at Vestavia Hills as a teammate of the Rebels’ talented runner Ethan Strand. Gregg Hope was looking for a school system that would challenge his son academically as well as athletically when they decided to leave Scottsboro.
“I was planning to go to Vestavia, then coach Esslinger reached out to my father and asked him to come help coach the team,” Crawford Hope said. “I came by the school and fell in love with the team.
“I am happy we made the move to Homewood.”
Hope and Strand have become friends and Hope also enjoys competing against him, even though Strand has gotten the better of Hope in their two most recent matchups. Strand took first place in the prestigious Jesse Owens Classic cross-country meet on Oct. 5 at the Oakville Indian Mounds Park, blazing to a 15:26.34 finish in the Open Division 5K run, finishing slightly more than 5 seconds ahead of Hope (15:31.97).
At the race in Georgia, Hope was about 2 seconds behind Strand (15:04.56), who finished fourth.
“I love racing against him,” Hope said. “We kind of push each other to do well and run faster times.”