By Rubin E. Grant
Vestavia Hilis sophomore Crawford West’s victory in the Class 7A girls state cross-country meet last Saturday might have surprised some, but not Rebels boys champion Ethan Strand.
Strand expected it.
“I told her from the beginning of the season that she could do it,” Strand said. “She just works really hard and she kept getting better every week. I knew if she continued to get better she would be ready for anything.”
West was more than a little skeptical of Strand’s optimistic outlook. After all, she had finished 30th as a freshman in the 2018 state meet.
“I didn’t believe him when he said that at the beginning of the season,” West said.
But Strand proved to be prophetic.
West finished the 5K course with a winning time of 18:07.92, nearly four seconds ahead of Auburn senior Samantha Rogers, who clocked in at 18:11.31, in the 64th Alabama High School Athletic Association Cross Country Championships at the Oakville Indian Mounds Park & Museum.
“She was a dark horse,” Vestavia Hills coach Brett Huber said. “I thought Samantha Rogers was going to win it, but Crawford closed fast on the last straight away.”
West’s strategy going into the race was to finish strong.
“I knew coming in I would have to stay with the top girls and not let them get too big of a gap because at the end of the race I knew I could out-kick them,” West said. “I remember passing the other girl (Rogers) at the end and I didn’t think she was going to pass me.
“I was so happy I started crying. My parents were shocked. They’ve always pushed me to do my best. They were crying they were so happy.”
Strand was ecstatic.
“That was awesome,” he said. “I’m glad for her. She worked so hard and I’m glad to see it pay off.”
West became Vestavia Hills’ first individual girls state champion since Laurel Pritchard won three consecutive titles from 2003-2005.
Other Winners in the Girls Tournament
Mountain Brook freshman Reagan Riley was third with a time of 18:22.09, followed by Auburn senior Harper McGowan (18:27.97) and Mountain Brook senior Lily Hulsey (18:30.40).
Auburn and Mountain Brook finished tied in the team standings with 41 points each, when counting the top five finishers. But after going to the sixth runner tiebreaker, Auburn claimed its second consecutive Class 7A title.
Baker was third with 124 points; followed by Hewitt-Trussvile, 148; Vestavia Hills, 157; and Oak Mountain, 177.
Mountain Brook had three other runners garner All-State medals by finishing in the top 15. Junior Elizabeth Robertson (18:53.70) was ninth, eighth-grader Mary Katherine Malone (18:55.29) was 10th and senior Sabina Ortiz (19:03.43) was 14th.
Meanwhile, Strand, a junior, won the boys Class 7A individual title with the best time of the day in the entire meet with a 15:18.58 finish.
“This was a special day today,” Huber said. “It’s the first time we’ve ever had the boy and girl individual winner.
“Ethan always has his eye on the prize. He always finds a way to win.”
Strand won for the second consecutive year.
“Winning doesn’t get old,” he said. “There’s nothing like it. I’m glad because it helped the team do something good.”
Other Winners in the Boys Tournament
The Rebels finished as the boys’ runners-up with 47 points. Huntsville won its second straight title with 26 points.
Huntsville was led by Jackson Danner’s 15:31.37, good for third place, and had five runners earn All-State medals.
Vestavia Hills had three other runners finish who earned All-State. Senior John Ingram (15:50.99) was ninth, senior Andrew Precise (16:00.28) was 10th, and freshman Alex Leath (16:03.37) was 13th.
Oak Mountain’s Walker Cole finished second to Strand with a time of 15:24.35. Hoover’s Owen Marquardt (16:04.22) was 14th.