By Rubin E. Grant
Vestavia Hills senior Crawford West was feeling much better for the 23rd Jesse Owens Cross Country Classic last Saturday than she was for her previous race.
West finished third with a time of 17:53.81 in the Southern Showcase Sept. 18 at John Hunt Running Park in Huntsville.
“I was sick,” West said. “I have no idea what I had. I think it was a really bad cold. I got tested for COVID and it came back negative.
“I’m sure that factored into the results at the Southern Showcase.”
With the illness behind her, West won the Jesse Owens girls gold division race, clocking the Oakville Indian Mounds Park 5K course near Moulton in 17:48.47. Bella Guillamondegui, a junior from Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, was second with a time of 17:52.98.
They were the only two girls in the field with sub 18:00 times.
“It was a pretty good race for me and a fun way to go out in my last Jesse Owens race,” said West, who won the 2020 Jesse Owens race. “I definitely sat back the first two miles, but I probably should not have sat back as much as I did. I’m trying not to go as hard at the start as I did last year because sometimes I’m not able to keep the pace and I want to preserve myself for the last mile.”
West also won the Chickasaw Trails Invitational Sept. 11 with a time of 17:36.52 at Oakville Indian Mounds Park, which is also the site of the Alabama High School Athletic Association state meet scheduled for Nov. 6.
West looks primed to win another Alabama Gatorade Cross Country Runner of the Year award as she did in 2020. She also recently committed to Alabama.
“Alabama checked all the boxes for me,” she said. “Everybody there was super nice and encouraging and they have a successful program. They are top five nationally. Plus, it’s close to home.”
But West has some unfinished business this fall. She won the AHSAA Class 7A meet as a sophomore in 2019, but she didn’t finish the race last fall.
“I was winning by a good amount at the two-mile mark, but I passed out later on in the race,” she said. “I’m pretty sure it was dehydration. It was abnormally hot that day.”
West has set some lofty goals this season, including breaking the state meet record time. Amaris Tyynismaa of Montgomery Catholic holds the record, clocking 17:03 in the 2014 Class 4A race.
“I want to set the PR (personal record) for Alabama, win state again and Gatorade again,” she said. “I want to go out on top.”
West led Vestavia Hills to a fifth-place finish as a team in the Jesse Owens Classic. The Rebels finished with 185 points and a total time of 1:38:07.69. Brentwood from Tennessee won with 52 points and a total time of 1:33:31.98.
Vestavia Hills’ other top finishers were freshman Claire Spooner in 24th place with a time of 19:15.75, sophomore Kaitlyn Wende 43rd with a time of 19:55.67 and freshman Jasmine Zhang right behind her in 44th with a time of 19:55.76.
“We have a really young team,” West said. “We’ve got only two seniors and the rest underclassmen. I’m proud of our team for finishing fifth. Everybody is working hard.”
In the Jesse Owens boys gold division, Hoover finished second as a team behind Scottsboro, which won with 162 points and a total time of 1:21:25.08. The Bucs had 166 points and a total time of 1:22:02.09. Vestavia Hills finished ninth with 255 points and a total time of 1:22:52.13.
Hoover placed three runners in the top 50, led by junior Matthew Harden in 29th place with a time of 16:09.14. Sophomore Zander Dakis was 34th with a time of 16:15.26 and junior Elijah Joseph was 43rd, clocking 16:24.51.
The Rebels had two runners in the top 20. Junior Alex Leath finished 16th with a time of 15:46.77 and junior Will Jordan was 18th, clocking 15:49.12.
Chelsea senior Miles Brush won the race with a time of 15:10.47.