Vestavia Hills junior distance runner Ethan Strand wasn’t able to compete in the state indoor track meet last weekend because of the flu, but that didn’t stop him from adding to his list of accomplishments.
On Monday, Strand was named the 2019-20 Gatorade Alabama Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year. The award recognizes the state’s top distance runner.
Strand is the first Vestavia Hills runner to win the award since Mac Macoy in 2013. Homewood’s Will Stone had won the past three Gatorade awards.
“Ethan is always at his best when there is a lot at stake for his team and himself,” Vestavia Hills coach Brett Huber said in a press release announcing Strand’s selection. “He had several goals this past fall — repeat as state champion, improve in times and training level, qualify for Foot Locker nationals — and he met all of those. He’s a special runner.”
Strand won a second straight Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 7A individual cross country championship last fall to highlight his outstanding season. He ran 15:18.58 to finish six seconds ahead of his nearest competitor.
He also won the Jesse Owens Classic and the Southern Showcase in September, clocking the state’s fastest 5K time when he ran 15 minutes, 3.13 seconds.
Two weeks after the state meet, Strand finished sixth at the Foot Locker South Regional championships in Charlotte, North Carolina to become the first Alabamian in 15 years to qualify for the Foot Locker Cross Country National Championships. He finished 29th in the national race in December in San Diego, California.
The Gatorade award honors an athlete who blends athletic excellence with scholastic accomplishment and exemplary character.
Strand maintains a 4.08 GPA and has volunteered locally on behalf of Rebels Impact through Service and Engagement (RISE), a school-based service-learning initiative.
— Rubin E. Grant