By Rubin E. Grant
Homewood’s girls indoor track and field team appears primed to continue their Class 6A dominance.
The Patriots outclassed the competition last week in the Hump Day Octameet, hosted by Mountain Brook at the Birmingham CrossPlex.
With senior distance runner Lainey Phelps claiming victories in the 800- and 1,600-meter runs and senior Alex Brooks winning the pole vault, Homewood totaled 103 points, well ahead of two Class 7A schools, second-place Thompson (87.50 points) and third-place Mountain Brook (76 points).
“We had a good meet,” Homewood coach Tom Esslinger said. “I think we’re getting where we need to be for state.”
The 50th Alabama High School Athletic Association State Indoor Track & Field Championships will be held Feb. 7-8 at the CrossPlex. The Patriots have won the past three Class 6A titles.
“Right now, on paper, we’re the heavy favorites to win again,” Esslinger said. “I feel good about our girls. We have a lot of experience and a lot of good athletes.”
Phelps, a multiple-time state champion, is at the top of the list. She easily won the 800-meter run in the Octameet with a time of 2:17.78. Mountain Brook’s Tessa Allen was second at 2:24.34 and Homewood’s Celie Jackson third at 2:25.39. Mountain Brook freshman Clark Stewart won the 3,200-meter run with a time of 12:00.64.
Phelps was even more impressive in winning the 1,600, clocking 5:03.41. Jackson was a distance second at 5:18.44 and Mountain Brook’s Lily Hulsey was third with a time of 5:19.13.
“She’s looking really good right now,” Esslinger said of Phelps.
Meanwhile, Brooks cleared 12 feet to win the pole vault.
“She’s having a great season,” Esslinger said. “We’re waiting on that big PR (personal record). She’s been hanging around 12 feet for a while, but she’s real consistent and solid. We think she’ll have an opportunity to jump at the next level.”
Homewood freshman Brooke Walden took second in the pole vault, clearing 11 feet, and Mountain Brook sophomore Emma Grace Holt was third, clearing 9 feet, 6 inches.
Spartans junior Grayson Scott finished second in the high jump and long jump.
The Homewood boys totaled 69.50 points to finish third in the Octameet. Thompson won with 117 points and Hewitt-Trussville was second with 80 points.
“Our boys had a really good meet, finishing third behind two 7A schools,” Esslinger said.
The Patriots’ only individual winner was sophomore Spenser Lamb in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.50. Mountain Brook’s Hugh Stokes was second, clocking 8.84.
“Spenser is a great kid,” Esslinger said. “He was third in the state outdoor 110-meter hurdles as a freshman. He’s a really hard worker. He’ll definitely be in the mix when we get to state.”
Esslinger also was pleased with the Octameet performances of junior distance runner Crawford Hope and senior pole vaulter Walker Smith.
Hope finished second in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 4:17.25. Thompson senior Jace Jones took first with a time of 4:13.89. Homewood senior Carson Bedics was third at 4:19.35.
“Crawford ran the third-fastest time in the country this season,” Esslinger said. “He just finished behind the guy who has the fastest time in the country, Jace Jones.”
Smith finished second in the pole vault, clearing 14 feet, six inches. “That’s an indoor school record,” Esslinger said. “He made a really good attempt at 15 feet.”
Thompson junior Dominique Hall won the pole vault with a clearance of 15 feet.
The Octameet was the next-to last meet for the Patriots before the state meet. Homewood will compete in the Last Chance Invitational on Jan. 31-Feb. 1 at the CrossPlex.
The Patriots boys have won two consecutive Class 6A state titles and five crowns in the past seven years. Esslinger expects them to make a run at three-peat, although they will face stiff competition from Opelika and Northridge.
“It will be tougher for our boys,” Esslinger said, “but I think we’ve got a chance.”