By Lee Davis
If not for her close friend Sophie Jane Knott, Holli Chapman might never have become a part of the Mountain Brook girls track and field team.
“We were in the seventh grade and I was playing soccer,” Chapman recalled. “Sophie Jane suggested that I get into track. She kept asking me, and finally I agreed. By eighth grade, I loved track so much that I gave up soccer.”
Chapman’s decision has paid off. If the Lady Spartans win their first indoor state championship in four years, it could well be because of the efforts of Knott and Chapman, who have developed into two of Alabama’s most impressive sophomore runners.
Knott – the great-niece of former Mountain Brook coach David Knott – has produced a time of 59.98 in the 400-meter run, currently the fourth-best time in Class 7A. Her personal best at the pole vault is 10-6, the second-best height in Class 7A this season.
Chapman has run the 400 meters in a time of 58.70, currently the third-best time in Class 7A. She’s also completed the 60-meter run in 8.06, good for seventh in the state. Her best distance in the long jump is 15-7, presently the eighth best in Class 7A. Both excel in the 4×200 and 4×400 relays.
With the state meet coming up at the Birmingham Crossplex on Feb. 3-4, both girls believe their team has a shot at winning the blue championship trophy that arch-rival Hoover has owned for the past three years.
“I think we’ve got a good shot because we’ve worked really hard,” Knott said. “We’ve been focused in practice and in our meets and we have a lot of good chemistry. If we run well, our team has a really good chance to win.”
Chapman agreed. “If you expect to win the state, everybody has to run well,” she said. “Nobody can afford to have an off day. That’s especially true if you’re going against Hoover and the other great teams that reach the state meet. But if we do that, we’ll be fine.”
Both girls run outdoor track for the Lady Spartans as well as indoor and say there are differences in preparation for the respective venues.
“The indoor meets come before the outdoor season so most runners aren’t going to be in quite as good shape because it’s so early,” Knott said. “Also the track is smaller. In indoor, the 400-meter run is two laps instead of one, which is a little bit harder to manage. And with indoor, you don’t have to worry about the weather.”
Although much of their high school careers are still ahead of them, both Knott and Chapman have a deep appreciation for Mountain Brook’s great tradition in girls track and field.
“It’s really cool to come to school every day and see all the trophies we have won for girls track, even going back to before I was born,” Chapman said. “Mountain Brook track is just like a long relay run where they pass the baton from generation to generation. Now it’s our turn to be successful. It’s an honor to a part of this and it’s something we all take very seriously.”
Knott added that maintaining that tradition comes with a price.
“To continue to win, we have to put in a lot of hard work,” she said. “Nothing will ever come easily, so all we can do is our best and hope everything works out.”
Another key to Mountain Brook’s success will be senior Anna Grace Morgan, whose older sister Madeline also was a star runner for the Lady Spartans. Chapman said the underclassmen on the team are grateful for the leadership of their older peers.
“There are no cliques on our team,” she said. “Everyone supports one another and works together. At Mountain Brook, track is considered a team sport as opposed to an individual sport. That’s all part of what we’re taught from the day we start running.”
If the Lady Spartans claim the indoor title, it could well be because Sophie Jane Knott and Holli Chapman learned their lessons well.