Homewood Track and Field
Homewood High School track and field standouts (from left to right) Jasmine Griffin, Ann Mosely Whitsett, Caroline Lawrence and Lainey Phelps will compete this weekend at New Balance Nationals Indoor. The championship meet is held at The Armory Track and Field Center in New York City. Without the financial backing provided by the Homewood community, the trip wouldn't be possible.
Four Homewood High School track and field standouts will compete this weekend at New Balance Nationals Indoor, a championship-level meet in New York City.
Caroline Lawrence, Ann Mosely Whitsett, Jasmine Griffin and Lainey Phelps will team up to run in the championship division of the 4x400-meter relay. On Feb. 4, the quartet clocked an all-time state-meet record in the event with a mark of 3 minutes, 54.26 seconds. That time currently stands as the 17th fastest in the nation.
Despite the group's exceptional success, its trip to New York seemed nothing more than a fantasy for much of the indoor season. The girls knew the collective cost of travel and lodging would be well out their price range, especially without school funding.
Due to an Alabama High School Athletic Association rule, high schools aren't allowed to make financial contributions toward the expenses associated with participation in postseason competitions like New Balance Nationals.
"At the beginning of indoor, we were doing pretty well in the 4x4, and we were like, 'We could potentially go to New Balance,'" said Whitsett, a senior. "As our time kept getting better, the idea became more real. But we always knew that money would be the only issue to go."
Thanks to an outpouring of financial support from the Homewood community, that issue has been resolved.
The girls started a GoFundMe page in mid-February at the recommendation of their parents to ask for help in funding the trip. Their goal was to raise $5,000. Within two and a half days, that figure was reached -- and surpassed. As of March 9, they had received more than $5,500 in donations.
"Everybody was sharing it throughout the community," said Lawrence, a senior, about their fundraising page. "We're so thankful to the Homewood community and our friends and family for helping support us."
Undoubtedly, it was a community effort. While many of the donations came from the girls' friends and families, a handful of businesses also contributed. Little Donkey Mexican Restaurant, The Trak Shak, Hamburger Heaven, Taco Casa and Homewood Toy and Hobby all chipped in.
Perhaps the most significant contribution came from the Homewood Athletic Foundation, which is an independent organization from Homewood City Schools. According to its website, homewoodaf.org, the foundation's mission is to give Homewood "student athletes the very best chance of success every time they step on the court, track, course, field, or mat." The foundation achieves this by "providing funds over and above" those provided by the school system.
The athletic foundation contributed $1,000 to the girls' campaign.
"I got hype," Griffin, a junior, said of her reaction to the four-digit deposit. "I don't even think I went to sleep."
That same level of excitement was still evident Wednesday afternoon. Congregated next to the rubber track at Waldrop Stadium, the girls' collective enthusiasm about their upcoming trip to the Big Apple was painted across their smiling faces and heard in the eagerness of their voices.
At times, it seemed as if they still hadn't wrapped their minds around what was about to happen.
"I'm just ecstatic," Whitsett said. "It doesn't really feel real."
But it is.
The quartet boarded a plane Thursday, and the competition begins Friday. In addition to the 4x400 relay, each athlete qualified for an individual event.
Lawrence, a three-time state high jump champion, will compete in the championship division of the high jump Friday at 6 p.m. (EST). Whitsett and Phelps, who swept the 800 meters at last month's state meet, will compete in the emerging elite division of that same event on Friday at 6:55 p.m. Griffin will toe the starting line at 9 a.m. Saturday in the championship division of the 60-meter dash. She, too, captured the state event title in February.
The girls will cap their weekend with the 4x400 relay Sunday at 12:15 p.m. The meet, held at The Armory Track and Field Center, will feature top talent from across the nation.
"It's a dream come true," Lawrence said of the opportunity to compete.
None of the Patriots making the trip have participated previously in the New Balance indoor competition. Although they may be unsure of what to expect, Phelps, a freshman, said one thing is for certain: "We could not have done it without the Homewood community."