Photo by Sam Chandler.
Homewood High School freshman Lainey Phelps, seen running at the AHSAA Class 6A, Section 3 cross-country meet Nov. 3 at Veterans Park, will play an integral role in her team’s pursuit of a state indoor track and field title.
The AHSAA State Indoor Track and Field Championships will be Feb. 3-4 at the Birmingham CrossPlex, and Homewood High School head coach Tom Esslinger likes his teams’ chances of collecting at least one blue trophy.
The Patriot girls, who are stacked with gold medal contenders in a number of events, will look to end a streak of four straight runner-up finishes. They have lost to Pelham the past two years by 12 total points.
But this year’s team is different. According to Esslinger, his 2017 squad could be the best he’s had in his 12 years at Homewood.
“Overall, when we consider the depth and who we have in every event, I really do believe it’s got the chance to be the best team,” Esslinger said. “I won’t say it’s there yet, but we definitely have the ability to.”
The statistics corroborate his confidence. Midway through the indoor season, 10 Homewood individuals and relay teams ranked first in their event in Class 6A.
Freshman sensation Lainey Phelps, who clocked a sub-5-minute mile earlier this season, is one of those top-ranked athletes. At the time she ran it, her mark of 4 minutes, 58.29 seconds was the fastest in the nation among high school girls.
“She’s still learning, but she is such an elite athlete and at such an elite level,” Esslinger said.
The Homewood boys team is in a similar position to the girls. The Patriots, who won three straight indoor championships from 2013 to 2015, are looking to reclaim the top position after placing third in 2016.
“We feel pretty good about our chances to get back to having a chance to get first,” Esslinger said.