High hope: James Hope has sights set on two state titles

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 28, 2006

James Hope&8217;s track and field career has been anything but easy.

The Oak Mountain senior sprinter has battled through injury since he took up the sport his sophomore year of high school.

His start in sprinting was an unorthodox one – with his first race coming in the 55-meter dash at the 2004 indoor state championships.

Hope, who also started at running back for the Eagles&8217; football team this season, made it to the finals and finished second in the event.

&8220;Coach (Jerry) Hood told me that I could run track to stay in shape,&8221; Hope said. &8220;So I decided I would try it.&8221;

Hope&8217;s track career came to a screeching halt, however, in the first week of the 2004 outdoor season when he suffered a hamstring injury.

&8220;I was running in the LSU invitational,&8221; he said. &8220;And it just gave out on me.&8221;

Oak Mountain head coach Marty Springfield said the injury kept his top sprinter from seeing just how fast he could go.

&8220;We really didn&8217;t get to see him at full speed after the injury,&8221; Springfield said. &8220;It kept him out until after spring break and he never really got up to speed.&8221;

Hope returned for his junior year hoping for more success, but found himself struggling again.

&8220;Those were two disappointing years for me,&8221; Hope said. &8220;I really wanted to make that up this year.&8221;

Now in his final season as a senior, Hope is focused more than ever on proving just how fast he can move.

He claimed the state title in the 6A boy&8217;s 55-meter dash earlier this year in Priceville, and has his eyes set on the 100 and 200-meter state titles as the outdoor season gets underway this weekend at the Hoover Relays.

&8220;I&8217;m looking forward to the 100 and 200,&8221; he said. &8220;I definitely think I have a chance in those races.&8221;

Hope is still battling with the hamstring, which has already kept him out of three indoor meets earlier this year. He admitted that he has had to change his pre-race routine this season to avoid re-aggravating his leg injury.

&8220;I didn&8217;t used to stretch all that much,&8221; Hope said. &8220;I&8217;ve definitely been doing a lot more of that this season.&8221;

Springfield said that he feels confident in Hope&8217;s ability to contend for a state title in the sprints this year.

&8220;We talked about goals earlier this season and I feel like a legitimate goal for him would be doubling in the 100 and 200,&8221; Springfield said. &8220;He&8217;s such a good athlete. As long as he avoids injury I&8217;m sure he&8217;s going to do great.&8221;

Springfield said the 55-meter title in indoor has really helped with Hope&8217;s confidence going into the outdoor season.

&8220;James has worked harder and harder as he&8217;s gotten older,&8221; Springfield said. &8220;I think he&8217;s starting to realize how good he can be.&8221;

Hope said he owes a lot of credit to his coaches for strengthening his running ability.

&8220;They&8217;ve really encouraged me,&8221; he said. &8220;They&8217;ve kept me accountable.&8221;

Hope and the Eagles kick off their 2006 outdoor track and field season this Saturday at the Hoover Relays at Hoover High School