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Reading Through the Pandemic

Local Librarians Discuss the Importance of Reading and Pandemic Literary Trends By Emily Williams-Robertshaw


n the words of author George Saunders, “Reading is a form of prayer, a guided meditation that briefly makes us believe we’re someone else.” Regular reading also provides an escape from where we are. The Stanford Graduate School of Business recently published an article by Martin J. Smith, in which Stanford business scholar Scotty McLennan discusses the value of literature in times of crisis, including the COVID-19 pandemic.  “Good literature helps us understand good human relations,” McLennan states. “It’s valuable through its nuances, its twists and turns, its dilemmas, its paradoxes. It helps us see more than is otherwise seen and focus on what ultimately matters.”

Journal photo by Jordan Wald

See READING, page 8

Homewood librarian Leslie West with some recommended reading.

2 • Thursday, February 11, 2021




Murphy’s Law

I THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH Exceptional Foundation hosts New Chili Kick-Off March 6, postpones Cook-Off PAGE 4

SECOND CHANCE St. Vincent’s physicians, surgeons work together to give triplebypass patient a new lease on life PAGE 10

BACK IN THE KITCHEN John Cassimus partners with SpyPoint to create cooking series PAGE 22

TEACHERS OF THE YEAR Hoover, Homewood teachers share their view of education during a pandemic PAGE 24

don’t know about you, but I could didn’t score extra toilet paper until the really use a hug. shelves were once again fully stocked. I came to hugging late in life. I I still don’t have Lysol spray. If my hail from staunch New England parsurvival depends on my ability to hit entage where the prevailing atmoredial and refresh for 13 hours straight, sphere was “keep your distance” with I am doomed. a hefty side of “it’s none of your busiI wholeheartedly agree with the ness.” But I’ve lived in Alabama for vaccine priority rankings. The vulnera40 some odd years now, and hugging ble should go first. Health care workhas become an integral part of my ers and first responders and mail carrisocial norms. ers – everybody on the front lines Of course, when social suddenly should be immunized immediately. But became distant, hugging became a here’s a thought: when you get to the Sue Murphy no-no. Sure, it was a shock to my sysrest of us, how about making access tem, but I could have handled the easily accessible? Contact each person restriction except that when hugging alphabetical order. Make appointIn short, I’m doing all in was sidelined, unreasonable ments according to birth date. unpleasantness rose up to rule the I know how to do, but Something. I’d be in the second half day and being reasonable at all went both groups, but at least I’d have right now, my anxiety in right out the window. Is there a cona date and a time that I didn’t have level is somewhere nection? You tell me. to fight for. In the past year, (can it be only Woulda, coulda, shoulda. Or hey, around “Thar she one?) we’ve had an election and a by the time you read this, the health blows!” post-election and riots and a pandepartment may have figured things demic and people who invoked the out. If they’re still in a quandary as name of Jesus after storming the Capitol building open- to how to get the shots into all of our arms, here are a ly hunting members of Congress, and I find myself at a few more ideas I’ve come across: One outside-the-box loss as to what to do about it all. Being a person on the person suggested they give the shots to Amazon drivbig-dog sidelines, my powers are few. I send up my ers. We’re all getting packages, so the drivers are comown prayers without the accompanying murderous ing to our houses, anyway. I say the Disney folks intentions, I wear a mask, I wash my hands. In short, should be pressed into service because they manage I’m doing all I know how to do, but right now, my anx- crowds on a regular basis, or even better, put the vaciety level is somewhere around “Thar she blows!” cines in the Chick-fil-A drive-thru line. The line might It doesn’t help that, COVID-wise, I have been stretch all the way down Highway 280, but you’d still labeled, simultaneously, high risk (yikes) and nonessen- come out in record time and have a chicken sandwich tial (ouch), and the miracle vaccine to fix all that is still to boot. out of my reach. I am happy to wait my turn like the Once again, no one consulted me on the matter, nonessential person that I am, but the powers-that-be which is unfortunate. This Valentine’s Day, my heart keep throwing out the words “first come, first served,” will be beating double time, and I’m not sure an entire which strike terror in my heart. box of Godiva will set me straight. I’m not particularly good at competing for things. I Boy, I could use a hug.


otmj.com With everything that’s happening “Over the Mountain,” it can be difficult to keep up. That’s why we have launched the OTMJ newsletter. Published every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday - we’ll give you a quick recap of the latest news, sports and social events as well as a heads up on upcoming events so you won’t miss any of the interesting and fun happenings in the Greater Birmingham metro area. To sign up for our newsletter, visit otmj.com. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram, @overthemountainjournal, for daily updates on what’s going on around town, too.

Over the Mountain Views

Open for Business


J O U R N A L February 11, 2021 Publisher & Editor: Maury Wald Copy Editor: Virginia Martin Features Writer: Donna Cornelius Staff Writers: Emily Williams-Robertshaw, Sam Prickett Photographer: Jordan Wald Sports: Rubin E. Grant Contributors: Susan Murphy, June Mathews, Emil Wald, Marvin Gentry, Lee Walls, Bryan Bunch Advertising Sales: Julie Trammell Edwards, Tommy Wald, Gail Kidd

Journal photo by Jordan Wald

Vol. 30, No. 13

Over The Mountain Journal is a suburban bi-weekly newspaper delivered to Mountain Brook, Homewood, Vestavia Hills, Hoover and North Shelby County areas. Subscriptions for The Journal are available for $24 yearly. Mail to: Over the Mountain Journal, P.O. Box 660502, Vestavia Hills, AL 35216. Phone: (205) 823-9646. E-mail the editorial department at editorial@otmj.com. E-mail our advertising department at mwald@otmj.com. Find us on the Web at otmj.com. Copyright 2021 Over The Mountain Journal, Inc. All rights reserved. The Journal is not responsible for return of photos, copy and other unsolicited materials submitted. To have materials returned, please specify when submitting and provide a stamped, self-addressed envelope. All materials submitted are subject to editorial review and may be edited or declined without notification.

Injection Connection

On Feb. 8, the Hoover Met COVID19 Vaccination site became available to all eligible Alabama residents, regardless of the county they live in. Vaccines are given by appointment only to those who are within the vaccination categories of Phase 1A and 1B, as well as people ages 65 and over. To find your eligibility, visit alabamapublichealth.gov. Hoover Met vaccination appointments can be made at uabmedicinevaccine.org. Once the form has been submitted, no further communication will come from UAB until an appointment time is available. Appointment confirmation will come from Phreesia and will include the appointment location and time. According to the City of Hoover, most appointments for this week are filled, but more appointments will be available as vaccine supplies allow.



Thursday, February 11, 2021 • 3

The Shops of Canterbury Road

Hospitality and unique gifts found in the local shops of Canterbury Road in Mountain Brook Village

Come see our NEW SHIPMENT OF ANTIQUES. Antiquites, 205-870-1030

Bourbon Balls by Pappy & Company, $18$38, made with Old rip Van Winkle 10 year. The Dandé Lion, 205-879-0691

Flutter into Spring in Pine Cone Hill’s FABULOUS 100% cotton pjs!! Marguerite’s Conceits, 205-879-2730

From cards to chocolates to candles and frames, we have that special gift for Valentine’s Day. Christine’s on Canterbury, 205-871-8297

An exclusive style at a special price! Receive the 18” Classic Necklace with Grey Pearl and Custom Engraved Paige Pendant (regularly $275) for $198! While supplies last. Use code VALENTINES2021 ExVoto, 205-538-7301

All you need is love ... and ENewton bracelets! Gold filled to style and stack! Happy Valentine’s Day from The Village Poodle 205-423-5443


The Happiest Place on Earth

Exceptional Foundation Hosts New Chili Kick-Off March 6, Postpones Cook-Off

Journal file photo by Jordan Wald

Reestablishing Routines

As with many widely attended events, this year’s Chili Cook-off has been rescheduled because of COVID-19 concerns. The new Chili Kick-Off event will serve as a warm-up to the 17th annual Chili Cook-Off, to take place May 1. Above, Morgan Hall and Docker at last year’s Exceptional Foundation Chili Cook-Off.

By Emily Williams-Robertshaw


arch is a special month for the Exceptional Foundation. The first

Saturday typically is spent among a sea of tents and a crowd of people while teams cook and serve more than 20,000 gallons of chili. As with many widely attended


events, this year’s Chili Cook-off has been rescheduled because of COVID-19 concerns. Instead, the Exceptional Foundation will host a smaller, socially distanced event, the Chili Kick-off. The event will be held March 6 at Cahaba Brewing Company. From noon until 6 p.m. the event will feature a variety of musical performers, including The Wooks, Schmohawks and Friends, Will Cash and Matt Carroll. The event will serve as a warmup to the 17th annual Chili CookOff, to take place May 1. According to foundation Executive Director Tricia Kirk, the annual Chili Cook-Off is never far from the minds of the foundation’s staff. “The Chili Cook-Off is talked about almost year-round at the Exceptional Foundation, but we usually start to notice an increase in Chili Cook-Off excitement around the start of the New Year,” Kirk said. “During a typical February, our front office staff is moving full speed ahead getting ready for the event.” Staff work for months to make sure the event runs smoothly, while participants eagerly await the big day that they get to spend eating chili and hanging out with their friends. “The first weekend in March has been an important date for the Exceptional Foundation for 17 years, and we simply didn’t want to let that weekend pass without having some type of smaller-scale event,” Kirk said. “We have overcome a lot this year and believe that is something worth celebrating.”

One of the biggest hurdles during the past year, according to Kirk, has been adapting to the many changes the pandemic has created. For the children and adults with special needs who attend programs at the Exceptional Foundation, a good routine is essential. “Many of our participants have been coming to the Exceptional Foundation on the same days, at the same times, for well over a decade,” Kirk said. After COVID-19 lockdowns, the foundation had to make changes to the routine before reopening. In accordance with health guidelines, staff began implementing mandatory masks and temperature checks, lowering group sizes and spending more time deep cleaning the building each day. Programs were adapted to safely serve participants, and virtual programs were created to serve those who aren’t able to visit the building. Once the plan was in place and implemented, Kirk said, the fun quickly followed. “Adapting to challenging situations is nothing new to our participants at the Exceptional Foundation,” Kirk said. “In fact, many of our participants have been

‘Adapting to challenging situations is nothing new to our participants at the Exceptional Foundation.’ TRICIA KIRK, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

overcoming obstacles since the day they came into the world. I am amazed by the strength and resilience of the group of people we are lucky to be able to serve at the Exceptional Foundation.” Kirk said the staff has done an “amazing” job adapting this year, creating safe options for all who attend the Exceptional Foundation – a place she likes to refer to as one of the happiest places on Earth. “Our ‘new normal’ has really emphasized the importance of social connection for both our staff and participants,” Kirk said. “The friendships and community that the Exceptional Foundation provides is extremely special, and I am constantly reminded of how important this connection is to both the physical and mental health of our participants and staff.” For more information, visit exceptionalfoundation.org.


FEB 11 - 25 Editor’s note: Some of the events in our calendar may have been canceled after our press deadline. Please check organiziation websites for the latest information.

Through Feb. 14 Show Your Love for King’s Home Showing Your Love with a beautiful mailbox spreads awareness of abuse, neglect, homelessness, and other horrific conditions impacting youth, women, and kids in our area. Website: kingshome.com

Journal file photo by Jordan Wald

4 • Thursday, February 11, 2021

Through Feb. 27 The Salamander Festival

The annual festival, hosted by the Friends of Shades Creek has gone virtual this year, featuring a Salamander Storyboard Trail, environmental news, activities, educational videos and more. Website: shadescreek.org.

Wed., Feb. 10 Valentines-themed Murder Mystery Event

The Southern Ghost Girls Tours and Paranormal Investigations team will host this interactive event in the historic Thomas Jefferson Tower. When: 6-10 p.m. Where: Roots and Revelry Website: southernghostgirls. com

Thurs., Feb. 11 Legacy League Luncheon

The annual luncheon will feature words from bestselling author Susan Alexander Yates. A second event featuring Yates will follow at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Homewood at 7 p.m. When: 11 a.m. Where: A country club in Vestavia Website: samford.edu/legacyleague

Fri., Feb. 12 O’Reilly World of WheelsBirmingham

The Super Bowl of Car Shows, this event features vendors and a wide variety of custom cars, trucks and motorcycles as well as restored and antique vehicles. When: Feb. 12, 3 p.m.; Feb.13, 6 p.m. Where: The BJCC Website: “O’Reilly World of Wheels - Birmingham” Facebook page

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6 • Thursday, February 11, 2021

ABOUT TOWN on Thursday, available for those who carry a 3-day pass. When: 10 a.m.4 p.m., daily Where: Finley Center Website: vintagemarketdays.com/ market/birmingham/

AT HOME II FEB. 12 & 13

The Alabama Ballet will host a live stream production featuring “That Place In-Between,” an original contemporary work; and the single-act, lighthearted comedy “Graduation Ball.” When: 7:30 p.m. Website: alabamaballet.org

Fri., Feb 19 Mountain Brook State of the City Address

Alabama Ballet

Join Mayor Welch and the Mountain Brook City Council for a virtual address. Registration is free and questions should be sent ahead of time to When: 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Where: Zoom Website: mtnbrookchamber.org

A Night Under the Big Top 2021

Sat., Feb. 13 Galentine’s @ The Heights Village

The Cahaba Heights Merchants will host this Galentine’s-themed shopping event, featuring giveaways, sales and pop-up shops from local vendors. When: 10 a.m. Where: The Heights Village Website: “Shopcahabaheights” Facebook Page

Galentine’s Day Balcony Brunch

Enjoy waffles, mimosas and meet animal ambassadors during this brunch hosted on the private terrace overlooking Henley Park. When: 10:30 a.m. Where: The Birmingham Zoo Website: birminghamzoo.com

Mardi Gras Market

Ross Bridge Farmers Market hosts a Mardi Gras-themed market featuring Creole food trucks, a live jazz band, and local shopping. When: 1-5 p.m. Where: 2101 Grand Avenue, Hoover Website: “Mardi Gras Market!” Facebook page

Feb. 18-20 Vintage Market Days of Birmingham - Spring 2021

This upscale vintage market will feature art, antiques, clothing, jewelry, furnishings, consumables and more. An early buying event will be held

The Glenwood Junior Boards annual gala will go virtual this year, featuring a silent auction, door prizes and VIP packages. When: 8 p.m. Website: glenwood.org/bigtop/

SAVE THE DATE Fri., Feb. 26 Arbor Week Celebration

The City of Mountain Brook will conclude a week-long Arbor Week with an event where the Alabama Urban Forestry Administration will present the city with the Arbor City 2021 Award. When: 10-11 a.m. Where: Mountain Brook City Hall Website: mtnbrookchamber.org


ASO Adds #TunefulTuesday to Spring Programming

The Alabama Symphony Orchestra   recently announced an addition to its virtual offerings with the revival of its #TunefulTuesday series. This weekly program, sponsored by PNC Bank, features members of the orchestra performing from their homes or together in carefully arranged and socially distanced ensembles. In spring 2020, as patrons were unable to gather in the concert hall, ASO musicians took the music of The Beatles, Bach,

John Prine, Mozart and others to homes across Alabama. A new edition of #TunefulTuesday will air each week on the organization’s social media pages, website and by email. The first new installment of #TunefulTuesday showcases 20 ASO musicians performing Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C minor. It’s available for viewing on the website ASO website at alsymphony.org/ TunefulTuesday

Cornerstone’s First Virtual Schoolhouse Rock to Take Place March 12 “Keep Rockin’” is the motto as Cornerstone Schools of Alabama’s junior board plans its 16th annual Schoolhouse Rock, set for March 12. Voted best charity event for five years in a row by About Town Magazine, this year’s event will look a bit different. Attendees can pick up the party and take it home. Guests will get party packages that include a meal for four by Moe’s Original BBQ and Cornerstone gifts. In addition, sponsors will get specialty VIP party packages complete with TrimTab craft beer, exclusive VIP gifts and a chance to find one of several golden tickets to win vacation packages, SEC sports paraphernalia and more great prizes. All of the proceeds benefit the students at Cornerstone Schools. For more information, visit one.bidpal.net/shr #Rockin4Kids.

Thirteen Distinctive New Homes in Vestavia Hills On the crest of Shades Mountain overlooking Oxmoor Valley, Walnut Hill epitomizes a Wedgworth community: beautiful homes, great views, and energysmart construction. Minutes from I-65 and downtown Birmingham, these thirteen home sites surround a central park. With lots starting at $200,000, Walnut Hill provides a unique opportunity for you to create a custom home in one of Birmingham’s most desirable areas.


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Studio By The Tracks

Studio By The Tracks to Deliver Valentine’s Day Packages The junior leadership council for Studio By The Tracks will be celebrating the season of love with a Valentine’s Day fundraiser. The group is delivering Valentine’s Day packages, which include a Valentine’s Day card, fresh floral arrangement and wine. There also are package options with no wine. These packages will be delivered within a 10-mile radius of the studio. There will be no pick-up or shipping options. Cards, created by Devote Studios, will be selected at random. The front will feature an original work of art by a Studio By The Tracks artist, and the back will include the studio’s mission statement and room for a note. Floral arrangements will be created by Gaia Floral, featuring tulips and ranunculus stems wrapped in pink, red or white tissue. Wine options include Barone Fini Pinot Grigio, Scarlet Vine Cabernet Sauvignon or two cans of Love Canned Rose. Packages are $75, with the funds supporting the studio’s mission to provide art classes to adults with autism spectrum disorder as well as a children’s program for at-risk youth. Valentine’s Day cards also can be purchased individually for $15. Patrons also can check out 12 featured original works of art created by SBTT’s “King of Love” Ricky Caldwell.

Thursday, February 11, 2021 • 7


Caldwell has been an artist at SBTT for more than 10 years, developing his signature style of humorous artwork celebrating love. For more information and other ways to show support to Studio By The Tracks, visit studiobythetracks.com.

Grace Klein Community Organizes #LoveDoes Campaign Throughout February, the Hooverbased nonprofit Grace Klein Community is hosting its #LoveDoes campaign, which this year will shine a light on those who have been in the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization’s mission is to create a community to “show people that they are deeply valued and have something to give,” according to a

statement from the group. Grace Klein Community, in partnership with the community nonprofit Beacon People, is organizing volunteers to deliver cards, flowers and goodies to first responders, school staff, civil servants and nursing homes. “Our goal is a minimum of 16 deliveries each week,” Grace Klein founder Jenny Waltman said. “We will be blessing community heroes with heart healthy treats, goodies, prayer cards, Valentine cards and encouraging posters the heroes can post in their facilities.” Week one of the campaign was focused on first responders, while this week shines a light on school staff. Week three will be dedicated to civil servants and week four will focus on nursing homes. According to event officials, the campaign’s mission is to spread love throughout the Birmingham community “through action and truth.” Volunteers can sign up online to participate in a contact-free show of support in their neighborhoods. Participants can make Valentine’s cards or encouraging notes and drop them off at the Grace Klein offices. In addition, folks can create plastic bags of prepackaged snacks. A limited number of volunteers will organize and assemble donations. Others can sign up to drive, pick up the donations and drop them off curbside at designated locations. To sign up, visit gkcbhm.org. – Emily Williams-Robertshaw

Your heart health shouldn’t wait, even now Don’t delay the important care you need, even at this time When it comes to caring for your heart, Cardiology Specialists of Birmingham at Ascension St. Vincent’s is right here, delivering the care you need. We’re making sure our offices are safe and ready for you when you need care. And we have more appointment options — both in-person and virtual visits. Work with our team to choose the option that’s right for you, and have confidence knowing our doctors and care teams are connected to an integrated network sharing best practices and advanced treatment options.

Specialized heart care near you. Appointments are now available at 205-660-4174

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Get the heart care that’s right for you at ascension.org/cvspecialistsofbham

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8 • Thursday, February 11, 2021


Reading Through the Pandemic

STAFF PICKS We asked local librarians to list some of their favorite and most popular books of 2020:

From Page One

Reading books, according to research gathered by Healthline.com, strengthens the brain, increases empathy, builds vocabulary, prevents cognitive decline, reduces stress, aids sleep, alleviates depression and lengthens lifespan.

HOOVER LIBRARY - contributed by Amanda Borden, Pam Bainter, Stephanie Beaver, Krysten Griffin and Samm Hamilton

For adults: “His Truth is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope” by John Meacham and John Lewis “Mrs. Everything” by Jennifer Weiner “Leave Only Footprints” by Conor Knighton “The Dutch House” by Ann Patchet (2019)

Reading as Therapy

Recommendations and Interests

According to each of the libraries, recommendation requests have been on the rise.

O’NEAL LIBRARY - contributed by Gloria Repolesk, Amanda Westfall, Matt Layne, Michelle Cheng, Anthony Vacca and Lindsy Gardner For adults: “Transcendent Kingdom” by Yaa Gyasi “Dear Edward” by Ann Napolitano “Pew” by Catherine Lacey “Deacon King Kong” by James McBride

Journal photo by Jordan Wald

“Reading is definitely therapeutic,” said Hoover librarian Justin Rogers. “Not only does it expand your vocabulary and knowledge, but it allows for some healthy escapism.” A good book will take its reader on a journey, Rogers added. For instance now, reading can shift focus from the pandemic and socio-political stressors to the books’ main characters and their journeys, their struggles. Hoover Public Library Director Amanda Borden noted that she typically travels quite a bit, but she wasn’t able to for much of 2020. “Books allowed me to venture to other locations while remaining safe in my home,” she said. “I read 109 books in 2020.” That’s 25% to 30% more than she normally reads. According to local librarians in the Over the Mountain area, it’s all about finding something that interests you. What interests a reader can be a moving target, changing with the environment around them. Hoover librarian Krysten Griffin said she spoke with a lot of people online who had trouble reading over the past year. “I did too until I found a genre that really clicked for me,” she said. “For whatever reason, fantasy is exactly what I needed right now. It’s a genre I have always enjoyed but never really read much of, but about 50% of what I’ve read over the last four months has been fantasy.” Both during and in the wake of pandemic shutdowns in the spring, library staff had a firsthand view of just how much people needed to read in times of crisis. Facilities scrambled to organize new curbside services to supply nondigital readers with physical books. “When we opened for curbside service, we had 250 cars that first day,” Borden said. Upon reopening the Hoover Public Library in July, Borden and her team witnessed people shedding tears of happiness. The Homewood Public Library team built on the curbside service, offering Bonus Bags filled with books and activities curated by staff based on the patrons’ likes and dislikes.

Staff at the O’Neal Public Library in Mountain Brook noted that they now have a request form on their website, “My Reads,” that helps parents connect with a librarian for personalized recommendations for their kids. Above, O’Neal staff members Anthony Vacca and Michelle Cheng with a few suggestions.

Lifestyle books that focus on baking, knitting, organization and such are increasingly popular since people are sheltering at home and have more time to focus on hobbies and activities. Staff at the O’Neal Public Library in Mountain Brook noted that they now have a request form on their website, “My Reads,” that helps parents connect with a librarian for personalized recommendations for their kids. In addition, their “Shelf Care” page is packed with suggested titles for adults and teens. Hoover library assistant Samm Hamilton surmises that people are looking for more recommendations because they simply have more time on their hands for reading. “I helped a sweet gentleman (recently) who specifically wanted to try Faulkner, ‘because it’s about time and if not now, when?’” said Samm Hamilton, library assistant at Hoover. “I’ve also helped people put a finger on what exactly it is they like.” What people are looking for during the pandemic varies based on their interests. Hoover library specialist Pam Bainter found in her interactions at the library and via book groups that what people have been reading during the pandemic has fallen into two distinct categories.  “Those who read for information/ understanding seem to gravitate toward history,” Bainter said. They are reading

to try and understand what is happening, whether that be past pandemics or other times of crisis. Readers who are looking to escape gravitate toward genres such as travel books, true crime, biography and fiction. At the Vestavia Hills Public Library, light-hearted books have been

‘Throughout the pandemic, we have had some patrons say that they specifically are choosing more lighthearted, feel-good books such as romance, chick lit and beach reads.’ VESTAVIA HILLS LIBRARY IN THE FOREST DEPUTY DIRECTOR DANIEL TACKETT

the big contender. “Throughout the pandemic, we have had some patrons say that they specifically are choosing more lighthearted, feel-good books such as romance, chick lit and beach reads,” said Vestavia Hills Library in the Forest Deputy Director Daniel Tackett. “These feel-good books allow them to escape, if only for a little while, from

the reality of the pandemic and its effects.” According to data collected by Hoover’s library staff, fiction was a leader in 2020, especially on digital services. “We had 70,000 more checkouts of fiction titles in 2020 than in 2019, while nonfiction only increased by around 13,000,” Rogers said. O’Neal children’s librarians noted that there has been an uptick in requests for more nonfiction to support at-home learning. Homewood cited a rise in people searching for more diverse books in response to rising social movements. “A lot of our patrons are also asking for social justice books,” said Judith Wright, Homewood Public Library assistant director and teen librarian. “People have always turned to books during times of uncertainty and we saw that more than ever in 2020.” Leslie West, head of adult services for Homewood’s library has noticed a large number of requests for historical fiction, cozy mysteries, beach reads and suspense thrillers. Nonfiction readers have opted for crime, cookbooks and self-help most frequently. Kids followed the social justice trend, said Laura Tucker, head of children’s services for Homewood’s library, as well as requesting graphic novels and books about animals, humor and space.

For teens: “You Should See Me in a Crown” by Leah Johnson  “Furia” by Yamile Saied Méndez  “Dragon Hoops” by Gene Luen Yang  “Fable” by Adrienne Young For children: “The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver” by Gene Barretta “96 Miles” by J.L. Esplin “Class Act” by Jerry Craft HOMEWOOD LIBRARY - contributed by Judith Wright, Leslie West and Laura Tucker For adults: “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle “Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and The Last Trial of Harper Lee” by Casey Cep “The Guest List” by Lucy Foley “An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones (2019) For teens: “Stamped” by Jason Reynolds “Clap When You Land” by Elizabeth Acevado “Cemetery Boys” by Aiden Thomas “We Are Not Free” by Traci Chee For Children: “You Matter” by Christian Robinson “When Stars are Scattered” by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed VESTAVIA HILLS PUBLIC LIBRARY Joi Mahand For adults: “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett “Ring Shout” by P. Djeli Clark “The Mountains Sing” by Nguyen Phan Que Mai For a full list of library picks, visit otmj.com.


Thursday, February 11, 2021 • 9


Vestavia Hills Applauds First Responders

Photo courtesy Vestavia Hills Police Department

to help victims of the EF-3 On Feb. 8, the Vestavia tornado on Jan. 25 in Hills City Council honored Fultondale. recent heroic efforts of local “The ability to effectivefirst responders. ly assist with shoring of Among them were memdamaged structures, grid bers of the Vestavia Hills searches and overall incident Fire Department who mitigation measures would responded during the not have been possible withFultondale tornado rescue out our well-trained personefforts, as well as Vestavia nel, coupled with the availHills Police Officer Daniel ability of proper equipment, Holly. specifically the Heavy A commendation letter Rescue vehicle that was put written by Lt. Joseph Dease in service June 2020,” offirecounted Holly’s rescue cials stated in a Jan. 26 efforts on Jan. 12. He social media post. “VHFD responded to a call at was honored to have the approximately 8:40 p.m. opportunity to assist a reporting a vehicle crash in neighboring city in their which the car had entered time of need.” the Cahaba River. Among the victims was “After Officer Holly then Arnoldo Vasquezchecked all portions of the Hernandez, who has worked Cahaba River within our in Vestavia Hills municipal jurisdiction; he took it upon Vestavia Hills Police Officer Daniel Holly responded to buildings as a custodian. himself to continue checking a call reporting a vehicle crash in which the car had entered the Cahaba River. An oak tree collapsed the river into a neighboring and landed on his leg as he city,” Dease wrote. was ushering his wife and Holly eventually located an emergency appendectomy. three children to safety. He had to the car in Mountain Brook, with the “The professionalism and dedicareceive an emergency amputation by elderly male driver still in his car with tion to duty exhibited by Officer first responders on the scene as the water from the river up to his midHolly are highly commendable,” house crumbled from tornado damsection. Dease said. “I take pride in knowing age. It was a chilly night, with temperthat the men and women of the In the wake of the catastrophic atures at 28 degrees. Holly waded Vestavia Hills Police Department event, Vestavia Hills city employees into the approximately 41-degree stand ready to meet any challenge placed upon them.”  organized a community drive to colwater to rescue the driver and lect needed items for the tornado vicremained with him until medics tims as well as more than $3,000 for arrived. Fultondale Response the Vasquez-Hernandez family. Holly was rushed to Grandview Vestavia Hills fire was called out – Emily Williams-Robertshaw Medical Center shortly afterward for

Mountain Brook Earns Tree City Designations By Emily Williams-Robertshaw

For the 27th year in a row, the city of Mountain Brook has maintained its status as a Tree City USA.  This year, the foundation also has tapped the city to receive the 2020 Tree City USA Growth Award, according to a release, “for demonstrating environmental improvement and higher level of tree care.” “Our residents are very environmentally aware and know that a healthy urban forest contributes to the quality of life in Mountain Brook,” city manager Sam Gaston said. The Tree City USA program is sponsored by the National Arbor Day Foundation in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters. “Tree City USA communities see the positive effects of an urban forest firsthand,” Dan Lambe, president of the foundation said. “The trees being planted and cared for by Mountain Brook are ensuring that generations to come will enjoy a better quality of life. Additionally, participation in this program brings residents together and

creates a sense of civic pride, whether it’s through volunteer engagement or public education.” The urban forest has been essential during the COVID-19 pandemic,

‘Our residents are very environmentally aware and know that a healthy urban forest contributes to the quality of life in Mountain Brook.’ SAM GASTON, CITY MANAGER

especially during lockdowns when gyms were closed and people needed a safe place to exercise and socialize. The effects of city investment in urban forestry could be witnessed as people used the city’s greenspaces, Gaston said, “especially among our walking trails, in Jemison Park, Watkins Branch Park and the Irondale Furnace; along our sidewalk system; and in some of our passive parks,

such as Overton Park, the Crestline Tot Lot and Canterbury Park.” The city will celebrate Arbor Week 2021 from Feb. 22 to Feb. 26, with activities including a first grade tree giveaway Feb. 22 and a fifth grade Arbor Week poster contest. Festivities will conclude with a ceremony at 10 a.m. Feb. 26, during which the Alabama Urban Forestry Association will present Mountain Brook with the State Arbor Day Community 2021 Award. Gaston noted that a focus on not only maintaining but also building on the existing urban forest is an investment in the city’s future. “It ensures that we will have replacements in place when some of the old stock trees die or have to be removed,” Gaston said. The Feb. 26 event includes the ceremonial planting of an oak tree donated by Hunter Trees in front of City Hall, and 100 dogwood trees will be given out for free. Attendees are required to wear a mask and social distance. For more information, visit mtnbrook.org.


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10 • Thursday, February 11, 2021



Second Chance

‘Keep Going’

Grandview Cardiac Nurse Shares Her Experience as a Heart Patient

St. Vincent’s Physicians, Surgeons Work Together to Give Triple-Bypass Patient a New Lease on Life

By Emily Williams-Robertshaw

Neglecting the Signs

Bradley grew up with a mother who worked in health care, which drew her to a career in nursing. “I had just a few little heart issues when I was in high school, and that drew me to the

American Heart Association’s Birmingham Heart Ball Set for March 11 Rather than hosting its traditional in-person gala, the American Heart Association has opted to introduce the Birmingham Heart Ball Digital Experience. The event will take place at 6 p.m. March 11 and will be free to those who register at birminghamheartball.heart.org. Serving as emcees for the program will be Sheri Falk and Guy Rawlings of WVTM-13. In addition, this year’s Heart Ball honoree, Tim Vines, will be recognized. Vines is president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama. He will be recognized along with his wife, Antoinette Vines, founder of Mercy Deliverance Ministries. To date, the Birmingham Heart Ball has raised more than $17 million for local research, advocacy and community education efforts to fight cardiovascular disease and stroke, which are the first and fourth leading causes of death in Alabama, respectively. For more information, visit birminghamheartball.heart.org.

By Emily Williams-Robertshaw

Photo courtesy Kristina Bradley

February is a time when the nation shines a light on heart disease awareness with National Heart Month. Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the United States, according to the American Heart Association, and the effects of COVID-19 will only drive that statistic higher. According to a Jan. 27 release from the association, the cardiovascular health and mortality rates will likely be influenced by lifestyle changes linked to the pandemic – most notably unhealthy eating and drinking habits, as well as reduced exercise. As both a cardiac patient and cardiac nurse at Grandview Medical Center, Kristina Bradley has seen and experienced firsthand what a diagnosis can do to a patient. “I see patients get scared to do anything,” she said. “They don’t want to go out and live. “To me, you’ve been given a second chance at life.” Her response was to set a mission that she would volunteer her time to support not only cardiac research, but also awareness and her fellow cardiac patients.

As both a cardiac patient and cardiac nurse at Grandview Medical Center, Kristina Bradley, above, has seen and experienced firsthand what a diagnosis can do to a patient.

(cardiac) part of nursing,” she said. “I just really like taking care of people, so it was a natural fit.” Part of being a nurse is a tendency to downplay your own issues. “You’re so used to taking care of people that you don’t want to be the one who is sick,” she said. “It’s almost like you go into a state of denial.” Such was the case when Bradley began experiencing chest pain off and on. She was nauseated the evening before her heart attack but played it off, as many would, by blaming it on something she ate. “That morning at 2:30 a.m. I woke up really sick to my stomach,” she said. When she went to the bathroom, she noticed she was experiencing abnormal sweating. “My chest was hurting and my hands were tingling,” she said. “The pain started radiating to my jaw and it was one of those pains when you feel like you’re about to die.” She knew at that point that something was truly wrong and it was time to go to the hospital. When Bradley experienced this cardiac event, she was 38 years old, and the cause was surprising. After tests were run and conclusions were made, Bradley was diagnosed with spontaneous coronary artery dissection. It isn’t a common diagnosis. “With this particular type of heart attack, the cause of it is not known,” she said. “They are doing a whole lot of research into this at the Mayo Clinic.” In essence, the walls of the artery begin to thin and split open. “You don’t have the plaque build up that you would have in a typical heart patient,” she said. There are a few potential causes for the con-

dition, Bradley noted, which include stress and hormones, and the condition mainly affects women who are under the age of 55. “They call this particular heart attack ‘a young person’s heart attack,’” she said. “People who do work out and do those things that we are supposed to do, this is the heart attack that they have.” Bradley had three stents put in before her left main artery tore, resulting in four bypasses. She spent 24 days in the intensive care unit at Grandview and spent so much time lying in bed that she had to relearn how to walk, among other basic tasks.

Life Must Go On

Bradley is highly involved with the Alabama chapter of the American Heart Association and the annual Birmingham Heart Walk. Her driving force is her desire to show other cardiac patients that their diagnosis doesn’t mean the fun is over. “This is not where your life ends,” she said. “Your life didn’t end because you had a heart attack or had bypass surgery. You should really start living at this point. “It’s important for me to let people see that, while you do need to eat healthy and exercise, you have to keep going, you can’t just stop enjoying life.” That being said, Bradley also has seen the stress of the pandemic cause people to avoid the aspects of self-care that aren’t fun. But maintaining health remains essential. “I just had a patient call who was having chest pain and she said she didn’t want to come in,” Bradley said. “COVID has really paralyzed people, to a point where they are not taking care of themselves like they should.” She has seen patients gain weight because See BRADLEY, page 12

Local business owner Bobby Yeager was given a new lease on life in August. After putting off a scheduled visit with his cardiologist, Dr. Michael Wilensky of Ascension St. Vincent’s Health System, in March, he finally kept the appointment in August. What Wilensky found led to triplebypass surgery with cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Parvez Sultan. “I have never experienced something so life altering,” Yeager said. “If it wasn’t for the pandemic, I would go back and give everyone a hug and tell them how truly, truly thankful I am.”   According to Wilensky, a major struggle that has emerged during the pandemic has been a growing avoidance of appointments. The Ascension family of hospitals and offices has made adjustments to ensure patients are safe while visiting for appointments and procedures. Yet, some patients are afraid to keep those necessary doctor visits. “For some of our patients, we have seen that being afraid of COVID was more dangerous to them than coming in to address their heart situation,” Wilensky said.

Friends Nagged Him

Yeager admits he was quick to put off his annual appointment with Wilensky. It was the early days of lockdowns and he was far more worried about paying the rent and bills to sustain his businesses – Yeager’s Hair Studio and Spa in Hoover, and his food truck, G&R’s Smokehouse. What led him to keep his appointment in August were friends and family. Yeager has a history of heart disease. “My grandfather died of a massive heart attack while routinely hoeing in the garden for a few days a week,” Yeager said. “My uncle died of a heart attack due to stress. My father had a light stroke in his early 50s and died in August of 2014 from congestive heart failure at the age of 79.” Yeager said he always has felt that he was in line for some form of heart complications, but it was never at the forefront of his mind. Looking back, things could have been different for his grandfather, uncle and father if they had known the early signs and to take action, he said. A few of Yeager’s close friends and clients encouraged him to keep his August appointment with Wilensky. “One ophthalmologist client of mine, Dr. Greg Harrelson, walked in one day and visited with me. After he left, he came back and See YEAGER, page 11


Thursday, February 11, 2021 • 11

Journal photo by Jordan Wald


Bobby Yeager said he always has felt that he was in line for some form of heart complications, but it was never at the forefront of his mind.

YEAGER From page 10

he brought an envelope and said, ‘It’s not much, but Bobby, I really want you to keep that appointment on Monday.’ It shocked me because I had known him for 30 years and it hit me like a brick.”

Signs Were There

Yeager was experiencing symptoms of heart complications, though he found other excuses for his struggles. “I was having to stop several times while cutting grass and rest and drink a little water,” he said. “I felt like I had tension in my back and in my shoulders, but no pain at all.” He

chalked it up to having to cut grass on a hill; it was just more laboring than on a flat lawn. According to Wilensky, Yeager’s risk factors alone were cause enough to put him through a stress test on a treadmill. When Yeager struggled with that, it was time to put him through a See YEAGER, page 12

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12 • Thursday, February 11, 2021

YEAGER From page 11

nuclear stress test, in which a radioactive dye is injected into a vein. That dye is then traced as it makes its way through blood vessels to the heart, where scans create images of the heart muscle. The images of Yeager’s heart showed substantial coronary disease. “A lot of people get told they are a ticking time bomb when they really aren’t, but this gentleman was a ticking time bomb,” Wilensky said. Wilensky and his team outfitted Yeager with a temporary fix, a balloon pump to boost blood flow and stabilize him, and sent him to Sultan’s team for surgery. Sultan said good communication between doctors, surgeons and hospital staff has always been important, but it has been essential in combating pandemic risks. Sultan and Wilensky agree that Yeager recovered beautifully. “At St. Vincent’s, we do that,” Sultan said. “I just did a surgery on one of Dr. Wilensky’s patients the other day – a woman who had a mild cardiac event – and I called him right after and he came over to check on her and see how she was recovering.” The level of communication – from the nurses to the support staff and on to home care and physical therapists – didn’t go unnoticed by Yeager and his wife, and it dispelled fears they had about the surgical and recovery process “I just get so teared up,” Yeager said. “To know that a doctor can give second chances to somebody. It’s a dedication that they have in doing that for everyone.” 


LIFE Tune in to Your Body’s Warnings

From a medical professional’s perspective, communication between doctor and patient is just as important when it comes to your health. That communication begins with patients taking a close look at how they are truly feeling. “We have to be in tune with our body,” Sultan said. “I’m a big believer in that.” It starts with self-care, taking on those practices that are healthy for the body in the long run.

‘I was having to stop several times while cutting grass and rest and drink a little water. I felt like I had tension in my back and in my shoulders, but no pain at all.’ “Not smoking, diet and exercise are the three main things that are important to a cardiac surgeon that can keep you alive and maybe keep you alive longer,” Sultan said. He admits that it is something that can be forgotten during a pandemic, when people are worried about other aspects of their health, kid’s schooling and working virtually. among many other struggles. Self-care doesn’t have to be a huge adjustment. There are little things you can begin to do every day that help you. Sultan suggests small things such as cutting out sodas or going out for a walk. A daily walk can even become a family activity. As your routine continues, listen to how your

body changes. Is that walk becoming a little more breathless or are you having to stop every so often? “He wasn’t admitting at first to the nurse that he was having very many symptoms,” Wilensky said. “When I started talking to him, it became clear that he was having symptoms that he was not sharing with our nurse.” It often takes asking the right questions for Wilensky to get the information he’s looking for, because symptoms of heart disease can vary person-by-person and tend to be a bit vague in their manifestations. It’s important to compare yourself to where you were six months ago, or even a year ago. “Are you able to do the same activities?” Wilensky asked. “Are you more breathless when you do those activities? Are you having to stop the activity short? Does your chest get tight? Do you feel pressure, squeezing or burning? Any of those things would be suspicious.” Wilensky likes to make notes of what his patients enjoy doing to stay active. For example, one of his patients enjoyed square dancing. Wilensky wrote it down and the next time he saw the patient he asked if they were experiencing a range of symptoms. They said no. Then, he asked if they were still square dancing. “He said, ‘No, I was embarrassed. I’d have to stop and sit down after one dance because I was short of breath,’” Wilensky said. “If I didn’t ask that one question about square dancing, all I would have gotten is ‘fine.’” For Yeager, keeping that appointment and talking with Wilensky was the key to surviving. “If you are having symptoms, you need to come to the hospital,” Sultan said. “Call your doctor and tell them what is happening. Don’t ignore it, because it is very dangerous if you ignore the signs and symptoms of something.”

BRADLEY From page 10

they aren’t involved in their typical activities, but it isn’t that difficult to choose to be active. “Just take a walk, or even just do some laps around your house,” she said. “You don’t have to be around people to be able to stay fit.” Some of Bradley’s favorite ways to stay healthy are simple. “I’m not supposed to do very much weightlifting,” she said. “When you’ve had your chest cracked open you’re not supposed to lift too much.” Instead, she opts for cardio – playing with the dog, taking walks with her family and just getting outside and moving around. “I have two boys that like to cook with me,” she said. “They will come up with different things that they want to try with me. That really helps, because I know I have to eat healthy for me, but now I’m also having to watch out for them because I know its hereditary.” Her family supports her making healthy choices. They don’t eat a lot of fast food. When they do eat out, they lean toward grilled chicken and salads. “You have to keep going,” Bradley said, adding that it applies to COVID19 as well. You can follow health and safety measures, but don’t let it stop you from living a healthy life. There are ways to safely maintain your health, she said.

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This Annieglass Gold Ruffle Heart bowl, 8 inches, $80, is lovely engraved or filled with Valentine’s candies. Handmade in the USA, this bowl is hand-painted with 24 karat gold, dishwasher safe and chip resistant. Bromberg’s, The Summit, 205-969-1776; Mountain Brook, 205871-3276.

Sweeten the day with cookies from Cookie Fix, starting at $2.40. Order now online at cookiefix.com

A wine coaster, $225, or seltzer holder, $285, is a great place for a bottle of wine at your quarantine Valentine’s Day. Ashford Hill for Henhouse Antiques, 205-918-0505.

Start your evening relaxing in a moisturizing bubble bath, $19, and later drift off to sleep with an eye refreshing silk eye mask, $48. Sweet dreams guaranteed! Marguerite’s Conciets, 205-879-2730.

Custom Valentine’s boxes. Chocolate is good ... thoughtful and creative is better! Snoozy’s Kids, 205871-2662.

Fabulous inside or out, wonderful vintage garden swans, $895. Roman Brantley Art and Antiques, 205-460-1224.

Be Mine A Sweetheart Steak for your Valentine. Boneless Ribeye butterflied into the shape of a heart. Piggly Wiggly, thepigbham.com.

Sealed with a kiss! Fun lip guest towels. Christine’s on Canterbury, 205-871-6611.

The Butterfly, featuring 18K gold with fancy yellow diamond wings of new life, $1,550. JB & CO, 205-478-0455.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Baccarat Rouge 540 Fragrance, $65-875. Luminous and sophisticated, this poetic scent features a graphic and highly condensed signature. Gus Mayer, 205-870-3300.

Designed for serious chefs and professionals, the ThermoPop features big digits and a backlight for dark conditions. Molded-in seals and buttons make it splash-proof. Alabama Gaslight and Grill, 205870-4060.

Gunn Dermatology HA Lip Plump improves overall lip condition while hydrating and plumping the appearance of the lips. It also visibly enhances rosiness and smooths fine lines. Gunn Dermatology, 205-415-7536.

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Say it with flowers, 48”x36” acrylic painting on canvas by Maya Eventov, in an Italian “Blue Lavo” custom frame, $3,990. Griffith Art Gallery, 205-985-7969.

Stunning 2.59ctw matched pair of old European cut diamond earrings in a 1950s white gold setting. Levy’s Fine Jewelry, 205-251-3381.

She will have sweet dreams in this adorable 100% cotton night shirt, $29, designed by a Huntsville artist and printed in Birmingham. Alabama Goods, alabamagoods. com.


Thursday, February 11, 2021 • 15


Happy Valentine’s Day! Shop local!!

peepers by peeperspecs Focus Eyeware filter 40% of harmful blue light emitted from digital devices and offer UV400 protection. Many stylish designs available for kids and adults. Clotheshorse, 205-823-9144.

Beaded bracelets from Love Is Project, recently featured on Shark Tank. The company, founded to promote and share love, works with artisans in 10 countries and provides jobs and new opportunities to 2,000 female artisans around the globe. Smith’s Variety, 205-871-0841.

Phillip Gavriel sterling silver amethyst ring. Southeastern Jewelers, 205-980-9030.

The latest print from Mint is available in a variety of styles, from duffle bags to backpacks. Don’t forget to personalize it with a name or monogram. Once Upon A Time, Crestline, 205-870-7772; Homewood, 205-870-7776.

Signature hand poured candles come in three sizes: small, $25; medium, $50; and large, $60. With a Valentine’s Day special, buy one and get one half off. Smart Skin, 205-968-1301.



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Perfect for Valentine’s Day, DMK yellow gold, ruby and diamond earrings and ring. Levy’s at Gus Mayer, The Summit, 205-870-9477

A very special giftset that includes Elvis and his favorite fan, Barbie! Barbie doll is dressed as an adoring fan of Elvis during the 1950s, $90. Mary Charles Doll House, 205-8705544.

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French Graffiti Valentine Linen, $14.99. Mountain Brook Olive, 205-703-9003.

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Wonderful vintage set of eight Sterling Silver Goblets, $995. Tricia’s Treasures, 205-871-9779.

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Rehab Reality... by Judy Butler

Alcohol Is Not Your Friend

Imagine waking up in the morning and reaching for a drink and I don’t mean water, juice or coffee. Surprise that many people, if not most of those, who have come to Bayshore Retreat this is what they did and also one of the eye opening experiences that told them that they needed help. They are amazed at how much better they look and feel after being at Bayshore and breaking the habit of that first drink. Each expressed that they didn’t realize how much alcohol had affected them phycally. So the question is “what is excessive drinking?”. This can be binge drinking and/or heavy drinking. Binge drinking for women it is defined as 4 or more drinks during a single occasion and for men, 5 or more during a single occasion. Heavy drinking is defined as 8 or more per week for women and 15 or more per week for men. Not only does alcohol consumption take away hours of life with blackouts and memory loss, but also the unseen damages such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease and list goes on. Maybe it’s time to take a selfassessment of your alcohol use or that of someone you love. If what began with a glass of wine at dinner has turned into much more it’s possible alcohol has taken control of you rather than you controlling it. We prove everyday that life can be better without alcohol. Before going to one of the big box drug rehabs with vending machines, cafeteria food and twelve step meetings consider the difference. Our “treatment home” is different and can make a difference.

‘Stepped Up’



The Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama recently announced an investment of $1.05 million in Alabama-based breast cancer research. This donation brings the organization’s total contributions over 25 years to nearly $11 million. Matching its 2019 investment, the organization will support 14 research projects throughout the state, including studies at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Auburn University, Cerflux, Mitchell Cancer Institute at University of South Alabama, Tuskegee University and Southern Research. “Despite COVID-19, individuals and companies throughout the state stepped up for breast cancer research,” said Beth Bradner Davis, executive director of the BCRFA. “Our staff and board are truly thrilled to match last year’s investment, allowing us to support critical projects which will change therapies and treatments for breast cancer patients here in Alabama and around the world. Unfortunately, diagnoses don’t stop during a pandemic. This investment will ensure that research won’t either.” Funding was raised in 2020 by corporate sponsorships; special events; individual donations; grants from local, state and federal funders; and sales of the Breast Cancer Research specialty license plate. The BCRFA invests in projects in developing stages, providing seed money to attract grant funding. From there, many projects go on to win national grants from the National Institute of Health and others. “The support of organizations like the BCRFA is crucial to our work at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center,” said Dr. Barry P. Sleckman,

BCRFA Invests $1.05 Million in Alabama-Based Breast Cancer Research

Photo courtesy BCRF

16 • Thursday, February 11, 2021

Baret and Rènee Steed show off the Breast Cancer Research Foundation specialty license plates sold last year to raise money for cancer research projects. Funding was also raised in 2020 by corporate sponsorships; special events; individual donations; and grants from local, state and federal funders.

director of the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Developing projects often have an undeniable positive impact for research in the field of breast cancer. Each discovery brings us closer to a cure – and the BCRFA is helping get us there.” Efforts that helped fund this year’s donation included community events throughout the state, grant awards and corporate partnerships. Sponsors included Renasant Bank, Tameron Automotive, Wind Creek Wetumpka, ARC Realty, the Thompson Family Foundation, Sirote & Permutt, the Alabama Power Foundation, the Hill Crest Foundation, the Robert M. Meyer Foundation, Bank of America/ Merrill, the Caring Foundation/Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama,

Protective Life Foundation, Thrivent Financial, Spectrum Reach, iHeart Media, UAB Benevolent Fund, Vulcan Materials Company and others. About half of the total $1,050,000 donation was raised through sales of the BCRFA specialty car tag. Available at DMVs across the state, nearly 14,000 vehicles in Alabama sport the Breast Cancer Research tag. All of the money BCRFA receives from tag sales are invested in research. The 2020 award recipients are: •   Randall Davis, MD; Suzanne Lapi, Ph.D.; Erica Stringer-Reasor, MD – “Advancing the Prognostic, Immunotherapeutic, and Imaging Potential of FCRL6 in Breast Cancer” (O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer

Center at UAB) •   Mick Edmonds, Ph.D. – “A Novel SRC Inhibitor for the Treatment of Metastatic Breast Cancer” (O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB) •   Xu Feng, Ph.D.; Douglas Hurst, Ph.D. – “RANK Signaling Pathways in Breast Cancer Development” (O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB) •   Selvarangan Ponnazhagan, Ph.D. – “Combinatorial Genetic Immunotherapy and RANKL Antagonism for Breast Cancer” (O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB) •   Troy Randall, Ph.D.; Erica Stringer-Reasor, MD; Ahmed Elkhanany, MD - “Identifying NeoAntigen-Reactive T Cells in Breast Cancer Using Organoid Cultures” (O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB) •   Rajeev S. Samant, Ph.D.; David A. Schneider, Ph.D. – “Unraveling a Novel Vulnerability of Breast Cancer” (O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB) •   Nan Cher (Flo) Yeo, Ph.D. – “Understanding WRN-Dependent Pathways to Regulate Genome Stability in TNBC” (O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB) •   Corinne Augelli-Szafran, Ph.D.; Omar Moukha Chafiq, Ph.D.; Rebecca Boohaker, Ph.D. – “Development of Novel Clofarabine Analogs for Breast Cancer Therapy,” the BCRFA Impact Award (Southern Research) •   Karim Budhwani, Ph.D., DLA – “Personalized Oncology Efficacy Test,” BCRFA Innovation Award (CerFlux) •   Natalie Gassman, Ph.D.; Michelle Schuler, Ph.D.; Marie Miguad, Ph.D. – “Targeted Nanoparticle Delivery to Reduce STAT3 and Improve Cell Killing in Triple Negative Breast Cancer” (Mitchell Cancer Institute at the University of South Alabama) •   Nancy Merner, Ph.D.; Erica Stringer-Reasor, MD – “Breaking Research Participation Barriers in Alabama – An African American Breast Cancer Genetics Study” (Auburn University and O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB •   Nancy Merner, Ph.D.; Clayton Yates, Ph.D. – “The Identification of Genetic Risk Factors Associated with Hereditary African American Breast Cancer” (Auburn University and Tuskegee University) •   Jingjing Qian, Ph.D. – “Reducing Breast Cancer Risk in Alabama – The Role of Medications” (Auburn University) •   Robert Sobol, Ph.D. – “Exploiting a Novel, Live-Cell, RealTime Poly-ADP-Ribose Probe for Discovery of PARG Inhibitors” (Mitchell Cancer Institute at the University of South Alabama)


Bluff Park Resident Named New Executive Director of Alzheimer’s Association’s Alabama Chapter The Alabama Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association recently named Jessica Miller its new executive director. “I am thrilled to step into this new leadership position with the Alabama Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association,” said Miller, of Bluff Park. “The collective work and passion of Jessica Miller the volunteers and staff is inspiring. Together, we will continue to work as hard as we can each and every day to fulfill the vision of the organization – a world without Alzheimer’s disease.” Miller joined the Alzheimer’s Association in 2018 as the Alabama chapter’s development director, a position in which she oversaw the chapter’s fundraising and special events. She brings extensive experience in media relations and integrated sales to her new role, according to a statement from the association, including previously serving as senior integrated marketing specialist at Summit Media and account executive at Cumulus Radio and WBRC Fox 6. Miller said her personal connection

LIFE to Alzheimer’s was a strong component in her desire to join the association in fighting the disease and inspires her work every day. “My grandfather had dementia and my great uncle passed from Alzheimer’s,” Miller said. “Because we lived in rural Alabama, we were unaware of the resources available to us at the time. I am determined to ensure others in our state are fully supported as we fight for an ultimate cure.” There are more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, the association reports, including 96,000 Alabamians. For both those battling the disease and their loved ones, the nonprofit

Thursday, February 11, 2021 • 17

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A dream came true recently for Lucy Ricketts, a 2004 Altamont graduate who completed a three-day winning streak on the popular gameshow Jeopardy. Her final winnings totaled $79,499, but the memory of the experience was the real prize, she said. Ricketts, a Mountain Brook native, attended her last two years of high school at The Altamont School before going on to the University of Alabama and Savannah College of Art and Design. She also lived in Atlanta before calling Los Angeles home the past few years. Being a Southerner in Los Angeles gave Ricketts the geographic diversity that made her stand out in the crowd. “My origin story on Jeopardy was necessarily complicated by the fact that, due to COVID, they were taking many more contestants from California,” Ricketts said. Show producers had three Southern cities to pick from to say as Ricketts’ hometown because she has lived in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Atlanta. They ultimately chose Atlanta, which Ricketts’ requested because her family lives there. To get to that point, Ricketts had to take an online Jeopardy test, which she did one day this past summer on a whim. “I was notified that I passed into the second round of testing, which involved taking yet another test with a group of people over Zoom. I scored

Photo courtesy Laine Williams

By Laine Williams

Lucy Ricketts taping was the first day Ken Jennings, the famous Jeopardy champion, hosted and was the first day for the staff to be back in the studio after the death of Alex Trebek.

Play Jeopardy!

Altamont Alum Had Three-Day Winning Streak on Popular Gameshow high enough to proceed to a third round of testing, which was a ‘live’ game-play round with other contestants,” she said. After this round, the producers interviewed each potential contestant. After the interview, Ricketts was told she was in the contestant lottery for the next 18 months. She was surprised to receive a call about two weeks later from a producer. The show was taped at the end of November and aired Jan. 12. Her taping was the first day Ken Jennings, the famous Jeopardy champion, hosted and was the first day for the staff to be back in the studio after the death of Alex Trebek. “That was an honor, but also (an) emotionally fraught experience,” Ricketts said. While the Jeopardy experience was full of great memories, Ricketts said her favorite part was “the way it felt to be up there, on stage, in the middle of competition.” “For someone who loves trivia that much, this is the moment you’ve worked for. To be doing the thing that you do best, on the biggest stage and everything forced into a flash of

contestants and producers. “That is the part I wasn’t expecting and have found the most joy in experiencing,” Ricketts said. Her favorite question was the “Final Jeopardy” question on her first day. The category was “Famous Animals” and the clue was, “When she first came to the world’s attention in 1957, she was dubbed ‘Muttnik’ by U.S. journalists.” The answer she correctly gave was “Laika,” the Soviet dog who became one of the first animals in space. “Since I was a kid, I’ve had a horror/fascination with the animals sent up in early rocket tests and I can rattle

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off a list of names from dogs to squirrel monkeys, but Laika has always stood out to me as especially heartbreaking. There’s also a well-known Oregon animation studio by the same name which, as an illustrator, I’m very familiar with, and that helped it really stick,” Ricketts said. If you have ever been interested in trying out for a show such as Jeopardy, Ricketts said she would heartily encourage it. “There’s no other experience like it. I would also add that it helps to have as broad a knowledge base as possible; listen to everything, read whatever is in front of you. There’s information to be picked up all over the place and doing so and weaving the connections together in your own brain is key to success in trivia,” Ricketts said.

The Altamont Experience

Although she’s on the West Coast now, Ricketts has fond memories of her time at Altamont and appreciates the guidance and involvement of her teachers. “My favorite part of my time at Altamont would have to be the positive relationships with all of my teachers, who were always able to bring out the best in me as a student and didn’t give up on encouraging and supporting me. “High school is a tough time. My teachers at Altamont helped keep me going forward and developing that love of learning along the way, which is still so important to my life today,” Ricketts said. Laine Williams is the Director of Communications at The Altamont School


Thursday, February 11, 2021 • 19

Journal photos by Jordan Wald


Above, Alissa Long, in front, with Magic Moments representatives, from left, Jane Huston Crommelin, Sandy Naramore, Kaitlin Candelaria, Courtney Carson, Tyler Vallier, Rob Howland and Robin Kidd. Below right, Liberty Park Middle School students.

Magic Moment

another seven months. While Long still faces very serious medical conditions as a result of her premature birth, she is living at home with her family and attending school. She loves fashion and playing. At the Feb. 3 presentation, students presented her with Ashton Drake dolls. “My daughter loves clothes and the lifelike silicone dolls. She treats them like they are her own kids!” LaTonya Long said. In addition to the dolls and their stroller, highchair and other accessories, Long received clothes, shoes, a hover board and more presents. Magic Moments is the only wish-granting organization devoted exclusively to children ages 4-18 in the state of Alabama diagnosed with chronic life-threatening illnesses.

Liberty Park Middle Schoolers Surprise Children’s of Alabama Patient

On Feb. 3, students at Liberty Park Middle School hosted their second of three Magic Moments reveals. Students and faculty gathered at a social distance in front of the school to present 12-year-old Alissa Long with her favorite thing – dolls. Born at only 23 weeks, Long is

“truly a miracle,” according to her mom, LaTonya. She spent the first year of her life at Children’s of Alabama, where doctors did not expect her to survive, but to their surprise, Long made so much progress she got to go home. However a few days later, she had to return to the hospital for

Send Valentine’s Day Cards to Patients at Children’s of Alabama Show some love to the patients at Children’s of Alabama this Valentine’s Day by sending a free greeting card through the hospital’s website. Now through Feb. 14, visit give. childrensal.org/VDay to select one of the three card designs. The cards will be printed and distributed by hospital staff to patients throughout the hospital on Valentine’s Day. “When children are in the hospital, a simple gesture like a Valentine’s Day card can really lift their spirits,” said Mindy Wald, manager of events. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, staff is unable to accept in-person gift donations for patients at the hospital. It also cannot accept food/candy, stuffed animals, toys that depict violence, religious items, crocheted/knit items, used or homemade items on behalf of patients. “Online shopping is a great way to support our patients any time of the year because the gifts can be shipped directly to the hospital,” Wald said. The hospital’s online registry features perfect gifts for boys and girls of all ages. Go to myregistry.com and search for Children’s of Alabama. For more information about donating to patients at Children’s of Alabama, visit ChildrensAL.org/Foundation.

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RUNNING TOGETHER-ISH Young Life Hosts 8th Annual Frostbite 5K Run

Journal photos by Jordan Wald

On Jan. 30, Young Life Birmingham South hosted its eighth annual FrostBite 5K and Fun Run at Veterans Park. This year’s event looked a bit different because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including staggered start times to promote social distancing. After race winners crossed the finish line, an awards ceremony was held that included music, food and prizes for top runners. Funds raised through the event benefit Young Life Birmingham South and its efforts to provide Christian-based youth programming to young adults in the North Shelby County area. ❖

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Thursday, February 11, 2021 • 21


Journal photos by Jordan Wald

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BACK IN THE KITCHEN John Cassimus Partners With SpyPoint to Create Cooking Series

By Emily Williams-Robertshaw

Celebrate Day’s End

A good meal is everything to Cassimus. It’s embedded in his Greek ancestry. “I personally have a view that every day

Photo courtesy John Cassimus


ith his new cooking series, Darn Hungry, John Cassimus is not only exploring new challenges, he’s revisiting his roots with a mission to inspire people to create a simple meal that they can be proud of. In the 12-part series, produced by SpyPoint and published on its website, Cassimus hopes to inspire viewers to master simple techniques. He advises learning the basics and then building on those skills, a process that began for him while cooking with his mother in her kitchen. He went on to found the Zoe’s Kitchen franchise with his parents and later to establish the discount retail chain Crazy Cazboy’s. Pushing the limits is a trait of Cassimus’ that he carries into his personal life as well as his professional one. He flies planes, and he has climbed mountains around the world and run a 50-mile ultramarathon. He once bagged a 235-inch mule deer during a 12-hour stalk hunt. A sponsored bow hunter, Cassimus was first introduced to SpyPoint at an archery convention. After speaking with company officials, a SpyPoint representative began following him on social media, where Cassimus tends to post videos of himself playing around in the kitchen. In about September or October, he was tapped to create cooking content for the company’s users and followers. “What you will see “I initially was curious on those shows was what that done just completely about would be like,” blind by me, on Cassimus said. “I really the fly, creating have had an that content in my interest in doing something on head as I cooked, TV (or) the which is extremely internet, and the opportunity to challenging.” have some really high-quality content created to let people see what my potential is was very appealing to me.” Then came the real challenge. Without a crew or producers guiding him, Cassimus created 12 episodes of Darn Hungry. “I knew what recipe I was going to make, but other than that, I did not have any kind of guidance,” he said. “What you will see on those shows was done just completely blind by me, on the fly, creating that content in my head as I cooked, which is extremely challenging.”

DARN HUNGRY In a new 12-part series, produced by SpyPoint and published on its website, John Cassimus hopes to inspire viewers to master simple techniques.

is a celebration,” he said. “We are lucky to be here.” Dinner is the big finale after a long day of working and pushing limits, the final punctuation mark on a day well spent. “Every night, I sit down and eat,” he said. “That’s everything to me and I feel cheated if I don’t have a great meal.” The act of cooking that meal is a stress reliever. “I really love the creativity,” he said. “I don’t typically ever use recipes.”

Childhood Beginnings

Cassimus’ earliest memories in the kitchen were spent watching his mother – Zoe of Zoe’s Kitchen – cook. While he attributes the vast majority of his culinary knowledge to his mother, he gleaned some additional tips watching famous cooking programs such as The French Chef, featuring Julia Child. One of his favorite recipes of all time is Greek baked chicken. “It’s a very simple, traditional meal that is cooked a lot over in Greece,” he said. “It’s just a baked chicken with vegetables, butter and lemon, some oregano, garlic salt and pepper.” It’s a clean dish, simple and consistently delicious. “Anyone can execute that perfectly with just a little bit of effort,” he said. A drive to eat clean is not only a nod to the basics of Greek cuisine, but a hallmark of his life as a passionate outdoorsman. Some of the meals he especially enjoys today feature the game he has hunted, the

food evoking the memory and challenges of the stalk. “These animals live wild,” he said. “Caring for these animals after they’ve been harvested – how you prepare the meat and letting them age – is kind of like a rite of passage.” Clean eating is all about the protein for Cassimus. A clean meal features lean meat – fish, chicken, wild game or the occasional cut of beef and pork – paired with vegetables. Take those ingredients and stick to roasting, baking, grilling or pan-sauteing over frying. “You don’t need many ingredients,” he said. “Olive oil is critical. Use some lemon juice and some basic spices and then some simple techniques; do not just lather everything with cheese and butter.” He said all a cook needs to elevate those ingredients is a willingness to learn technique.

Valentine’s Day Advice

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon amid a pandemic, people may choose to cook at home rather than visiting a restaurant. Cassimus’ suggestion is to keep it simple. Try a light seafood pasta with some scallops or lobster, or grill a nice steak and pair it with a good bottle of wine. “You don’t really want a lot of food because you are typically going to celebrate with a huge dessert, a lot of chocolates and fun things like that,” he said. In his first installment of Darn Hungry,

Cassimus teaches viewers how to grill the perfect steak and create the perfect steak sauce. It’s truly about the technique. “The temperature of the grill is everything and getting comfortable with how that grill works,” he said. Understand how your grill heats and focus on cooking your meat at low temperatures. With a steak, that involves getting a good sear for a couple of minutes at a high temperature and then letting your grill cool down before finishing it off. “Sometimes it says 350 degrees,” he said. “It can be a very hot 350 based on if it is a gas grill versus a charcoal grill. Is the charcoal spread evenly?” When it comes to the science of baking, Cassimus leaves it to the professionals. If he were looking to create a simple Valentine’s Day dessert, he’d go for making a hot chocolate sauce and pouring it over fresh strawberries. “I think that the most important thing about cooking is that people need to have either an eagerness or a willingness to try,” he said. “It can be very intimidating to people.” Cassimus hopes his cooking series will leave people enjoying their time in the kitchen rather than dreading it. “It’ll save you some money, you’ll have a lot of fun with your friends and family and, hopefully one day, teach your kid how to cook like my mom taught me,” he said. To watch Darn Hungry, visit the Spypoint Trail Cameras YouTube and Facebook pages, or follow on Instagram at @spypointcamera.


Thursday, February 11, 2021 • 23



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Chris Hastings to Host Cook-Along Fundraiser for Friends of BBG

Chopt’s New Summit Location to Open Feb. 24

Chopt Creative Salad Company, a “farm-to-fast-casual” restaurant chain based in New York City, will open its first Birmingham location this month at The Summit. The new location will celebrate opening day Feb. 24. Chopt will offer salads, wraps and warm bowls. It will have curbside pickup, ordering ahead via app or website and contactless in-store ordering. In celebration of its opening, Chopt is collaborating with a local partner, The

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The Friends of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens on March 7 will host An Evening With an Expert, featuring chef Chris Hastings, to raise funds for its internship program. Viewers will get the chance to cook along with the James Beard Awardwinning chef and co-owner of Chris Hastings OvenBird and Hot and Hot Fish Club. The livestream will begin at 5:30 p.m. The event package includes a shopping list for a three-course dinner designed by Hastings, as well as his recipes, professional tips and recommended wine pairings. There also will be a chance during the livestream to ask questions. There also will be a VIP package option, which includes a dessert, a select bottle of wine and a Tito’s Handmade Vodka Cocktail Package. For more information, visit bbgardens.org.

new customers at The Summit.” Chopt’s hours will be 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. For more information, visit choptsalad.com

To: From: apply only on orders placed via the Chopt App or choptsalad.com. “The Exceptional Foundation is so thankful to Chopt for the opportunity to partner with them as they bring their amazing food to our area. Their mission to build a community around healthy eating ties in perfectly with what our organization is all about,” said Susan Garrett, Exceptional Foundation marketing director. “Chopt’s generous donation as a result of pre-opening day

sales will help make a huge difference.” Date: Chopt combines local seasonal ingredients with authentic flavors from around the world. In addition to its classic and build-your-own salad options, Chopt creates limited-time, seasonal menus. “We are excited to continue expanding Chopt Creative Salad Co. with the opening of (its) first-ever Birmingham location,” said Chief Marketing Officer Julie Atkinson. “Chopt

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Hoover, Homewood Teachers of the Year Share Their View of Education During a Pandemic

By Emily Williams-Robertshaw


he 2020-21 school year has been colored completely by the pandemic, with educators working on the frontline and adapting their methods to continue to educate children. In the Over the Mountain area alone, teachers, school staff and administrators sprang into action, adapting to virtual learning and navigating safe ways to reintroduce children into classrooms. Many have extended that service beyond school walls through community service efforts, organizing ways for children to receive school meals during lockdowns, hosting drives to collect items for local food banks and taking other actions. Each year, school systems throughout the community and across the nation recognize Teachers of the Year. Candidates are nominated by their fellow teachers. We will be sharing words and thoughts from Over the Mountain Teachers of the Year this month to shine a light on not just those recognized but all educators, beginning with Homewood and Hoover city schools.

fortunate to be part of a school and a school system that respects and honors the whole student while striving toward equity and helping each student reach and realize their full potential.

Photos courtesy Homewood City Schools

Elementary Teacher of the Year: Alli Phelps, Shades Cahaba Elementary School

Describe your teaching philosophy.  

My general teaching philosophy is that I try to educate and love my students like my own children/family while trying to create lifelong global learners, readers and writers. What have been some of the most notable hurdles this school year?

A notable hurdle this year for my students and their families concerns equity issues related to technology. For many of the families I serve, our school issued Chromebooks, and internet hotspots were the first devices/technology in their homes. I am extremely fortunate to work and live in a school system that is committed to making technology accessible and equitable for all students. For our faculty and staff, I think taking care of our mental health and taking great care of ourselves and each other has become critically important. As a profession, we are stressed and challenged in ways that we never could have imagined.

Are there any lessons you have learned this year that you will carry with you into a post-pandemic school year?

At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a phrase often heard throughout Homewood: “We are in this together.” When I heard this phrase, it would instantly make me think of my classroom bulletin board that says “We are Family!” Over the years, my students have brought in their own pictures and added to the bulletin board, which is now filled with beautiful family photos. My friends and family mean everything to me, and our school family is incredibly important to me as well. The major lessons I have learned keep me grounded in what truly matters – the relationships we have and we hold dear – and (remind me) to let go of the small stuff that bogs me down and holds me back. During this time, I have witnessed tremendous loss, but I have also experienced extraordinary love and growth. I feel

Describe your teaching philosophy.

What have been some of the most notable hurdles this school year?

Prior to the pandemic, I made a commitment to do home visits during the school year with all of my students and their families. This has been one of the best decisions that I have made, not only in my professional life but personally, as well. These experiences strengthened our home/school connection and when COVID-19 related adversities inevitably occurred, our school and community was right there to help and assist and persevere. Throughout this ‘20-‘21 school year, my EL students and their families and our faculty and staff consistently demonstrate a level of grit and perseverance that motivates and inspires me to bring and be my best every day.  

Elementary Teacher of the Year: Katherine Thompson, Riverchase Elementary School

My teaching philosophy can be described as a “family community” where every student contributes in their own way, regardless of ability. I use multiple methods of instruction to reach all students, so they feel connected to our “family.”

Homewood City Schools Have you experienced any big victories in 2020-2021 despite the pandemic?

Hoover City Schools

Secondary Teacher of the Year: Melissa Dameron-Vines, Homewood High School Describe your teaching philosophy.

I want the students to have ownership of their learning and a voice in what we do within each class. I want them to be their authentic selves and to feel that their learning is a continuous conversation between us instead of a series of tasks that I expect them to complete. I want them to understand that their progress is personal and important to their lives. What have been some of the most notable hurdles this school year?

The most notable hurdles this year have been scheduling and learning new technology to facilitate learning and to keep classes functioning in as normal a way as possible.

I think the obvious hurdles for this school year would be flexibility. Teachers, students, faculty, staff and even parents have had to learn to be flexible. School staff have been learning how to “do school virtually” since last spring; however, so many things have changed (schedules, classroom setup, testing, virtual vs face-to-face, etc.) and we have had to be flexible from the beginning. When I think about the definition of the word flexibility, I think about: bending without breaking, the ability to be easily modified and the willingness to change. This has never been more true in education. Also, I feel like we all need to give grace. Grace given to students, parents, teachers and staff has never been more needed than this school year. We are all doing the best we can and trying to survive, so let’s give grace when possible.  Have you experienced any big victories in 2020-21 despite the pandemic? 

I have relished the challenge of transforming my curriculum into this new format because it has shown me that I am not bound by old ways or habits. So far, I have taught everything in my classes that I would have taught during a regular year, and I am so proud of that. We are also producing a yearbook even in the midst of the uncertainty. It is exciting to see us all persevere.

I strongly feel that my ability to be an effective teacher has been challenged by the pandemic, but I do not feel it has made me a less effective teacher. I have been pushed to develop new delivery methods, learn about new technology and programs, and create a productive learning environment with face-to-face and virtual students. I would say that I have had many victories and breakthroughs with my students, whether we have been learning at school or home. This is always exciting because what some may think is a small breakthrough are huge milestones for my students and their families. 

Are there any lessons you have learned this year that you will carry with you into a post-pandemic school year?

Are there any lessons you have learned this year that you will carry with you into a post-pandemic school year?

Have you experienced any big victories in 2020-21 despite the pandemic?

I have learned that I can reach and teach students in person and through a screen, which invigorates me. I will start next year knowing I can handle anything that comes my way.

I feel that the one thing I will carry forward with me is to make each encounter with my students very intentional. Time is valuable with my students because they thrive off of

consistency, so our time together is sacred. By making intentional actions with my students throughout the day, it has helped them succeed in ways I have never experienced before.  Secondary Teacher of the Year: Pamela McClendon, Riverchase Career Connection Center

Describe your teaching philosophy.

I believe my role as an educator is to provide every student the opportunity to see their value as a contributing member in my classroom and beyond. Every student is unique, therefore I try to engage students in relevant and meaningful lessons that allow them to develop their own potential and learning style. I also strive to exemplify the “lead learner” model, in which students learn to embrace the idea that acquiring knowledge should be a never-ending journey, one that allows us to continue to grow and thrive throughout our lives. What have been some of the most notable hurdles this school year?

By far the greatest hurdle this school year has been the hybrid school model that has been in place when warranted. Many students find this mode of learning challenging as they are still in the process of developing good time-management skills as a young adult. On the hybrid schedules, students are in class two days out of the week with three virtual days in which they must manage completing course work for up to six classes per day. That would be a feat for most adults, so as an educator I commend them for their efforts. Faculty and staff have the unique challenge of not only preparing inclass assignments but virtual as well. Some educators are also displaying a self-sacrificing spirit by, in addition, teaching students that are completely virtual, a monumental task, needless to say. Also, faculty and staff are having to reimagine what “engaged learners” look like. In many cases, we cannot see them when they are completing assignments. The question then becomes, how do we motivate students beyond our classroom? As an educator, I can attest that administrators and teachers all across Hoover city have willingly stepped out of their comfort zones to find every student with the determined intent to meet them where they are and nudge them forward step by step. See TEACHERS, page 25


Board of Education Names Five Finalists for Hoover Superintendent Following dozens of applications, Hoover City Schools officials announced on Feb. 3 that the search for a new superintendent is down to five finalists. Applicants were from Alabama and 11 other states around the country. The five finalists are: • Dr. Michael Barber, most recently served as the superintendent of Pell City Schools • Dr. Autumm Jeter, current superintendent of Bessemer City Schools •  Dr. Bart Reeves, current superintendent of Satsuma City Schools • Dr. Holly Sutherland, current superintendent of Haleyville City Schools • Mr. William Randy Wilkes, current superintendent of Phenix City Schools From mid-December until midJanuary, the Alabama Association of School Boards conducted online surveys and community stakeholder meetings as part of the search for the next superintendent. Hoover City Schools parents, students and employees and city residents responded to the online surveys, giving their input on the qualifications and traits the next superintendent should possess. The Hoover Board of Education will conduct interviews later this month.

OLS Students Write Letters to Pope Francis First and second graders at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School recently were inspired by a book written by Pope Francis. After OLS librarian Karen Sullivan read them the book “Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World,” the students wrote letters of their own to the pontiff. “The students were so interested in the children featured in the book, their

TEACHERS From page 24 Have you experienced any big victories in 2020-21 despite the pandemic?

The victories of my 2020-21 school year are still being written. As my students can attest, I have the never surrender attitude. Since becoming a computer science teacher in 2015, my students have hosted an “Hour of Code” event in celebration of Computer Science Education Week, normally observed the first week of December. At first glance, this seemed impossible with COVID-19 restrictions; however, with the support from our district technology coordinators, the students at RC3 Cyber Academy hosted a successful first-ever “Virtual Hour of Code!”

Thursday, February 11, 2021 • 25

SCHOOLS photos and ages and where they lived,” Sullivan said. “And they could tell from the way Pope Francis answered the letters that he has great affection and respect for children,” she said. “I’ve never seen them more eager to write or more inspired!”

Vestavia Hills Elementary West Named State School of Character Vestavia Hills Elementary West is being recognized statewide for its emphasis on character education and development. Character.org, a national organization advocating for character education in schools, recently named VHEW a 2021 Alabama State School of Character. VHEW was one of only three schools, and the only elementary school in Alabama, chosen for the award this year. Each of the State Schools of Character were chosen based on demonstrated excellence in 11 principles of character education and development. For VHEW, those principles were found in programs such as the “West Way” which emphasizes kindness, respect and responsibility; involvement of parent advisory teams and character development teams; and numerous initiatives throughout the school to ensure students have positive relationships with their peers. A press release from Character.org noted “It is evident that Vestavia Hills Elementary West is intentional about creating a culture of character based on the West Way. This school has been successful in its mission.” VHEW received Character.org’s Promising Practices award in 2020 for its “Connect 5” program, which connects students in need of social and emotional support with five staff members in the school. Those employees regularly check in with students and provide encouragement and support, ensuring students feel connected to multiple individuals

Also, one of the cyber innovation students at RC3 won the Governor’s App Challenge for Hoover city and will go on to compete at the greater school district level. Yes, the pandemic has challenged teachers without a doubt, but for the most part, we’ve answered the call to continue to provide quality instruction beyond our brick-and-mortar schools! Are there any lessons you have learned this year that you will carry with you into a post-pandemic school year?

The pandemic has taught me the importance of modeling and teaching students how to become resilient learners. In March of 2020, when I saw my students on the last day of in-class instruction, it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t see them again that school year. I spent all summer won-

beyond their classroom teacher. Staff members provide feedback to the school’s counselors to ensure each student receives the attention and assistance they need from professionals. “We’re honored to receive an award that recognizes what goes on at West every day,” said Kim Hauser, principal of Vestavia Hills Elementary West. “Our motivation to teach character is a cornerstone of the school, and this award is a great way to honor the people here who work so hard to instill those values in our students.” The school will now be considered for Character.org’s highest distinction, National School of Character. Winners of the national awards will be announced in May.

Mending kids’


Altamont Senior Named 2021 Presidential Scholars Candidate Altamont senior Amelia Neiman has been selected as a candidate for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, which recognizes graduating high Amelia Neiman school seniors. Approximately 4,500 seniors, 96 from Alabama, were nominated nationwide as 2021 U.S. Presidential Scholars candidates. Application to the Presidential Scholars program is by invitation only; students are invited to apply based on their SAT or ACT scores or nomination by a chief state school officer. In April, the Commission on Presidential Scholars reviews the applications, then selects up to 161 U.S. Presidential Scholars, one of the nation’s highest honors for a high school student. Presidential Scholars are recognized for their accomplishments during a ceremony held in June in Washington, D.C.

dering, had I taught them enough and, consequently, how can I make sure that in the future I never have to ask myself that question again. I believe the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is that “intentional teaching” is not just jargon; we have to teach like it’s our last class meeting every day! No, I don’t want my students to feel overworked, that’s not the purpose. But the idea of assessing the validity and effectiveness of my teaching should happen daily. We generally think of teacher reflection as something we do at the end of the unit, project or school year. Yes, there’s value to all of the above but, more importantly, the pandemic has taught me to be reflective before, during and after every lesson, so that, should there be some unusual event that impacts our school community again, I’ve left nothing to chance.

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By Rubin E. Grant

Caroline Leonard


Mountain Brook Gymnastics’ Caroline Leonard Earns Scholarship to Auburn By Rubin E. Grant


hen Caroline Leonard’s mother, Missy, signed her up for gymnastics at the age of 4, little did they know that the decision would one day lead to a college scholarship. Leonard signed a gymnastics scholarship with Auburn last November. “My mom put me in the class and I immediately had a passion for it,” Leonard said. “It started out I was just doing it for fun. As I got older, I started competing in competitions.” Actually, Leonard was in the first grade when she started competing. By the time she reached the fourth grade, she had begun competing through Mountain Brook Gymnastics, and she has been there since under the tutelage of Helen Nabors. Leonard is home-schooled and is finishing her senior year doing online classes through Brook Hills’ Co-op. Being home-schooled afforded her more time to spend in the gym, doing the sport she loves and enabling her to compete at an advanced level. She already had reached level 7-8 when she joined Mountain Brook Gymnastics and is now a level 10. At levels 7, 8, 9 and 10, gymnasts are freer and, although the athletes must meet specific requirements, they can create their routines in a unique way. The requirements for the levels are defined according to the difficulty using a letter system, in which A is the easiest ability and E is the most difficult. The advancement fits in with Leonard’s competitive nature. “I enjoy challenging myself and making goals,” Leonard said. “The sport has taught me a lot of self-discipline and also how to be part of a team.” Leonard has 26 individual titles, is a two-time regional qualifier (2016, 2019) and was vault champion at the 2020 Everest Classic. She was the 2019 bars and all-around runner-up at the Alabama state meet and the vault, bars, beam and all-around runner-up at the 2016 state meet. She is a senior

elite compulsory qualifier on vault and floor. “I like the floor and the vault, the power events,” she said. “I love tumbling. It just brings me joy.” This winter, Leonard has been dealing with a sore knee and has been unable to compete. She hopes to compete later in the season and make it back to the state and regional meets and perhaps make it to nationals, something she’s never done.

Auburn Bound

Leonard is excited about going to Auburn in the fall. “I’ve always been an Auburn fan,” she said. “My dad (Luke Leonard) was a cheerleader at Auburn and I’ve gone to a lot of gymnastics meets there. “When I was trying to choose a college, I toured other schools, but I felt like it was home at Auburn.” It’s the second consecutive year Mountain Brook Gymnastics has had a gymnast sign with a Southeastern Conference school. Jordan Olszewski, who attended Spain Park, is a freshman at Arkansas. But it’s still a rarity. The only other one in recent times is Brooke Kelly, who signed with Missouri in 2014 and graduated from there in 2019. “It doesn’t happen too often,” Leonard said. “It’s super exciting for me. It’s been a goal of mine for a long time and it’s taken a lot of hard work and dedication.” Luke Leonard was pleased that his daughter chose Auburn. “I am so excited that Caroline is going to Auburn,” he said. “It’s satisfying knowing that her final chapter as a competitive gymnast is going to culminate at such a special place that I love so much.” Auburn gymnastics coach Jeff Graba was glad to sign Caroline Leonard. “Caroline is a home-grown talent and has been on our radar for quite some time,” Graba said at the time her signing. “She is a very wellrounded gymnast and could easily contribute on all the events.”

Following their close 42-37 loss to Spain Park in the 2020 Class 7A Northwest Regional final, several Vestavia Hills girls basketball players went downtown to the BJCC Legacy Arena to watch the Jags capture the championship. They wanted to see for themselves what it was like to win a title and celebrate it. “Our team was so close to being in that position,” said guard Emma Smith. “Being there and seeing Spain Park win and how excited they were made us want to work hard to try to get there. It’s definitely been motivation for us this season.” Vestavia Hills played inspired basketball throughout the regular season, posting a 27-3 record and winning the Class 7A, Area 6 title. The Rebels hosted Gadsden City in the area tournament Tuesday. With a win, they will advance to the Northeast Regional regardless of what happens in the area final. The Rebels, ranked No. 2 in Class 7A, had a 15-game winning streak snapped in a 44-43 loss at Spain Park on Jan. 29. They had beaten the Jags 59-43 on Jan. 15. Vestavia Hills’ other losses were to No. 1 Hoover, 60-54, and Ramsay, 45-44. The Rebels also beat Ramsay, 65-26. Second-year Rebels coach John David Smelser attributes the team’s success to a deep, talented roster. “We had players coming back this season with more experience,” Smelser said. “We’ve got varsity kids in every age level. We’ve got an eighth grader playing, Jill Gaylard; we’ve got a ninth grader who plays, a couple of 10th graders and the rest juniors and seniors. “We’re playing 10 or 11 players a game. One night it might be your night and the next night it might be somebody else. We’re playing a little faster and scoring more points (62.5 points per game).” The Rebels’ starting lineup usually features seniors Alison Stubbs and Josie Edwards, who is going to play basketball in college at Faulkner. Stubbs averages 9.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game and Edwards averages 7.6 points and 4.8 rebounds.

On A Mission


Rebels’ Girls Basketball Team Ready to Make a State Title Run

Journal photo by Jordan Wald


Emma Smith is the team catalyst, leading the Rebels in scoring, rebounding and steals.

Emma Smith and her twin sister, Ally Smith, both juniors who have been on the varsity since the eighth grade, also start along with junior Carley Smith, no relation. Among the reserve players are senior Kaylee Dressback, who is headed to the University of Houston to play soccer, and sophomore Anna Towry, who plays nearly as many minutes as the starters and averages 7.1 points. “Kaylee hasn’t played since the eighth grade, but we got her to come out and play,” Smelser said. “She comes off the bench and guards and rebounds. She helps us.” Emma Smith is the team catalyst, leading the Rebels in scoring (15.2 points per game), rebounding (7. 3 rebounds per game) and steals (2.8 per game). Earlier this season she surpassed 1,000 points for her career. “Emma has a high motor,” Smelser said. “She never stops playing hard. If she makes a mistake, she just gets to the next play. If she makes a turnover, the next play she makes a difference on the defensive end. “She leads our team in rebounding. Although she’s only 5-7, she has those intangibles and tracks the ball coming off the rim so well. She has a knack for it.” Emma Smith downplays her scoring ability.

Despite their sensational regular season, Smelser is still waiting for the Rebels to peak. “I don’t feel like we’ve played our best game yet, as far as offense and defense,” Smelser said. “February is when you want to be playing your best games, anyway.” Emma Smith is eager to return to the postseason. “We’re proud of what we’ve done so far and we’re looking forward to the postseason,” she said. “We realize we have to keep doing what we’ve been doing, work hard and not lose focus and play our game.”

Bulls above, are, front, from left: Sam Wood and Collin Jefferies. Middle: Trey Leckemby, Kory Piper, Maddox Braswell, Tyler Green, Jacobi Elmore and Dylan Murray. Back:

Brady Taylor, Charlie Longmire, Jack MacKay, Coach Alex Taulien, James Mugavero, Gavin Franks and Konrad Hoppenjans. Not pictured: Addison Paul and Colin Kutch.

“I like to say I work hard, and my teammates give me an opportunity to score,” she said. “Coach Smelser gives me the freedom to do what I do best, but it’s not about me. We’re unselfish and play as a team.” Emma Smith enjoys being teammates with Ally, who averages 7.4 points. “It means a lot to me to play with her and it’s a lot of fun,” Emma Smith said. “We first started playing together in the second grade. When we’re on the court, we know what the other one is thinking. We can give each other a look and know exactly what to do.”

Aiming for the Peak

BULLY FOR THE BULLS! The Birmingham Bulls 14U Travel Hockey team recently won the Big Bear Hockey Tournament in St. Louis, Missouri, defeating teams from St. Louis; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Chicago. In the championship game, the Bulls defeated the Rockford (Michigan) Rams 4-1 to take gold medals back to Birmingham. James Mugavero was named Tournament MVP.  Several players on the team attend Over the Mountain schools, including Hoover, Spain Park, Oak Mountain, Helena, Vestavia Hills and Indian Springs. The Bulls are back in action at their home rink in the Pelham Civic Center on Feb. 27 and 28. Members of the Birmingham

Photo courtesy Birmingham Bulls

26 • Thursday, February 11, 2021

Thursday, February 11, 2021 • 27



CLASS 6A boys.” Despite their title streaks ending, the Patriots still had plenty to celebrate, particularly sophomore Brooke Walden’s setting the Class 6A girls’ indoor pole vault record with a winning clearance of 12 feet, 1¼ inches. Margaret Ollinger of McGill-Toolen Catholic set the mark of 12 feet, 1 inch at the 2014 state meet. Ollinger also set the CrossPlex record (1302.50) in a regular season meet in 2015. “Brooke had been dealing with a couple injuries, so I am glad she was able to compete,” Donaldson said. “Afterward, she goes, ‘Well I’m tired. I don’t have anything left.’” Walden’s personal record had been 11 feet, 6 inches. Her shins were bothering her entering the meet and she took some medications and received treatment so she could compete. “They hurt really bad, so I wasn’t expecting to break a record,” Walden said. “After I did, I just laid there and said to myself, ‘Oh gosh, did that really happen?’ My teammates were really happy. It felt good and exciting.” The Patriots’ Cross Derriso won the boys pole vault with a clearance of 15-06.00. Homewood senior Crawford Hope won the 1,600-meter run with a time of 4:20.96. Hope, a North Carolina signee, finished third in the 3,200 (9:22.34) and fourth in 800 (1:57.65). “That was definitely a highlight with him running all three distance

Journal photos by Jordan Wald

From page 28

The Spartans took first place in both the 4x400 relay race (4:13.05) and the 4x800 race (10:02.30). Above, members of the Mountain Brook 4x800 team, from left, Hunter Anderson, Mary Katherine Malone, Clark Stewart and Kennedy Hamilton.

races in such a limited amount of time at this year’s meet,” Donaldson said. “He also anchored our 4x400 relay team. It was incredible to watch him do all that.” Spenser Lamb took second in the boys 60-meter hurdles, clocking 8.34. The Homewood girls 4x200 relay team also had a second-place finish with a time of 4:13.98. Sam Dill took third in the boys high jump with a leap of 6-00.00, and Naeemah Gamble was third in the shot put with a put of 33-02.50.

Mountain Brook Girls Come Up Just Short

Mountain Brook girls had a strong

showing, led by senior Grayson Scott. Scott won the high jump with a leap of 5-08.00, finished second in the long jump (16-06.25) and placed third in the triple jump (35-08.50). The Spartans took first place in both the 4x400 relay race (4:13.05) and the 4x800 race (10:02.30). Regan Riley finished second in the 1,600-meter run (5:10.18) and third in the 3,200 (11:19.00). Camille Gillum was third in the high jump (5:02.00), Mary Katherine Malone was fourth in the 1,600 (5:20.98) and Julia Grooms was fourth in the pole vault (1000.00). The Spartans’ boys had three third-place finishers, Hugh Stokes in the 60-meter hurdles (8.57), Davis

Plowden in the 800-meter run (1:57.52) and Thomas Renneker in the pole vault (14-00.00).

Porterfield Shines

Hallie Porterfield of WestminsterOak Mountain swept the girls distance races in the Class 1A-3A meet, winning the 800 with a time of 2:17.71, the 1,600 in 5:24.49 and the 3,200 in 11:24.24. Her efforts helped Westminster earn a close second-place finish with 76 points behind Providence Christian, which won with 87 points. The Altamont girls were fourth with 50 points, getting solid performances from Carson Hicks and Kaia


Todd and in the relays. Hicks won the 60-meter dash with a time of 8:05 and finished third in the 400-meter, clocking 59.57. Todd won the 60-meter hurdles in 9.77 and was third in the 60-meter dash with a time of 8.25. The Knights won the 4x400 relay (4:25.54) and was second in the 4x200 (1:55.26). The Altamont boys won the 4x400 relay (3:41.34) and were second in the 4x800 (8:49.24) on the way to a fifth-place team finish.

Hoover’s girls won the state title in the 4x200 relay (1:4.23). Gabrielle Washington, left, anchored the 4x200 team which also included McKenzie Blackledge, Jebreiya Chapman and Amyah Ellington.

Journal photos by Jordan Wald

From page 28

and had captured seven of the past nine titles. Hewitt’s girls and Hoover’s girls went into the final race of the final session separated by only 3½ points. The 4x400-meter relay would prove to be the deciding factor in whether the Huskies or Bucs would claim the state crown. Hewitt girls had 93 points heading into the final event, and coach Devin Hind’s Hoover girls had 90.5. The Bucs won the race with a 4:02.50 time, but the Huskies were second at 4:09.54. More important to Hewitt, however, were the eight points the Huskies claimed, giving the school its first-ever state indoor title 101.5 points to Hoover’s 100. Vestavia Hills finished third with 51 points and Spain Park was fourth with 37. Hewitt-Trussville’s boys went into the final race with a 9.5 point lead over Vestavia Hills and placed fourth in the 4x400 relay finale to claim the school’s first indoor state boys’ championship, completing the school’s first sweep. Hewitt’s boys finished with 77.5 points to claim the title. Strand ran the final leg for the Rebels and edged the Bucs to win the

Mountain Brook’s Regan Riley, above, finished second in the 1,600meter run. Riley and teammaes Lucy Benton, Anne Lichty and Kate Ryan finished first in the 4x400 relay.

Spain Park’s MacKenzie Culpepper won the 400-meter dash with a photo finish, beating Hewitt’s Kelsey Martin.

4x400 relay race and finish second in the team standings with 73 points. Hoover took third place with 73, while Auburn and Huntsville tied for fourth with 41 points each.

The Rebels’ time in the 4x400 was 3:25.32, while Hoover clocked 3:26.24. The Bucs also finished second in the 4x800 (8:11.15). Hoover’s Levi Arroyo won the

pole vault, clearing 15-06. Bucs teammate Conner White also cleared 15 feet. The Bucs’ Jay Avery was second

in the triple jump with a leap of 44-03.75. Spain Park’s Keon Buck was second in the 60-meter dash with a time of 6.96. In girls action, Spain Park’s Culpepper won the 400-meter dash with a photo finish, beating Hewitt’s Kelsey Martin. Culpepper clocked 57.25 seconds, winning with a lastsecond lean. Martin crossed at 57.30 seconds. Hoover’s Kayla Jemison won the high jump with a leap of 5-02.00, while teammate Ainsley Staie was second in the shot put with a put of 35-07.00. Jemison was second in triple jump with a leap of 36-11.50. Hoover’s girls also won the 4x200 relay (1:4.23) and were third in the 4x800 (9:52.64). The Jags’ Anna Collins was second in the pole vault (11-06.00). The Rebels’ Angelica Vines finished second in 60-meter hurdles with a time of 9:31 and teammate Gabby Walls finished second in the girls high jump with a leap of 5-02.00.

Rebels’ girls basketball team ready to make a state championship run Page 26


Thursday, February 11, 2021 ❖ OVER THE MOUNTAIN JOURNAL

Mountain Brook Gymnastics’ Caroline Leonard earns scholarship to Auburn Page 26

State Indoor Track Meet Recap Homewood’s Title Streaks Come to an End

Vestavia Hills’ Strand, West Turn in Memorable Performances

By Rubin E. Grant

By Rubin E. Grant

‘I was not expecting to win all three, but I was happy how it went.’ VESTAVIA HILLS JUNIOR CRAWFORD WEST

(2:11.28) was established by McGill-Toolen Catholic’s Carmen Carlos competing in the Class 6A indoor state meet in 2013. West also won the 1,600 with the state meet’s only sub-5 minute time of the weekend (4:59.58), to set a new 7A state record, eclipsing the 4:59.96 set by Anna Grace Morgan of Mountain Brook at the 2017 championships. West closed her day by setting a new 7A 3,200-meter record with her winning time of 10:58.27, eclipsing the 7A standard (10:58.97)

Journal photos by Jordan Wald

Ethan Strand made sure his final state indoor track meet would be memorable. Vestavia Hills’ senior distance runner began the Class 7A session Saturday with a bang, winning the 800-meter race in a state-record time of 1:51.07 during the 51st AHSAA State Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Birmingham CrossPlex. Strand needed the record-breaking finish because Rebels teammate Alex Leath (1:52.72) was right behind him and also broke the previous AHSAA overall indoor state-meet record (1:53.45), set by Chris Patrick of Smiths Station in 2004 at Priceville. Afterward, Strand and Leath shared a warm embrace. Huntsville’s Gabe Scales (1:54.25) took third place. His time also surpassed the Class 7A indoor state meet record (1:54.69) established by Hoover’s Trent Hammer at the 2017 state meet. Strand also held the overall CrossPlex and state mark with his time of 1:52.91, which he ran in a regular season meet on Jan. 21. Strand, a North Carolina signee, also won the 1,600 meters with a 4:17.47 time, just ahead of Scales at 4:19.30 and just shy of the Class 7A state indoor meet record of 4:17.06, set by Hoover’s Drew Williams at the 2016 championships. In the girls’ competition, Vestavia Hills junior Crawford West swept the distance races, setting 7A indoor state-meet records in two of her victories. She set a new 7A state-meet mark in the 800 meters with a winning time of 2:12.93. Spain Park’s MacKenzie Culpepper finished second with a 2:13.45 time, falling just short of the previous record (2:13.19) set by Hoover’s Presley Weems in 2016. The overall record

Homewood’s stranglehold on the Class 6A indoor track titles was broken Saturday at the Birmingham CrossPlex. The Patriots had swept the boys and girls state championships the past three years, but the boys finished second and the girls third in the 51st Alabama High School Association State Indoor Track and Field Championships. Opelika won the boys title with 81 points, followed by Homewood with 66 points,

Vestiavia’s Ethan Strand, above, won the 1,600 meters with a 4:17.47 time, just ahead of Scales at 4:19.30 and just shy of the Class 7A state indoor meet record. In the girls’ competition, Vestavia Hills junior Crawford West, left, swept the distance races, setting 7A indoor state-meet records in two of her victories

also established by Morgan in 2017. “I just really wanted it and went after it,” West said. “I was getting my recovery in behind races, resting my legs, drinking lots of water and eating crackers and peanut butter. “I was not expecting to win all three, but I was happy how it went. My teammates were really excited but not only for me but how we performed as a team. We got third place with only seven people competing. I think that was pretty cool.”

Hoover-Hewitt Showdown

Hewitt-Trussville, in coach Tom Esslinger’s first season with the Huskies, swept the Class 7A team titles, ending Hoover’s reign in both. Essingler was the coach at Homewood before taking the job at Hewitt. Hoover’s boys had won four consecutive championships and six of the past eight while the girls were the defending Class 7A champs

See CLASS 7A, page 27

Homewood senior Crawford Hope won the 1,600-meter run with a time of 4:20.96. Hope also anchored the Patriots 4x400 relay team.

Scottsboro with 52, Mountain Brook with 35 and St. Paul’s Episcopal with 32. Northridge edged Mountain Brook for the girls title by 97 to 86 points. Homewood was third with 59 points, followed by McGill-Toolen Catholic with 45 and Fort Payne with 38. “It had to come to an end at some point,” Homewood coach Josh Donaldson said reluctantly. “With Northridge in the girls and Opelika in the boys, we ran into two dominant teams. And with Mountain Brook and McGill-Toolen dropping down (from Class 7A), we didn’t have it all matched up. “But I am really proud of both of our teams. We still came up with a runner-up trophy in the

See CLASS 6A, page 27

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