E.A. Sports Today

Running with purpose

Brothers run in county track meet as a way to honor their mother, who passed away overnight; teammates dedicate their effort to her

Anniston senior Leonard Brown embraces assistant coach Leroy Clark after an emotional run in Tuesday's Calhoun County Track Meet. On the cover, Leonard (R) and younger brother Nick dedicated their effort in the meet to the memory of their mother, who passed away earlier in the day. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography).

Anniston senior Leonard Brown embraces assistant coach Leroy Clark after an emotional run in Tuesday’s Calhoun County Track Meet. On the cover, Leonard (R) and younger brother Nick dedicated their effort in the meet to the memory of their mother, who passed away earlier in the day. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography).

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — The Anniston boys and girls track teams that won the Calhoun County Championship Tuesday were driven by a lot more than gold medals and meet records Tuesday.

They were running to lift up two of their own and help them cope with the loss of a parent.

Leonard and Nick Brown were helping the Bulldogs run away with the boys team title despite losing their mother earlier in the day. Nicki Burt passed away in Georgia about five hours before the starter’s pistol went off to get the 4×800 relay underway that opened the meet.

The Bulldogs won the event in a county record time.

“We had to do it for their mom,” senior anchor runner Zebedee Lunsford said. “They stayed by her side through the whole thing and told us she passed away. That was really our main focus, to have fun and to appreciate life and just give it your all win or lose.”

Leonard, a senior running track for the first time, is a distance runner for the Bulldogs and was an alternate on the relay. Nick, an eighth-grader, is a hurdler. They both stepped to the starting line determined to do their best.

“That’s one of the things that kind of shocked me,” Lunsford said. “To come out here and still compete and be there, that’s true sacrifice right there. If that were me, I wouldn’t know what to do, be right there by my mother or be with my team.”

Bulldogs coach Lisa Howard approached the brothers with the option to compete, but they had made peace with the situation and were coming back to run. They left Monday night and got the call from an older brother about 5 a.m. that their mother, who had fallen ill sudden two weeks ago, had passed.

“It is hard to be here,” Leonard said. “I really would like to be in Georgia – I was there yesterday – so I wanted to be there, but I knew I had this meet today and I wanted to come out and do this for my mom. I want to show my teammates that I can be strong. I want to show myself I can be strong, too. I really want to win for her. I want to win for me, too.”

“It’s actually good to be here, to know that my mom is watching over me, ” Nick said. “I know I can give my best to show that she has done the best for me, and I just wanted to make her proud. She always told me to do my best whenever I can and to make her proud. Today, it was the County, and I came out here to make her proud.”

Leonard scored a point for the Bulldogs in the 1600, finishing eighth at 5:07.60, and just missed scoring in the 3200, finishing ninth in 11:23.35. Nick ran in both hurdles, finishing 14th at both 100 meters (20.93) and 300 meters (49.28). Howard said they looked “pretty good” in competing.

“Losing a mother at such a young age, I know what that’s like,” Howard said. “We as a team spoke about it yesterday about being here for them and the team has been very supportive through everything.”

Leonard said his teammates’ show of support almost brought him to tears.

“I didn’t know they were going to do that,” he said. “After they got done (in the 4×800) they all just came to me and were like ‘We did it for her, man.’ I was happy, but I wanted to cry at the same time. It was emotional.”



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