Juwan Crowder had imagined winning an individual state championship many times since he was a little boy, running around inside the track with his cousins during track meets at Forest Hills High.
But the Forest Hills senior had never been able to turn that dream into a reality until this year.
“I always dreamed about winning a state championship when I was a little kid running around at home and on the track,” said Crowder, who was a part of two outdoor relay state championships before: the 4x100-relay his freshman year at Forest Hills and the 4x200-meter relay his sophomore season. “Then, Thursday (Feb. 12) the night before the state indoor meet, I had another dream about winning a state title. I woke up about 8 a.m. that morning (Feb. 13) from that dream, and it felt like it was real. I just sat up and thought about it. I just figured it was my time.”
Crowder won his first individual (1A/2A) state championship in the 55-meter dash on Feb. 13 at JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem, breaking N.C. High School Athletic Association class 1A/2A state record with his time of 6.33 seconds.
Crowder broke previous mark of 6.39 seconds, set in 2012 by Granville Central’s Tevin Hester, who is now running at Clemson.
“I was in shock at first,” said Crowder, who became the first Forest Hills student to win an indoor state title in Forest Hills’ second year with an indoor track team. “It really didn’t set in – that I had won a state title – until I was on the podium. To do it state-record time was even better.”
His father and coach, Harold Crowder, was equally as proud.
“I know how much this meant to him, so it was great to see him win a state championship,” said the elder Crowder, Forest Hills’ head track coach for the past five years. “He had asked me about the state record, so I knew he was feeling good about his chances. To win and set a state record is a big accomplishment.”
Juwan Crowder wondered if he’d ever get the opportunity to contend for a state championship after he pulled a hamstring muscle in January 2014 at the David Oliver Classic while running a career-best 6.31-second 55-meter dash.
What started out as tightness in his hamstrings turned out to be an issue with the muscles in his back as well.
After seeing a doctor and learning the parts of his body he needed to strengthen and stretch out, Crowder began to feel better.
He still gutted out most of last spring and summer, finishing third in both the 100 and 200-meter dashes at the 2A outdoor state meet.
“It was a very frustrating thing to go through,” said Crowder of the hamstring and back issues last year. “There was definitely times where I was gutting it out last outdoor season. But I never gave up hope. I believed we would find a way to get better. …
“I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to run in the 6.3s (55-meter dash) again after the injury. But after I ran a 6.4 in preliminaries (at indoor states), I knew I could do it again. It was a great feeling to get back to those kind of times.”
Crowder (5-foot-11, 165 pounds) also finished as 1A/2A indoor state runner-up in the 300-meter dash, running a personal-record time of 35.64 seconds.
Crowder, 18, believes he can carry that momentum into this spring, when he hopes to add to his championship resume and compete for both the 100- and 200-meter outdoor state crowns.
“As a runner, especially as a sprinter, you are only as good as your last race,” said Crowder. “But winning a state title does give me confidence, because I know what I am capable of. I’d love to win an outdoor state championship, too. Now, that is what I am running for.”
Harold Crowder believes Juwan’s success will help him.
“Now that Juwan has won an individual title, I don’t think he wants to stop,” Harold said. “He’s working hard and is very focused on what he is doing.”
Crowder is also working on his future on the track. He hopes to commit to N.C. A&T State University soon.
“I know other opportunities may come my way, and I will definitely consider them, but my heart is at North Carolina A&T, that is where I want to go,” said Crowder. “As long I can stay healthy, I see an even brighter future in college and think I can get even better.”
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.