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FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2007
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Heath White, 24, is a three-time winner of the Jesse Owens Memorial.
Daily file photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Heath White, 24, is a three-time winner of the Jesse Owens Memorial.

Heath White at home on Owens course

By Ashley Hargrove
sports@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

The Jesse Owens Memorial Run means plenty to Moulton native Heath White, who will run in his hometown race again Saturday morning.

It's easy for him to relate how much the race means to him: "I figure if I break my leg, I'm still going to be out there on crutches. Running in this race is something that I have to do every year."

A former cross country and track standout at Lawrence County High and The University of North Alabama, White is the three-time defending champion of the event. But the 24-year-old said he's a little slower this time around.

"I'm still in shape, but this is the slowest I've been," he said. "I've only been able to run in five or six races this year because I haven't had a whole lot of time. Last year, I was running every Saturday. It's been a bit of a change."

The 10-kilometer race will begin at 8 a.m. at Lawrence County High. A 2-mile run will start at 9:15 a.m., followed by a 1-mile run at 10 a.m.

Organizers will present awards at 10:30 a.m. in the school's gym. Runners can enter the day of the races.

Although running on your home course can have its advantages, White said he likes to have surprises, too.

"It always helps when I'm familiar with the course because if there is a small hill, I know it's there. It can't sneak up on me. At the same time, though, I don't like to know what's coming."

White's running routine has changed since he completed his eligibility at UNA after the 2006 spring outdoor season. He remained in school and graduated this month.

Even though he's not running for UNA any longer, he said he has remained motivated to run.

"A lot of runners will tell you it's an addiction. For me, it's just a routine," White said. "I started about five years ago running at least a mile a day. It motivates me more that way rather than having to prepare for a big race all at once."

While at UNA, White earned academic all-Gulf South Conference his senior year. In addition, he made all-GSC second team in cross country as a junior and senior. The Lions finished seventh in the NCAA Division II cross country championships his senior year, and he was his team's top scorer, finishing 11th in the individual standings.

One of White's former prep coaches, Lawrence County's Stanley Johnson, remembers the first time he urged White to run cross country.

"Heath was in the eighth grade when I first tried to get him to run cross country for me," Johnson said. "We would always practice at Bankhead National Forest, and I remember the first time I saw Heath. He came sprinting about 50 yards across a bridge then stopped to walk.

"It was hard for him to make the transition from track to cross country at first, but he got the hang of it."

Johnson quickly found out that White was willing to improve.

"He is a hard worker and is very dedicated to what he does. His work ethic is phenomenal," Johnson said.

White said getting encouragement from coaches like Johnson has helped.

"Even though I haven't done anything mind-shattering, hearing positive praises from all of my coaches has really helped keep me focused," White said.

Jesse Owens Memorial Run

What: 26th annual 10-kilometer road race. Also 2-mile and 1-mile races.

When: Saturday 8 a.m.

Where: Start-finish line at Lawrence County High in Moulton.

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