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Hoover head track and field coach Devon Hind, right, helped Presley Weems develop into one of the best mid-distance runners in Alabama prep history.
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Seen running at the Class 7A, Section 3 meet at Mountain Brook High School on April 29, Presley Weems recorded blistering times on the track throughout her career at Hoover High School.
Many young athletes have a role model.
For Hoover High student Presley Weems, that person was Carmen Carlos.
A 2013 graduate, Carlos established herself as the state’s preeminent female distance runner during her time at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School in Mobile. Three years removed from the prep scene, she still holds Alabama high school records in four events.
“I remember being at the state meet eighth-grade year and thinking, ‘I wonder what it’s like to have everyone know you and to have everyone know your times and know your events,’” Weems said of Carlos.
These days, she doesn’t have to wonder.
Four years after her initial trip to the 2012 state outdoor track and field meet, it’s safe to say Weems has reached a similar level of high school stardom.
“I’ll have random people come up to me and they’re like, ‘Good job, Presley.’ I don’t know them, but it means so much because they understand how hard it is and how much work it takes,” Weems said.
The admirer has evolved into the admired.
Throughout her time competing for Hoover High School, Weems, a 2016 graduate, carved her legacy as one of the most decorated athletes in Buccaneers history.
She won five individual state championships, set an all-time state record and helped propel the Hoover girls to eight team state titles from 2012 to 2016 in indoor and outdoor track and field.
“Honestly, it’s been the best experience,” Weems said. “If I had to look back and say what my favorite part of high school is, it would definitely be running.”
Having always enjoyed the sport, Weems’ initial foray into running began in fifth grade.
That’s when she joined Speed City Track Club.
Managed by the parents of future Hoover teammate Brittley Humphrey, Speed City introduced Weems to what would become one of her favorite qualities of track and field: self-reliance.
“It’s like a team aspect, but at the same time you can kind of control what you’re doing,” she said. “I used to play basketball, so you had to rely on other people to kind of pick up the slack. In running, you’re in control, and I like that.”
Although Weems’ hoops career spanned from age 5 through her freshman year, track and field slowly but surely claimed her attention and passion. Much of that can be attributed to the influence of Hoover head track and field coach Devon Hind.
Although Weems specialized in sprinting events at the outset of her career, Hind confronted her with a challenge during her eighth-grade year at Simmons Middle School.
“He asked me if I would run an 800 [meter], and if my time was good enough, I would get to start running up with the high school,” she said.
To Weems, the 800-meter run represented a distance twice as long as she was accustomed to racing.
Nevertheless, she overcame her inexperience and landed a spot on the varsity team.
“I saw that she didn’t have enough potential to compete in the events that she was competing in, like the 4x100 and the 200 and the 400,” Hind said. “It just wasn’t going to get there on the varsity level. That’s why I had to talk her in to coming up.”
By the end of the season, she progressed enough to earn an 11th-place finish in the 800 at the high school state meet.
It was there, at her first state competition, that Weems saw Carlos run.
After claiming her first and second individual state titles as a junior, Weems had proven she was on her way to becoming the runner she had envisioned. She even discovered the correct approach to racing an 800.
But she said she wasn’t satisfied with her past success, and her coach could tell.
So she transformed from what Hind called a “hard worker” into an “exceptionally hard worker.”
“This whole year she pretty much went to the front and led everybody in practice,” he said. “I don’t think that had happened really until this year, on a consistent basis anyway.”
The results of such dogged dedication steadily surfaced — and then erupted.
At May’s state outdoor championships, Weems posted a remarkable string of performances over a three-day span.
On Day One, she registered a personal best of 4 minutes, 52.35 seconds to win the 1,600 meters.
On Day Two, she wielded her speed — to Hind’s pleasant surprise — and captured a runner-up finish in the 400 meters in a personal-best 55.92. She also ran a leg on the champion 4x800-meter relay.
Then on Day Three, she delivered the race of her career.
Crossing the line in 2:08.99, Weems became the first female in state history to break 2:10 in the 800 meters. Her mark bested the old state record by nearly three seconds.
“When she ran the 800, it brought tears to my eyes,” Hind said. “I still get choked up thinking about it. It was a beautiful race, and to be the best that’s ever been in Alabama and to know that I had a part of that with her, is just really special. To see it all come together at state meet was really one of the highlights of my career. To see somebody do what you’ve asked them to do and just see it come together, it’s just a pretty incredible feeling.”
Even with such an illustrious performance, Hind said Weems still hasn’t reached her full potential.
That spells good news for one local university.
A Samford signee, Weems will run cross-country and track and field for the Bulldogs this coming school year. Academically, she plans to pursue a degree that enables her to become a geriatric therapist.
“I’m super excited. I just love Samford so much, and I love the coaches, and I have one of my old teammates there,” Weems said.
Although she will no longer don the conspicuous Hoover ‘H,’ Weems’ impact on the Bucs’ program will be felt for years to come through the people she leaves behind.
One of them is rising Hoover junior Sydney Steely. An all-state mid-distance runner, Steely has trained alongside Weems for the past four years. “I mean her times and her mindset and the way that she works so hard to get what she wants, it’s definitely something that I strive to be,” Steely said of Weems.
Hind said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
The veteran coach said he hopes Weems’ legacy inspires younger Hoover runners to follow in her footsteps and shoot for the stars.
“She has made the impossible possible now. Nobody has ever broken 2:10 in the 800,” Hind said. “Now, every girl coming through Hoover will say, ‘Oh my gosh, Presley did it, why can’t I?’ I’m hoping that’s how they’ll think. Then they’ll be saying, ‘How did she ever run that fast?’ Then I’ll tell them: ‘It’s just hard work and dedication.’”