By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The last time Gabby Crawford was seen wearing a Munford Lady Cougar uniform was in May at the Class 3A Track Sectionals.
Yes, that Gabby Crawford. The one known as a highly-recruited basketball standout on the campus. Despite having a college future on the hardwood, Crawford relishes in the time spent on the track as part of Bernard Ivie’s program.
It was her commitment to both sports that made her eligible for The Millington Star’s 2017 Female Athlete of the Year presented by Dagen’s Trophies and Awards. And with her selection for the honor, Crawford became the second junior to win the award, joining fellow Lady Cougar Crystal Williams.
“It’s an honor,” she said. “I’ve been doubted all my life. I think I’ve worked really hard to get to where I’m at. So I think I deserve this.”
When Crawford stepped foot onto the Munford High School campus three years ago, some doubted if she could live up to her success from Brighton Middle School. Other said her attitude would be her demise.
“It was rough,” Crawford acknowledged. “I’m learning more of how to be a leader. At first I really didn’t even expect to come in starting as a freshman. That was really surprising to me. I don’t think expectations would never be too high as long as you work.”
With the foundation placed by her parents Octavia and EL “Snowman” Crawford, Gabby was ready for the challenged that would come her way. She earned All-District 13-3A honors her freshman year.
Then she stepped up her game to another level her sophomore year as part of the 2016 District 13-3A Tournament champions. But the Lady Cougars came up short in Regionals sending Crawford back to the drawing board.
“My grind, me in the game,” she said improved. “My teammates being there for me when I wanted to give up.”
Veteran teammates like Johnna Jones, De’Asha Banks and Shania Johnson matched Crawford step for step, shot for shot preparing for the 2016-17 season. Along the way they formed an even stronger bond.
“Practice, I’m always talking,” Crawford said. “They get mad at me but they know I mean it for good. It’s constructive criticism. Like Coach says, ‘You’ve got to be able to talk to your teammates.’ And I want them to talk to me when I’m doing bad. We should be able to talk to one another. We’re just a family.”
That family unit became the second Lady Cougar team to reach Sectionals. Munford won the 2017 Region 7-3A Tournament title.
When she could have taken a break or prepared for the No. 2 Nike EYBL Tennessee Flight Silver team, Crawford made the commitment to compete in track in the 4x400m, 100m and Shot Put.
“Stay in shape, it’s fun and it takes my mind off basketball once the season is over,” Crawford said. “We’ll all be sitting up there talking and playing waiting on our event to be called. We just be chilling. Then we take care of business.”
The relay team reached Sectionals and Crawford helped the 4x400m set school records throughout the season.
Through track and her responsibilities in basketball, Crawford developed into a highly-respected student/athlete on the campus. She said the lessons from her parents came in handy in her progress.
“My Dad was always like, ‘Have a good attitude,’” she said. “’A good attitude will get you far in life and God. Put God first.’
“My Mom, I think I play better basketball than her,” Crawford continued. “She was my first coach. She give me that push. She’s been there for me since Day One. She never gave up on me.”
Gabby said that support system grew for two to a countless amount.
“My Principal Dr. Fee is like my second mom,” she said. “She’s been there for me and supports me through everything. I call her Fee Fee and she calls me her daughter. We don’t have like a principal/student relationship. That’s like my second mom. I can talk to her about anything. I just love everybody there like the Assistant Principal Mr. Huffman and Mr Walker. They are supportive of me. My teachers always helping me to make sure I get my work done. Everybody is in my corner.”
Crawford said another key factor into winning an award like Athlete of the Year are your teammates.
“Johnna and Shania, we call ourselves the Three Elite,” she recalled. “Johnna and I everybody knows. We’ve been playing ball since we were little together. When we’re on the court, she knows where I am at and I know where she is at. It’s like a chemistry. Shania and I started to get that chemistry. I’m going to miss them. They were like my best friends and my sisters.”
But her sisters won’t share the court with her in 2017-18. Crawford will be the undisputed leader of the Lady Cougars on the court. The Alabama commitment said she is ready for the next challenge.
“My senior year, I’m going to have a big role,” she concluded. “I’m going to have to lead. My team is going to depend on me a lot this year. No distractions. I have to stay focused.”
The Millington Star’s Athlete of the Year Awards were made by Dagens Living Water Bookstore Jewelry Trophies & Awards located at 4952 Navy Road. For more information, call 872-3773.
2006 Whitney Robison Brighton
2007 Amber Gatewood Brighton &
Whitney Malone Munford
2008 Cali Overbeck Munford
2009 Michele Brown Millington
2010 Crystal Williams Munford
2011 Britt Sanford Brighton
2012 Julanne McCommon TRA
2013 Sami Jo Schulz Munford
2014 Jodie Duncan Munford
2015 Maddison Welch Munford
2016 Taylor Beasley TRA