SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: McAlester's Birchfield picking up steam

CHAD WALLER | Submitted PhotoMcAlester's Gabe Birchfield is devoting all of his athletic attention to cross country this fall. 

Senior Gabe Birchfield is more than one of McAlester’s top cross country runners. He’s also a helping hand in and out of McAlester.

Birchfield is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and does volunteer work. He said he went this his church to help flood victims in Muskogee earlier this year. 

The senior runner helped take down walls inside of homes from the floods. 

Birchfield called the floods horrific, but said it was a wonderful time volunteering.

“It made me feel really good,” Birchfield said. “You do unto your fellow brethren and sisters like you would for them to do to you.

“To know that there’s going to be people out there like us who will help us in our time of need, it really helps,” he added. “It also brings a calming spirit and a loving spirit into your soul.”

He was also McAlester’s top runner for much of 2018, but finished 82nd overall at last year’s Class 5A regional. 

Birchfield has managed to work his way back up to the top this season, finishing first among McAlester runners in the Sept. 20 Poteau Meet at Carl Albert State College. 

“It definitely reflects exactly just how much work I’ve put into the practices,” he said. “To know that I’m still capable of being able to run, and be able to perform at that level, it’s reassuring.” 

He has competed in cross country since he was a freshman and said he likes to run because it is calming and relaxing — like meditation. 

Birchfield’s accomplishments as a runner aren’t confined to cross country alone. He’s been running track since seventh grade, and qualified for state last year in the 300-meter hurdles. 

Qualifying for state meant a lot to him, and it motivated him to take cross country and track more even more seriously.

Birchfield aims to make it to state in cross country this year; he wants to win a state champion in the 300-meter hurdles; and he wants to beat his personal best of 17:33 in the 5K.

“It’s great to see him progress and wanting to keep getting better and better and setting goals higher and higher each year,” cross country coach Chad Waller said.

He plays the mellophone as a member of McAlester’s marching band. Birchfield began playing the instrument freshman year, and it called it one of his favorites to play.

He also plays the French horn during concert season, and started on that instrument during sixth grade after previously being on clarinet.

Birchfield hopes to either attend the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University or the University of Arkansas.

“I have great interest in music education to teach students how to play musical instruments,” Birchfield said.

Contact Corey Stolzenbach at cstolzenbach@mcalesternews.com

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