CHAPEL HILL — Ericka Charles knew exactly when to turn on the speed during the 500-meter dash finals at the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A/2-A/3-A indoor track and field state championships.
Pulling around the track for the final 200 meters, the Durham School of the Arts senior felt Northeast Guilford senior Yvonna Hines nestling close to her right shoulder and decided it was time.
"I felt Yvonna on me, she was pushing," Charles said. "As soon as I felt her, I started going."
With that surge of speed, Charles shot down the home stretch and captured her first state championship with a time of 1:17.36.
She was one of hundreds of athletes to participate in the indoor state meet at Eddie Smith Field House on Saturday morning.
"I'm happy I'm a state champion," Charles said.
As a four-year varsity sprinter, Charles had won two team state titles with Durham School of the Arts, but this individual accomplishment came as a gold-wrapped gift for all of her hard work as a runner.
With a ninth-place finish at the 2-A cross country meet, Charles entered the indoor season pumped with confidence, although she needed time to convert her running form from distance to sprinting.
A third-place showing at the open Eastern High School Challenge last month nipped at her confidence, yet on Saturday she took advantage of the fact that 1-A/2-A/3-A classifications were separated from 4-A.
Charles entered this meet with the top 500-meter qualifying time and displayed impressive speed and patience during her race.
"She was determined," Durham School of the Arts coach Dexter Mitchell said. "She has high expectations for herself. She isn't one of those kids that say, 'I want to do this' and wait for it to happen. She prepares."
Cardinal Gibbons junior Heather Beichner used this indoor season as preparation for the spring outdoor season. After winning the 2-A cross country championship, she set a five-minute mile as her spring goal.
In the 1,000-meter race on Saturday, she came close to that pace, capturing first place in 3:10.26, finishing ahead of Burlington Williams' Lindsay Ester (3:14.53) and Sun Valley's Christina Hobbs (3:14.71).
Beichner, a three-time state champion, qualified for the second heat of the finals.
"Today was just a test to see where we are and evaluate," she said. "I'm not overly excited, but it's a good start, a good way to come back onto the track."
Winston-Salem Parkland won the boys championship with 52 points, toping Ashville (49) and Nash Central (35).
Burlington Cummings captured the girls championship with 63 points, defeating Jamestown Ragsdale (60) and Asheville T.C. Roberson (36.5).