KNIGHTDALE — Call it blind optimism or high expectations, but after back-to-back N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A titles in boys’ indoor track and field, Knightdale coach David Castell feels confident that his team has the tools to repeat.
“I’m optimistic about this season and what we can do here,” Castell said. “As a coach, I know we still have that bull’s-eye on our back, but this team seems comfortable with that.”
While the Knights have been a consistent frontrunner for the state title entering the past two seasons, they don’t return a wealth of senior leaders.
Castell will have to rely on a mostly junior and sophomore team to step up this season.
“We have a lot of young runners and we are somewhat inexperienced,” Castell said. “We just have to get them acclimated with the difference between being a role player last year to understanding the legacy we’re building here.
“I’ve been trying to sell them on the fact that they don’t want to be the team that drops the ball, and I think they are buying into that.”
Castell said some runners to watch will be juniors Marquavious Johnson, Henry Kiedy, Kimani Hoffman and Corey Aikens.
With several of the younger runners competing in the New Balance Nationals and the Penn Relays, Castell said the experience should be there for his junior class.
“We have a lot of experience at the highest level,” Castell said. “They’ve competed over the summer and (Johnson) and (Hoffman) are battle tested. They will have to set the tone for the underclassmen.”
Castell said Johnson, who was a running back and free safety for the football team, is the one junior who is used to being a leader on the football field and he hopes it will translate on the track as well.
“I think with his experience he will play a key role in leading this team,” Castell said of Johnson. “He’s been the one driving the bus for the football team and knows what it takes to have to help lead a team to victory. We know we can count on him to do his job and he leads by example.”
Castell believes this team has what it takes to continue the dominance that Knightdale has shown the past two seasons.
“We still have the final goal of winning the conference,” Castell said. “Then we will work on gradually getting kids qualified for states. Then hopefully we can compete for a state title. We just need everyone to buy in and know their role.
“I always tell the kids, ‘We have the goods to deliver.’ They just have to focus and buy in.”