Wakefield, Southeast Raleigh prepare for another indoor track showdown

tstevens@newsobserver.comJanuary 6, 2014 

Southeast Raleigh and Wakefield battled for the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s indoor track and field championship last winter and continued the confrontation during the outdoor championships. They could keep the rivalry going at the indoor finals in February.

Wakefield beat Southeast 80-72 for the indoor championships last year while Southeast held off Wakefield 89-82 for the outdoor title.

Both teams expect to renew the rivalry in the 2014 NCHSAA indoor championships on Feb. 8 at the JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem.

Southeast had been the state’s most dominant indoor girls’ program, winning NCHSAA titles from 2006 to 2008 and in 2010, before Wakefield ran off with the last three state crowns.

“I don’t know if we are really rivals,” said Wakefield coach Ann Graham. “I’m not sure who they have coming back this year. I know that there are some really strong teams. Parkland was very good last year and has an awful lot of girls back.”

Opportunities to compete indoors have been limited in the past in North Carolina, but there are many more chances to compete in North Carolina now following the opening of the JDL track.

Southeast already has run in four meets this winter, despite the canceling of two scheduled Greater Neuse Conference Polar Bear meets, which are competitions outdoors using indoor equipment and distances.

Southeast and Wakefield both competed in a meet at JDL in December, but neither team fielded its best team as most runners ran in only a couple of events instead of four. No team score was kept and Graham and Southeast coach Liz Gary put their emphasis on meeting NCHSAA championship qualifying standards rather than piling up team scores.

The immediate goal right now is to have as many athletes as possible meet the NCHSAA qualifying standards to compete in the finals.

“You need to get as many of your people qualified as you can in as many events as you can,” Gary said. “It is not so much a quantity of athletes, but quality. You want your best athletes qualified in multiple events. You also want to get as many people qualified to be fillers. They might not win, but they can pick up points and perhaps help you on a relay.”

Southeast senior Jackie Howell has run one of the fastest 55 hurdles times ever in the state (8.15 seconds), according to ncpreptrack.net, and is qualified in the 300. She’ll also be on relays.

Bulldog senior Jasmin Allen is among the tops in the state in the 500, but Gary wants her to qualify in the 300, too. Allen has run on the 4x800 relay and can run on the 4x400, but Gary would like to have the flexibility to use her in different events.

“You want to field the strongest team that you can,” Gary said. “I’d like to run the 4x400 without Jasmin to use her somewhere else. That’s why we are working to get qualified in different events.”

Freshman Eboni Roberson is expected to run the 4x800, but she could be a boost in other events, too. Southeast is strong in the shot put with junior Hassana Clark and senior Sharmani Hall.

But for all Southeast Raleigh’s strengths, Wakefield may be better.

Wakefield’s strengths should be in the 500 and 300 with runners such as JeMay Ward and Tia Robinson, who were fourth and sixth in the 500 finals in 2013, and senior Ricole Jenkins, who missed the last two track seasons to play soccer.

Ama-Selina Tchume is one of the fastest girls sprinters in the state.

The Wolverines’ Breanne Bygrave and Jasmine Moore are among the top hurdlers and Dasia Sanders already is qualified for the championships in the hurdles, too.

And Coach Ann Graham is known for assembling exceptional relays.

“We’re concentrating on getting the girls qualified and teaching them new events,” Graham said. “We’ve had great depth in recent years and we’re working on building that again. The ladies know what needs to be done. Now it is a matter of doing it.”

There is a chance the title could come down to the final event again, the 4x400 relay.

“We hope to do enough before the final race that we don’t have to win it to win the title,” Gary said. “But right now, the big thing is to get qualified in as many events as you can.”

Green Hope could be a factor in the state championships, too. The Falcons have 11 athletes qualified for the girls championships, according to ncpreptrack.net, although eight of them are in the 1,600 or 3,200.

Graham said Winston-Salem Parkland is outstanding.

“But it is still too early to tell,” Graham said. “Right now, everybody is trying to get as many ladies qualified in as many events as they can. Once you know who you have qualified, you start figuring out the way to score the most points.”

Stevens: 919-829-8910

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