Apex coach Roy Cooper’s 30th year as track and field coach nearly ended with a state championship. But on Saturday, the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A track and field championships went to teams from Winston-Salem – the Parkland girls and Mount Tabor boys.
Mount Tabor clinched the title 63-57 in the final event.
“The kids that we brought up here ended up performing at or better than we thought we would perform. We just came up a little short there and there,” Cooper said.
Parkland’s 89 points were well beyond runner-up Wakefield. The Wolverines’ 51 points narrowly topped other Triangle teams like Cary (47, 4th), Apex (46, T5th) and Southeast Raleigh (46, T5th).
Even if the team scores didn’t go the Triangle’s way, the podium was a frequent stop for the area’s athletes.
Apex dominates field events: In some years, Apex junior Sydnei Murphy would have been the girls MVP. She had the most individual points, but this year the MVP was decided on a coaches’ vote and went to Parkland’s Katlin Sherman.
Murphy won the long jump (19-5.25) and triple jump (39-7.5). In sprints, she was second in the 100 and sixth in the 200, accruing 32 points.
Not bad for someone who only recently started jumping.
“It’s a blessing, since I just started” the triple and long jump, Murphy said. “I didn’t expect to come to states in four events and win multiple because I hadn’t even been jumping.”
Apex’s big day was fueled by field events.
The Cougars went first (Drew Pedersen, 15-6), third (defending champ Joe DeVries, 14-6) and fourth (Michael Utecht, 14-6) in the boys pole vault.
DeVries had won the conference meet, while Pedersen won the regional title. On Saturday, it was all but assumed an Apex pole vaulter would win – just not which one.
“Every meet is anyone’s meet. They are the ones getting me to the higher bars, driving me and motivating me,” Pedersen said. “We all help each other with our steps and what to do. If our coach can’t be with us, we coach each other.”
Apex senior Reyho Tshiama won the triple jump (46-5) and was nearly part of his second team championship this year. He was also a member of the 4A champion boys basketball team.
“They told me it was my last jump and I had to (win) it. And I did it,” Tshiama said. “I just wanted to win a state championship for my coach (Cooper).”
Apex’s Anna Eaton made it a boy-girl sweep of the pole vault (12-6). Teammate Sydney Isgett was fourth to give the Cougars five state placers in the event.
“We have a lot of support from our team,” Eaton said. “We all train together and help each other out. And our coaches are great.”
Holly Springs’ Lamar Nobles was fourth in the long jump and won the high jump title (6-6).
“I didn’t do good at regionals in the high jump, so I worked hard this week,” Nobles said. “I had to work on my approach.”
Holly Springs sophomore Daniel Ligons was third in the boys shot put. Apex’s Jason Lockamy, who won the team’s NCHSAA sportsmanship award, was third in the boys discus.
In sprints, White wins 400: Cary’s Layla White won the girls 400 (55.41). White was also second in the 200.
“I feel happy because last year in outdoor I got hurt. I ran but I wasn’t as good. This year I wanted to show that I’m good indoor and outdoor,” White said.
Henes, Coulter second in distance: There were no area winners in distance events, but Green Hope’s Elly Henes was second in the girls 1,600. Apex’s Mihret Coulter was second in the boys 1,600 while Fuquay-Varina’s Parker Lee was third.
Panther Creek’s Rebekah Greengrass was third in the girls 3,200 while Green Hope’s Theresa Enright was fourth.
In the 800, Cary’s Lakeisha Warner was second in the girls race.
Cary takes a relay win: Cary’s all-junior girls team of Julia Brown, Lakeisha Warner, Cayla Rodney and White won the 4-by-800 relay (9:09.58). Green Hope was third.
Cary’s girls were second in the 4-by-400. Green Hope’s all-senior boys 4-by-800 relay team was second.
Wheelchair races: This was the first time the NCHSAA title had wheelchair events become a deciding factor. Mount Tabor scored eight points from its wheelchair events to win by six.