Saturday marked the end of an amazing run for Knightdale’s boys track and field team, which had won the last seven straight 4A boys’ titles – four indoor, three outdoor.
When they arrived on campus, the Knights had no state titles. The boys team finished 8th in the state meet at N.C. A&T University.
“All year it wasn’t going in our directions,” said Marquavious Johnson, who recently won the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s male athlete of the year award. “We had some of our best players injured with knee problems and back problems. But it is what it is. We can still say we had a great career.”
This year’s titles went to teams from Winston-Salem – the Parkland girls and Mount Tabor boys.
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Mount Tabor clinched the title 63-57 over Apex in the final event. Parkland’s 89 points were well beyond coach Ann Graham’s Wakefield girls, who finished runner-up for the second straight year. But second was no small feat for the young team, whose 51 points narrowly topped other Triangle teams like Cary (47, 4th), Apex (46, T5th) and Southeast Raleigh (46, T5th).
“We didn’t have any championship medals, but overall they all did well,” Graham said.
Even if the team scores didn’t go the Triangle’s way, the podium was a frequent stop for the area’s athletes.
Southeast Raleigh’s boys won the 4-by-400 (3:16.12) and Wakefield moved up from fourth to third after Knightdale was disqualified for “unsporting conduct.”
Southeast had stepped out of its lane and was flagged for it during the race, but it never led to a disqualification for the Bulldogs. Jamaree Murray had bumped into the Knights’ Marcell Johnson after his leg was done, and Johnson took exception.
Green Hope’s all-senior boys 4-by-800 relay team was second while Knightdale (7:58.18) was fourth. Garner was fourth in the 4-by-100 boys relay.
Knightdale senior Mariah Ballen was fourth in the girls high jump (5-2) and Southeast Raleigh’s Hasana Clark was third in the girls discus.
East Wake’s Damontay Rhem (156-8) was fourth in the boys discus while Garner’s Michael Jenkins was third in the boys triple jump.
“It feels good,” Rhem said. “I’m making progression and that’s all that matters. I feel like if I’m not taking any steps back, everything is going to be good.”
Southeast’s Murray won the boys 400 (47.77), edging Knightdale’s Marquavious Johnson (48.12). Murray was second and Johnson was fifth in the 200.
“Last year I came up short – got second last year – but I was dealing with a lot of injuries. This past season I’ve been working on staying healthy,” Murray said. “It wasn’t the time I wanted, but a win is a win.”
Garner’s Nyheim Hines, a junior but running in his last NCHSAA championship as he plans to graduate a semester early, was second in the boys’ 100 dash and 300 hurdles.
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.
Hillside freshman Desmond Jackson became the first NCHSAA amputee to compete. He earned one point each in the “adaptive” 100, 200, 400 and long jump.
“It’s been a good experience,” Jackson said.