Despite the successes of their respective squads during the regular season, Cleveland track and field coaches Joe Capps and Wayne Stewart knew they were in for dogfights Thursday afternoon.
But behind solid team efforts, led by Tiandra Jenkins and Josh Carter, the Rams completed perfect seasons in league action by sweeping the team titles in the inaugural Two Rivers 3A Conference Championships at South Johnston’s Ronald Avery Stadium.
Jenkins claimed three individual titles and a fourth first place finish on the 4-by-100-meter relay team in amassing 32.5 points in leading the Rams to a 168-146 victory over Corinth Holders. Western Harnett was third with 79 points, followed by Triton (62). South Johnston (61) and Smithfield-Selma (29).
Jenkins’ effort enabled her to share the meet’s Most Outstanding Female Athlete honors with Corinth Holder’s Arden Vessie, who also posted a trio of individual wins and a relay gold as well.
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Carter rung up 30 points as Most Outstanding Male Athlete in leading the Rams to an overwhelming, 171-113 triumph over runner-up Western Harnett. Triton placed third in the boys standings with 98 points, while Corinth Holders (75), South Johnston (56) and Smithfield-Selma (34) completed the order of finish.
Jenkins earned first place finishes in the 100 and the long jump, while participating on the victorious 4x100 relay unit.
But a malfunction of the starter’s gun, which was a problem in the meet in the early track events, almost cost her the award.
In the 200-meter dash, the gun failed to fire to signal a false start, and the competitors raced down the track to the conclusion of the race. Officials informed the Cleveland coaches and Jenkins that she had been disqualified. But after a lengthy discussion and vote by the coaches in the post-meet meeting, Jenkins was awarded the first place points and a share of the award with Vessie.
Jenkins’ won the 100 in 12.16, while her winning leap was 16 feet, 8 inches. The Cleveland girls’ 400 relay squad posted a time of 50.56 seconds, while Jenkins went 25.91 in the 200.
Vessie claimed her individual golds in the 800 (2:27), the 1,600 (5:39) and the 3,200 (11:42) runs, while participating in the 3,200 relay won by the Pirates in a time of 10:39.
Both girls had a lot of support from their teammates. The Rams posted a total of seven event victories, including those by Jenkins, while the Pirates also hauled in a total of seven gold medals.
Sydni Fields earned two individual firsts for Cleveland, taking the triple jump with a leap of 32-5 and won the 200 (48.66). Fields also placed second in 100 hurdles. Alyssa Rivera captured the 400 in 1:03, while the 1,600 relay won in 4:19. Also placing second for the Rams were Imani Williams in the 300 and Malbry Macon in the triple jump.
Third-place finishes were secured by Wallace Driggers (discus), Rivera (200) Cassidy McNierney in the long and high jumps, and the 4x800 relay team.
“We knew coming into the meet, it would be a tight competition,” Stewart said. “Corinth Holders, Western Harnett and Triton have really good teams. But our girls did really well. I’m very proud of them; they did a tremendous job.”
Vessie was complemented by Samara Giibson and Marie Pickett, claiming gold in the 200 (25.53) and 100 hurdles (16.45), respectively. The 4x200 relay also won for the Pirates in a time of 1:31.53.
Runner-up performances came from Kayla St. Marie in the 1,600, Bryanna Sacca in the 3,200 Megan Chappell in the 400, Kendall Stephens in pole vault and the 400 relay. South picked up wins from Savannah Creed in the pole vault with a clearance of 9-6, and Alexis Massengill in the shot put with a heave of 33 feet.
Gibson and Pickett also took third-place finishes, as did Sicely Sohn. Gibson took third in the 100 meters, while Pickett earned hers in the 300 and Sohn in pole vault.
Chyann Ketchum picked up a pair of runner-up showings in discus and shot put for the Trojans, while Teona Bannerman paced the Spartans with a second-place showing in the 100 dash.
Carter claimed wins in the triple and long jumps with leaps of 42-6 and 20-10 1/2, respectively. He added a runner-up effort in the 100 hurdles and a fifth-place finish in the 200.
“It was a challenge today,” Capps said. “We knew if we put Josh n the individual events, we stood a good chance. We felt we could score more points with him in those events, and he came through just like he has ll year long.”
The Rams recorded five additional event wins in rolling to the team crown, winning the 4x400 (3:34) and the 400 (44.62) while Tyler Delucca claimed the 200 at 22.72 and the 400 (52.03)
Taiquan Dixon won the 400 (52.03) and added a runner-up showing in the high jump. Runner-up performances also came from Dylan Caldwell in discus and shot put; DeQuan Gooding in the long jump, Austin Blumenberg in the 800 and by the 4-by-800 and 4-by-200.
Dallas Vann won the pole vault for Corinth Holders with a clearance of 10-6, while Jacob Gonzalez won the 1,600 run for South at 4:34. Ye’shen Archibald led the SSS boys with a third in the 200. South’s Eric Bowles’ was the runner-up in the 100.