The Knightdale boys’ indoor track program, the winner of the past four NCHSAA 4A state titles, graduated most of the athletes who scored in the 2014 indoor championships.
The only returning Knight who scored points in the state meet is Jamie Brown, the defending state champion in the high jump (6-foot-4).
“We lost all those kids that were part of state championships the last four years – the Johnsons (Marcell and Marquavious), Henry Kiedy, Corey Aikens, Kimani Hoffman,” said first-year indoor coach Mark Batey. “It’s just going to be a rebuilding year for us. Our expectations are still going to be high, but we have to be realistic of where we’re at.”
Last year, the Knights almost doubled the score on second-place Winston-Salem Mount Tabor, 80-43, for the fourth straight championship, including a share of the title with Southeast Guilford in 2012.
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There’s no reason to panic, according to Brown, a senior who has more than once seen the team shoulder the burden of graduation and hardly miss a step.
“I’ve known nothing but state championship teams,” Brown said. “I know this year I’m going to have to be a leader and help the younger kids coming through, but we have some strong kids coming through. If we can get on board and get them to buy into the system, we can be a contender.”
Batey expects some of his athletes will have to compete in the maximum allowed four events because of a lack of depth. That makes almost every athlete, Brown included, a candidate to be featured on a relay team.
Brown said there is a promising group in the reloading program. He anticipates an impact from junior sprinters Taurez Williams and Jaelen Williams.
Others to watch include seniors Javon Sanford (relays, sprints) and Kameron Ballen (relays, shot put, sprints), and freshman Kendell Thomas (relays, sprints).
Brown says he’s not feeling pressured by the leadership role so much as he is anxious to get back into his training groove, now that football season has ended at Knightdale.
“I know if I train the way I have to, I can keep growing as a person, help lead my team and score more points,” he said. “I see it as just another challenge to be taken and fulfilled.”
Teams to watch
Apex: The Cougars came close to winning the NCHSAA 4A outdoor title last spring and were fifth in indoor championships. The Cougars were strong in the pole vault, claiming the first three places. Indoor champ Michael Utecht (15 feet) and outdoor champ Drew Pederson (14 ) are back.
Broughton: The Caps have the top 4A boys’ distance running corps in the state, having won four consecutive cross country titles. Junior Jeremy Brown recently won the cross country championship. He was fifth last season in the indoor 3,200.
Cardinal Gibbons: The Crusaders won the 3A cross country title as junior Connor Peeples, senior David Edwards and Connor Lane were among the top 12. Peeples was fifth indoors in the 3A 1,600 (4:32.82) and Edwards was third in the 3,200 (9:45.7).
Hillside: Junior Marcus Krah is one of the top high school track athletes in the state. He won the 55-meters hurdles (7.43 seconds) and was second in the long jump (22 feet, 6 inches). Desmond Jackson, who uses prothesis, dominates the adaptive events. He won the 55 (8.83) and the long jump (13 feet).
Southeast Raleigh: The Bulldogs are a perennial power in track and were fourth indoors last year.
Athletes to watch
Dean Asbushouk, Sr., Cary: Took sixth in the 4A indoor 3,200 (9:45.33) and was fifth in cross country (16:13).
Jamie Brown, Sr., Knightdale: Returning champion in the 4A high jump (6-04).
Iyin Battle, Jr., East Chapel Hill: Third in shotput (48-feet, 2.5 inches).
Kyle Christ, Sr., West Johnston: 4A runner-up in cross country.
Emmanuel Jackson, Sr., Sanderson: Ran a 7.48 to finish second in the 55-meters hurdles.
Parker Lee, Sr., Fuquay-Varina: Finished second in the 1,600 (4:27.72).
Dylan Pinder, So., North Johnston: Won the 1A/2A wheelchair 55 (14.37) and was second in the wheelchair shot.
Nicholas Walker, Sr., N.C. Science & Math: Was second in the 1A/2A 3,200 (9:51.75) and third in the 1,600 (4:35.21).