Panther Creek senior J Johnson fared well enough at the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A indoor track and field championships where he would’ve finished tied for third were he his own team.
But the N.C. State recruit had a little help, and that was enough for Panther Creek to win its first boys’ state title in track.
Johnson was the meet’s MVP, winning the long jump (22 feet, 8 1/2 inches), 55-meter dash (6.36) and 300-meter dash (34.39).
Johnson’s prelim time in the 55-meter dash (6.31) was the fastest time in the nation this season.
He also teamed up for a relay that scored much-needed points as the Catamounts (40) held off runner-up West Forsyth (31), and tied-for-third place Green Hope and Garner (30 each) on Saturday at JDL Fast Track. Pinecrest (T-7th, 22), Cary (9th, 21) and Broughton (10th, 18.5) also had top-10 finishes.
“It feels great, because it gave my team an opportunity to win overall,” Johnson said. “Track wasn’t really a big thing at Panther Creek (a few years ago) ... We got more people to come out and now our team is doing way better.”
On the girls’ side, Southeast Raleigh’s 61 points were more than enough for runner-up but well behind runaway champion High Point Central (80). Hillside (fourth, 43) and Cardinal Gibbons (8th, 22) were the only other Triangle teams in the top 10.
Southeast had four runner-up finishes: Sierra Fletcher in the 55 hurdles, Kylia Wright in the 55 dash, Kyna Robinson in the 500 and the 4-by-400 relay team.
Wright’s time of 6.93 was reason for championship celebration, however – it was second in the nation this year. The only better time came from her opponent, eventual meet MVP Tamara Clark of High Point Central.
“I never had a thought of me being under 7 seconds, so when I saw that time, I was speechless,” Wright said. “I used to be (ranked) U.S. No. 30, so to come from somewhere really low, I’m really proud of myself, thankful for my coaches, thankful to God, my coaches, everyone.”
MORE GOLD, SILVER
Nine more area runners and relays were crowned champions. Pinecrest’s Tyrese Kelly won the boys triple jump (48 feet, 1/2 inch) to clip Harnett Central’s Ryan Smith (48 feet) and was second to Johnson in the long jump.
Hillside’s Kayla Beasley claimed the girls shot put (44 feet, 8 inches) over runner-up Veronica Fraley of Wakefield.
Cary’s Olivia Goodwin won the girls pole vault (11 feet, 6 inches).
Green Hope’s boys were led by the winning 4-by-800 relay team of Ian Delgado, Ares Epps, Matthew Kehn and Sean Petersen, who finished in 8 minutes, 11.52 seconds. Teammate William Hoffmann won the boys’ 500 (1:04.70) to help the Falcons’ third-place finish
Garner’s third-place team finish was keyed by the runner-up 4-by-200 boys relay team and second-place high jumper Randolph Ross.
Apex junior Cara King won girls wheelchair titles in the shot put and 55.
Hillside’s 4-by-200 girls relay team was runner-up, as was Cardinal Gibbons’ Sloan Walter in the girls’ 3,200.
Gibbons’ Connor Lane won gold in the boys’ 3,200 (9:16.13) and nearly had two wins, but was disqualified in the 1,600 for reasons unknown to Lane. He supposed he was ruled for an arm movement at the start of the race, but said he didn’t box anybody out. Cameron Ponder of Mount Tabor High in Winston-Salem won the title, but appeared more upset than Lane about the ruling.
“I didn’t think I committed a big foul, but that’s the way they saw it so that’s the way it is,” Lane said. “Even I don’t necessarily have the medal to show for it I know I had the double, I know what I did.”
Rolesville’s Christian Pigues became the program’s first indoor boys champion, winning the 1,000 (2:30.44).
“We’ve had a girls champion, my old teammate Lauren (White), so that’s kind of who I looked up to, who I was chasing,” Pigues said.
Cary finished off the running events with a win in the boys’ 4-by-400 relay as Elijah Knight, Todd Shorts, Kayin Fails and James Lundergan finished in 3:25.53.
ON THE PODIUM
Third-place: Panther Creek’s Justin Smalls (boys high jump); East Chapel Hill’s Kayla Carson (girls high jump); Southeast Raleigh’s Charlonda Washington (girls triple jump); Southeast Raleigh’s Eric Haddock (boys triple jump); Southeast Raleigh’s Candice Whitley (girls shot put); East Chapel Hill’s Skyler Noble (girls pole vault); Green Hope girls 4-by-800 relay; Cary’s Sam Handy (boys 55 hurdles); Cardinal Gibbons’ Taylor Currie (girls 55 dash); Broughton’s Stuart Holmes (boys 1,600); Hillside’s Alysia Johnson (girls 300); Apex’s Ben Savino (boys 3,200); Hillside girls 4-by-400 relay.
Fourth-place: Southeast Raleigh’s Samantha Davis (girls long jump); Panther Creek’s Susanna Truitt (girls pole vault); Hillside’s Jamila McKoy (girls 55 dash); Southeast Raleigh boys 4-by-200 relay; Green Hope’s Finn McBride (boys 1,600); Southeast Raleigh’s Sierra Fletcher (girls 300); Wakefield’s Kobe Barnes (boys 300); Green Hope’s Samantha Kolor (girls 3,200); Leesville Road’s Nathan Gamble (boys 3,200); Garner boys 4-by-400 relay.