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 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.
Saturday was also the end of an amazing run for Knightdale’s boys track and field team, who had won the last seven straight boys’ titles – four indoor, three outdoor. When they arrived on campus, the Knights had no state titles.
“All year it wasn’t going in our directions. 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,” said Johnson, who recently won the NCHSAA’s male athlete of the year award.
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.
“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.
“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’s Jason Lockamy, who won the team’s NCHSAA sportsmanship award, was third in the boys discus and teammate Reyho Tshiama won the triple jump (46-5).
“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 won the girls pole vault state title (12-6) and 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.”
In other events, Jordan’s Jordyn Brown edged two others in high jump (5-4) on misses to win.
“I cleared everything on the first attempt up until 5-6, which put me in a good position,” Brown said. “I feel amazing.”
Wakefield’s Ellijah Mallory (56-0.75) won the boys shot put, his only event of the day, despite his doubts. Holly Springs sophomore Daniel Ligons was third.
“Today (Pine Forest’s Ryan Davis) threw (54 feet) and I was like ‘uh oh,’ ” said Mallory, who lost to Davis in indoor season. After a quick switch of foot placement, his fifth throw surpassed Davis. “I really didn’t want to lose today. I need this state title.”
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.”
Others who placed on the podium (top four) included K’Lynn Beal of Broughton, who was fourth in the girls long jump and second in the triple jump. Northern Durham’s Mookie Chavis was fourth in the girls shot put.
Knightdale senior Mariah Ballen was fourth in the girls high jump and Southeast Raleigh’s Hasana Clark was third in the girls discus.
East Wake’s Damontay Rhem was fourth in the boys discus while Garner’s Michael Jenkins was third in the boys triple jump.
In sprints, Howell wins twice: Southeast Raleigh senior Jacklyn Howell was a double-winner, sweeping the hurdles – a 13.52 in the 100 hurdles, which broke the state record, and 44.67 in the 300 hurdles.
“I love to end my high school career with two wins. That (is) a very good closer for me going out of high school,” Howell said.
Cary’s Layla White won the girls 400 (55.41) while Southeast Raleigh’s Jasmin Allen was fourth. White was also second in the 200.
“I feel happy because last year in oudoor 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.
In his sophomore campaign, Hillside’s Marcus Krah won the 110 hurdles (14.06) and was third in the boys long jump.
“It felt awesome,” Krah said. “I woke up this morning and told myself I wanted to win at least one.”
Southeast Raleigh’s Jamaree Murray won the boys 400 (47.77), edging Knightdale’s Johnson. Murray was second 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
Sanderson’s Emmanuel Jackson was second in the 110 hurdles. Broughton’s Therius Styles was third in the boys’ 100 while Hillside’s McKinly Brown was fourth in the 300 hurdles.
Wakefield sophomore Breanne Bygrave, who won her team’s NCHSAA sportsmanship award, was third in the girls’ 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles. Wolverines teammate Ama-Selina Tschume – who was also third in the 200 – was third in the 100 dash while Riverside’s Atlanta Woodall was fourth.
Clayton’s Kennedy Thorne was fourth in the 300 hurdles.
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 boys’ 3,200 race, Broughton’s William Roberson was second and East Chapel Hill’s Ryan Brady was third.
In the 800, Cary’s Lakeisha Warner was second in the girls race while Southeast Raleigh’s Jayquan Williams took fourth among the boys.
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.
Wakefield’s girls were fourth in the 4-by-800, third in the 4-by-200 and second in the 4-by-100.
Southeast Raleigh’s girls were third in the 4-by-100. Cary’s girls were second in the 4-by-400 while Sanderson was third.
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.”
Green Hope’s all-senior boys 4-by-800 relay team was second while Knightdale was fourth. Garner was fourth in the 4-by-100 boys relay.
Wheelchair and adaptive 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.
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.