Nobody will ever see a much better race than three sophomores from Johnston County put on in the boys’ 1600 on Saturday at Corinth Holders.
South Johnston’s Jacob Gonzalez ran a 4:27.5 to win the “metric mile” at the NCHSAA East Regional on Saturday, followed by Cleveland’s Gable Dershem at 4:30.52 and the host Pirates’ Patrick Myers third in 4:31.14.
Gonzalez finished with the distance double as he ran away from the field in the 3200 in 9:46.72, with Wyatt Dershem – Gable’s twin – third at 10:07.01 and Gable Dershem fourth in 10:13.75.
“I had planned to go 33 (seconds) in every 200 split,” Gonzalez said of the 1600. “When I heard 31 I kind of stayed the same and let them go ahead. Over the last 300 I just went by them, because I know I have a better kick.”
But the points from the Dershems and others were huge for the Rams, who got past West Carteret 76 1/2-67 to win the boys’ meet for the second time in three seasons. Corinth Holders was seventh with 44 points while South Johnston was 11th with 29.
“I was trying to get out front,” Gable Dershem said about the classic 1600. “But Jacob has a great kick. To finish 1-2-3 obviously we’re doing something right.”
Added Myers, “I felt like I had a good race. I race them often. I just wanted to make it a good race. The most important thing was to qualify. We’re all sophomores and will be racing each other for a long time to come.”
Cleveland finished second in the girls’ meet for the second straight year, scoring 66 points behind West Carteret’s 71. Corinth Holders was seventh with 40 points while Smithfield-Selma was 17th with 16.
The top four finishers in each event advanced to Friday’s state meet at N.C. A&T in Greensboro.
While Gonzalez was Johnston county’s only first-place finisher in the boys’ meet, the county had several impressive female winners.
Corinth Holders senior Arden Vessie was just as dominant in the girls’ 3200, smashing the field in 11:53.26 while SSS freshman Gwyn Reece was an impressive second in 12:20.66 and while the Pirates’ Kayla Ste. Marie closed with an impressive sprint to qualify for the state meet with a fourth-place 12:39.40.
“I was kind of out there on my own for a while,” Vessie said. “My first mile was too fast, so I had to slow it down for the last four laps. But I knew where I was and I felt good.”
Added Reece, “I didn’t expect to place that high. But I had some great competition. I’m really excited just to have a chance to go to state.”
Cleveland’s Alyssa Rivera blew by everyone down the stretch to win the 400 in 58.77, while the Pirates’ Samara Gibson was third in 1:00.09 and was taken away for medical attention after the race. Gibson was unable to compete further, but was fine later in the evening.
“I was completely blinded and didn’t see much coming around the turn,” Rivera said. “That was by far the best race I have ever run – and also the craziest.”
Corinth Holders’ Cameron Rutherford outclassed the field over the final 250 meters to win the 800 in 2:26.75.
“I had finished fifth so many times in this race I was sick of it,” Rutherford said. “I saw the time was so fast today. But I worked so hard and my mom (Crystal) had helped me so long – I wanted this bad enough that I was finally able to do it.”
And South Johnston’s Savannah Creed confidently won the pole vault at 11-0.
“It wasn’t my best,” said Creed, who won at the regional for the first time. “I was trying to qualify in the long jump so I warmed up and cooled down several times. But I’m glad to be going to state.”
Other Johnston County boys qualifying for the state meet in individual events included South’s Tyquandre Thompson in third (134-3) and Cleveland’s Bryer Rogers fourth (133-3) in the discus; the Rams’ Kamal Rawlings third in the 100 at 11.3; Cleveland’s Tyler DeLuca third in the 200 at 23.11; the Rams’ Austin Blumenberg fourth in the 800 at 1:59.64; and the Pirates’ Grant Sullivan fourth in the pole vault at 12-6.
“We thought we were close enough to have a chance,” Cleveland girls’ coach Wayne Stewart said. “We won some things we weren’t expected to win and finished higher than people might have expected, and that helped out boys’ team win. And I wish we had gotten a few more points in the girls’ competition, but it was a really good day.”
Other Johnston county girls qualifying in individual events were Cleveland’s Cassidy McNierney, who was second in the long jump (16-10 3/4) and fourth in the triple jump; and the Rams’ Sydni Fields with a third in the 100 hurdles at 16.36.
In boys’ relays Cleveland qualified with third-place finishes in the 400m and 1600m and fourth in the 3200m, while Corinth Holders was fourth in both the 4x100 and 4x200.
“Cameron Rutherford and Arden Vessie had great wins for us today,” Corinth Holders girls’ coach Peter Clark said. “A lot of the people in the (Two Rivers) Conference and the region worked really hard to make this a great meet.”
In girls’ relays Cleveland was second in the 400 and 800m, while Corinth Holders was fourth in the 3200m.