Chapel Hill: Sports

East hosts first ‘polar bear’ outdoor meet

Chapel Hill runner Natnael Romaine, right, leads the pack around the first turn as he heads toward a win in the 3,200-meters event Saturday at East Chapel Hill’s “Polar Bear” meet.
Chapel Hill runner Natnael Romaine, right, leads the pack around the first turn as he heads toward a win in the 3,200-meters event Saturday at East Chapel Hill’s “Polar Bear” meet. RANDY YOUNG

East Chapel Hill High School was unwilling to wait until spring to debut its renovated track, so it unveiled the new surface last Saturday with the Wildcats’ inaugural Polar Bear Track and Field Meet.

Even with winter officially more than a week ahead, Saturday’s meet is considered the school district’s first “winter meet” held out outdoors.

“Judging by the feedback I received from the other coaches and athletes, the meet was a success and achieved the goals it was developed for,” East track and field coach Jon Beyle said. “Before we left the facility yesterday, there was talk of wanting to have another meet next month, kind of a ‘last chance’ meet.”

With just two indoor tracks available in North Carolina – one in Chapel Hill and one in Winston-Salem – for multi-team meets, “Polar Bear” meets are gaining popularity across the state. The N.C. High School Athletics Association recently authorized outdoor meets as qualifiers for its annual indoor track championships.

Six schools entered athletes in the meet. East Chapel Hill won the boys’ meet with 100 points, followed by Carrboro (62 points), N.C. School of Science & Math (51), Durham Jordan (50), Chapel Hill (30) and Northern Durham (12). Chapel Hill won the girls’ meet with 93 points to East Chapel Hill’s 74. Jordan (28) was third in a close race with NCSSM (26) and Carrboro (24), while Northern was sixth.

Thirteen individual athletes and a relay team qualified Saturday for the 2015 NCHSAA indoor championships, to be held Feb. 13-14 in Winston-Salem.

“This is a meet held outdoors but run with indoor distance and events,” Beyle noted. “For most of the kids who attended yesterday, it was either their first or second meet of the season.”

And for many of them, it was the first time running some of the events outdoors.

For example, Carrboro’s Theodore Winans became the district’s first runner ever to win a 300 meters and 55 meters run outdoors, and Amy Carpenter of Carrboro was the first ever to win a 500 meters outdoors. Both qualified for the state championship meet.

“The main reason I wanted to host this meet was to break up their training, better help them and me evaluate where they are now from a training standpoint, and to gain some meet experience,” Beyle said.

But he wasn’t upset to see the number of athletes who hit state qualifying marks.

Qualifiers from 4A schools included East Chapel Hill’s James Gildard (1000 meters) and Iyan Battle (boys’ shot put), and Jordan’s Isaiah Southerland (55 meters) and Blake Taylor (girls shot put).

Chapel Hill saw six girls qualify for the 3A championships: Katherine Dokholyan (1600) and Quaniece Fish (long jump); and the 4x800 relay team of Marija Crook, Maeve Gualtieri-Reed, Milly Ames and Anna Passannante.

Carrboro qualified athletes in six events, the most of any school present Saturday. Winans and Noah Lambert (boys high jump, long jump) were double winners. Alexandra Jones qualified in girls shot put and Amy Carpenter in the girls 500 meters. NCSSM had three 2A qualifiers: Nick Walker (boys 1600); Emily Lambeth (girls 3200) and Natalie Sherman-Jollis (girls 3200).

Beyle said he’d like to host a “last chance” meet in January for potential state qualifiers, but said the weather could play a part in scheduling. He’s willing to have his runners compete in the cold, but not artic weather.

Ironically enough for a winter meet, the weather Saturday was surprisingly mild – clear, with temperatures heading into the 60s.

“The weather couldn’t have been better for a mid-December meet,” Beyle said.