Midtown: Sports

Runners turn out from near and far to support coach Roy Cooper and his milestone at Bojangles Apex Lions Relays

The call for Apex alums to return for coach Roy Cooper’s 30th year of directing the Bojangles Apex Lions Relays drew former track athletes far and near on Saturday to Cougar Stadium.

From far away was Trudy Monagle (formerly Loge, Class of 1987), who now makes her home in Wilmington, Del.

“Roy instilled in me a lifelong love of running and staying fit,” said Monagle, a marathoner. “He taught me how to set goals. I wasn’t one of the fastest runners, but he kept everyone involved.”

From nearby was Megan O’Donnell (formerly Walling, Class of 2002). The Apex all-conference runner who went on to compete at East Carolina is now a Cougars assistant coach and second grade teacher at Laurel Park Elementary.

This was the 34th edition of the meet that has grown to 56 schools during Cooper’s time. His tenure, measured in decades, has overlapped into an era when high school coaches increasingly step down from the demands after only a few years.

“I love coaching,” Cooper said. “The financial rewards are long since gone. I enjoy not only for seeing my kids but kids from all the schools performing well.”

Apex won the boys team title with 42 points to Knightdale’s 37 and Broughton’s 36. Winston-Salem Parkland won the girls crown with 54 points to Wakefield’s 48 and Green Hope’s 40. Parkland’s roster included girls who had competed last week in California in the prestigious Arcadia Invitational.

The Pacific Northwest-like drizzle hovering over the stadium forced the cancelation of the high jump, long jump, triple jump and pole vault, and tempered the sprinters’ performances.

“On a day like this, you have to keep moving to keep warm,” said Cary’s Desi Rowell, who ran on the Imps’ 800-sprint medley team along with Susie Ngwe, Charminique Hackney and All-American anchor Layla White.

The time was fast, but with the nagging injuries and conditions, the Imps’ quartet opted to scratch their remaining relay events.

Distance runners thrived as North Raleigh Christian’s Ryan Speer won the boys 1,600 meters in 4 minutes, 15.06 seconds. The mark ranks third all-time in meet history. Nick Linder of Charlotte Providence Day was second in 4:16.59, and Apex’s Mihret Coulter third with a personal-record 4:19.36.

“I loved the conditions; it keeps your body cool,” Coulter said. “Ryan pushed the pace and that helped me set a PR.”

In the girls 1,600, Ravenscroft’s Ryen Frazier continues to trace her older sister Wesley’s fast footsteps with a 4:53.71, which ranks third all-time for the meet. Only Wesley, a Duke freshman, has run faster with a 4:45.82 in 2012 and 4:47.48 in 2013.

The lone meet record set was in the girls 4x1,600 relay as Cardinal Gibbons and Green Hope both beat the Green Hope’s 2012 mark of 21:36.34. Cardinal Gibbons’ Rachel Bartolomeo, Sophie Ebihara, Mary Grace Doggett and Megan Vaughn smashed the standard with a 21:25:57. Green Hope’s Elly Henes, Katie Tomasi, Theresa Enright and Savannah Lips were under in 21:35.89.

In other individual boys events, Cary Academy’s Jonathan Avery won the 100 in 11.00 to edge Apex’s Tyler Cook by 0.01. In the 110 hurdles, Sanderson’s Emmanuel Jackson won with a 14.44.

In other individual girls events, Southeast Raleigh’s Jacklyn Howell won the 100 hurdles in 14.65. Apex’s Sydnei Murphy won the 100 in 12.18.