The Southwest Wake Athletic Conference track and field championship trophies will have new names for the first time in nine years.
Panther Creek completed a remarkable turnaround in winning the boys title, while Green Hope dominated the girls meet that was completed on a chilly, damp night at Panther Creek on Thursday. It marks the first time since 2007 that a team other than Apex or Cary won the conference title.
The Catamounts edged rival Green Hope 146.5-134 to capture the boys’ title in coach Paul Scruggs’ first season.
“It definitely was a group effort,” said Scruggs, who coached at North Pitt last season. “This is a great place to compete in track. Green Hope ran a 7:41 (in the 3,200-meter relay) at the Penn Relays last week. Everybody else noticed you had to step up if you want to run with the big dogs.”
Panther Creek finished last in the SWAC meet two years ago, improving to third last year. And now, the Catamounts are conference champions.
“It means a lot because we really gained a lot in our sprinting events,” junior J Johnson said. “We all got serious about it. It shows the potential we have, and that we’re bringing it to the meets now and showing people how good we are.”
Johnson earned runner of the year honors, scoring 26 points for the Catamounts. He won the long jump on Wednesday, running in the 100 meters, too.
“J’s a competitor,” Scruggs said. “One of his last long jumps of the day, he said, ‘What’s in first place?’ ‘22.’ He said, ‘OK,’ and went out there and jumped 22-1. He knew exactly what he needed.”
Green Hope won three events Thursday, while PC won one and tied for first in another. But depth powered the Catamounts, as seven of the top 23 scorers were from Panther Creek.
“It’s pretty great,” Scruggs said. “This year’s group, a lot of them are very self-motivated, and there are a lot of good leaders. Jimmy (Jones) doesn’t get all the glory with points and things like that, but at the start of practice, he’s the one who gets them warmed up. It’s a lot of good leadership from guys like that.”
Scruggs also credited senior Alec Carlson and juniors Kyle Fawzi and Drake Schwehm – all middle-distance runners – for helping the team mature.
“They’ve been here for a couple years,” Scruggs said. “They’ve been in the SWAC environment for a few years, so they know what it’s going to take to score in big races.”
Justin Smalls tied for the high jump title with Sam Handy of Cary, and Brandon Holmes won the 110 hurdles for PC on Thursday. Holmes also helped the 800-meter relay team win on Wednesday.
“We butt heads from time to time,” Scruggs said, “but when it comes time for a big competition, (Holmes) got it done.”
Holly Springs’ Jordan Brown won the triple jump Thursday and scored 22 points for the Golden Hawks to win field MVP honors.
Middle Creek finished third with 85 points, with Cary (81) fourth and defending SWAC champion Apex (73.5) fifth.
Green Hope dominated the girls’ meet, scoring 216 points to beat Panther Creek by 114 points. Cary, which won the SWAC title the last two seasons, was third with 98 points, followed by Apex (86) and Holly Springs (50.5).
Senior Kayla Foy won four events, scored 20 points and earned runner of the year honors. On Wednesday, she broke the school record of 12.06 seconds to win the 100 and ran on the winning 800-meter relay team. Foy then won the 200 and was on the 400-meter relay team on Thursday.
“I performed pretty good,” Foy said. “My 100 from (Wednesday) felt smoother than normal. The 200 was pretty hard because of the wind, but I did pretty good, I feel like. Could’ve been better. I’m proud of my girls on the 4x100 team. We’ve been putting in a lot of work.”
Foy, a transfer from E.E. Smith in Fayetteville, was one of three individual Falcon winners Thursday. Elly Henes won the 800 and Lindsey Eastwood won the 400. Green Hope also won the 400- and 1,600-meter relays.
“I’m happy, and I’m happy for them,” Foy said. “I’m new to the school, so I’m glad I could help.”
Foy, Henes and Eastwood each scored 20 points for Green Hope.
“They really showed their dominance this week,” Falcons boys coach Jason Bochert said of the girls team. “They did well in every area: the field events, the sprinting events and the distance events. That’s the all-around team, and a deserving winner.”
Cary’s Olivia Goodwin won the long jump and pole vault to earn girls’ field MVP.
Green Hope’s Henry Pehr won the boys 800 in 1:56.91 seconds, leading a 1-2-3 sweep for the Falcons, while teammate Jayquan Williams won the 400 in 49.22. The Falcons also won the boys 1,600-meter relay.
Fuquay-Varina’s Cameron Milligan won the 100 and 200 on Wednesday, and the Bengals won the boys 400-meter relay.
Matt Thornton of Cary won the 3,200. Terrell Adams of Middle Creek set a meet record of 180 feet, two inches in winning the discus.
Panther Creek’s Azari’el Wilson won the girls 110-meter hurdles, with teammate Bridgette Sullivan claiming the 3,200-meter run title.
Minyarn Smalls of Cary won the girls shot put with a winning length of 34 feet, one-half inch.
Panther Creek 146.5
Green Hope 134
Middle Creek 85
Holly Springs 49
Athens Drive 18
Apex Friendship 10
Green Hope 216
Panther Creek 102
Holly Springs 50.5
Middle Creek 49
Athens Drive 44
Apex Friendship 19.5