Knights look to build on school's third regional track & field title
BY JESSIE H. NUNERY
Thursday, May 17, 2018
Northern Nash snuck up on the competition during last weekend's regional meet.
The Knights then outlasted other teams near the top of the scoreboard and ended up adding to the school's history.
The boys' track & field squad earned the school's third regional title on the strength of its relay and distance events, and a group of eight Knights will take that momentum into Friday's NCHSAA 3-A state meet at N.C. A&T in Greensboro.
Stuck on 18 points entering the relay and distance events, the Knights earned 54 points down the stretch to win the school's first regional title since 2006. The Knights also won a regional in 1995.
"Our strength is in the second half of our meets," Knights coach Jeff Dodrill said.
Brandon Richardson earned victories in the long and triple jump, and that was the extent of the Knights success until Malcom Wade won the 300 hurdles, Jaylen Wilkins finished third in the 800, Jordan Richardson won the 3200 and the 4x400 (Tyren Wiggins, Elijah Spencer, Jaylen Wilkins, Malcom Wade) and 4x800 relay squads (Jordan Richardson, Camden Johnson, Jaylen Wilkins, Tyren Wiggins) finished fourth and second.
It added up to a close victory (72 points) over Clayton Cleveland (64) as only seven points seperated the first- and third-place teams going into the final two events at Mount Olive College.
Dodrill said the team's confidence has steadily grown since the indoor season and a few invitationals where the team finished second to Raleigh Leesville Road then beat them in a meet that included 45 schools.
"That was the springboard for us," Dodrill said. "It let them know that we are a good team and we started to believe what we could do as a team."
The Knights will send eight athletes to Greensboro and one female athlete, Kylar Wiggins, who finished second in the 400 at the regional.
The Firebirds can't compete with other schools in regard to the number of athletes they bring to meets, but the ones that do show up are tough to beat.
Coach Brian Rice's squad finished fifth at the 3-A East Regional last week, using every bit of its speed to earn a spot in this weekend's state meet.
2016 200 meter champion Nadir Thompson won the 100 and 200 meters at the regional, one year after a hamstring injury prevented him from competing in the event.
Southern Nash also was strong in relay events. The 4x200 relay squad of Thompson DaeOne Wilkins, Darius Edmundson and Zonovan Knight won the regional title, while the 4x100 relay squad of Wilkins, Knight, Edmundson and Kendrick Bell finished third.
Rice said he was impressed with his group considering the fast times other athletes ran in temperatures that reached the mid-90s.
"As I coach, I really hate to see this group leave Southern Nash, because they are good kids," Rice said. "As a coach, they make my job a lot easier. It's easy to coach kids who push each other and work hard. I've never had to coach their effort."
Coach Juan Jackson watched a group of college-ready girls' sprinters lead the Bulldogs to a 4x400 state championship finish in the 2017 3-A state championships.
This season, the Bulldogs are excelling in field events to keep the program relevant.
Nash Central finished third at the 2-A East regional last weekend, and it was heavily on the merits of field events.
"I'm very impressed with the performance despite heavy graduation losses suffered last year," Jackson said. "The young ladies stepped up and became stronger in field events where in past year it has been sprints. The field events have carried us throughout the year."
The success starts with junior Sarah Hicks, who won the regional championship last week in the pole vault. Hicks holds the school record in the event (10 feet), and she finished third in the long jump and fourth in the triple jump last week. She was the Eastern Plains Conference Field Event Athlete of the Year.
Myka Hedgepeth was second in the hurdles and triple jump and third in the pole vault, while Naudika Howard was second in the long jump, third in the high jump and fifth in the triple jump.
Montana Williams, the Eastern Plains Conference Runner of the year, will also make the trip to Greensboro on Saturday in distance events.
Jackson said the Bulldogs' sprinters and relay participants are mostly underclassmen who have shown promise despite little experience.
On the boys' side, the Eastern Plains Conference champions finished fourth in the region. Byron Hawkins, who fell during the 110 meter hurdles in last year's regional, won the event last weekend.
Anthony Styles finished first in the pole vault, followed by Quante Downey, who holds the school record (13-3) in the event. Jahkee Williams was third in the pole vault, while Kazelee Johnson placed third in both the 800 and 1600.
Rocky Mount High
The Gryphons will be represented by Tamerick Harris, Maliek Small, Joshua Harper and Damian Moore in the 4x400 relay and Antwain Dunston in the discus throw.
Freshman Taniya Everette qualified for the 800 and 1600 meter runs in Friday's 1-A meet. She will be joined by junior Kiana Sherrod, who will compete in the high jump. On the boys' side, the Vikings will send sophomore Kimani McDaniels (200), Jaheem Thomas (high jump) and Keon Caudle and Nico Barnes in the 100 hurdles.
Rocky Mount Prep
Sophomore Terrance Booth will run in the 110 and 300 meter hurdles.
Senior Kevon Pittman will compete in the discus throw.