The sun had set and the lights had clicked on at Rocky Mount High School by the time Gryphons girls’ track coach Keith Barnes was able to put an end to his day. After all the medals were handed out and the equipment stowed away, Barnes stood just off the track and needed to count meticulously to remember how many consecutive times Rocky Mount had won its conference championship.
He ran out of fingers and still wasn’t finished. After the Gryphons’ girls’ team blew past the field at Thursday’s Big East Conference Championships, Barnes and the Gryphons have their 12th consecutive league title.
Making the day even sweeter for the Gryphons was their boys’ team, which was able to come out on top of a closely matched Big East field.
“The secret is having a bunch of willing people and having them perform their best when they have to,” Barnes said. “We’re trying to establish a tradition.”
The Big East was a long way from its inception when Rocky Mount began its streak in 2003. The last time Rocky Mount failed to win the conference title, its current seniors were kindergartners.
“Coach Barnes knows what he’s doing,” said Rocky Mount’s Takeyra Thomas, who won the long jump and the conference’s athlete of the year. “He knows where to put people at. They complain, but he knows what people can do. That’s why he gets the best from us.”
Nash Central’s Damian Silver won both the 110 and 300 hurdles and was named the Big East runner of the year on the boys’ side.
After Silver’s 20-point day, the Bulldogs were tied with Rocky Mount for the boys’ lead more than halfway through the 18 events, and Northern Nash was close behind.
But in the sprint races, the Gryphons were able to build up points, eventually edging the Bulldogs by 10.
“Overall, the performance of the team, I was pleased, but we left some points out there that we should’ve scored in the field events as well as some of the sprint races,” Nash Central coach Juan Jackson said. “There were races where were seeded first and came in third and fourth, and as far as the point tally goes, that added up.”
Northern Nash was able to finish third on the strength of its distance runners.
The Knights swept the top three in both the 1,600 and 3,200, which scored 48 points.
Stephen Whitehead won both races.
He said the Knights’ highly competitive practices make the team a potential threat at the 3-A Eastern Regional.
“We have a little competition between us,” Whitehead said. “It’s not that we don’t want each other to win, but we each want to win. As long as we come one-two-three, it’s OK. You can beat me and I can beat you, but nobody else.”
The Gryphons were able to take the boys’ championship by virtue of strong finishes in several races.
Kameron Douglas, in particular, raced from fourth to second in the final 100 meters of the 800, a bump of four points with one push.
Paired with Zach Shea, who finished fourth in the 1,600 and 3,200, the Gryphons earned key points.
“To me, I think the distance runners made a difference by scoring in the mile and two-mile, as well as the 800 and 200,” Rocky Mount boys’ coach Sonya Pickett said.
The Gryphons are young on the girls’ team, but it still held up the streak.
With regionals approaching, Barnes wants his team to use this year as a chance to grow.
“Coming into the season, we knew we had a bunch of babies out here,” Barnes said. “Whether we win or lose, we want them to get a taste for it, and hopefully it’ll put a fire under them, and by the time they’re juniors and seniors, we’ll be able to make some real things happen.”
BOYS’ TEAM SCORES: Rocky Mount High 125, Nash Central 115, Northern Nash 91, Wilson Hunt 81, Wilson Fike 79, Southern Nash 62
GIRLS’ TEAM SCORES: Rocky Mount High 173.5, Nash Central 120, Northern Nash 86, Wilson Fike 67.5, Southern Nash 58, Wilson Hunt 45
BOYS’ RESULTS: Shot Put – Chris Alston (NC) 44-06.00; Discus – Wayne Pittman (SN) 135-06; Long jump – Malik Williams (WH) 21-09.25; High jump – Jaquell Bryant (RMH) 6-04.00; Pole Vault – Ian West (WF) 14-00.00; Triple jump – Jaquay Mitchell (SN) 43-01.00 110m Hurdles – Damian Silver (NC) 14.20; 100m Dash – Kyjuan Farris (RMH) 10.94; 1,600m Run – Stephen Whitehead (NN) 4:46.50; 400m Dash – Brian Williams (NC) 49.50; 300m Hurdles – Damian Silver (NC) 39.50; 800m Run – Lance Williams (NC) 2:04.00 200m Dash – Mavren Crawford (RMH) 22.90; 3,200 Run – Stephen Whitehead (NN) 10:37.00; 4x800m Relay – Northern Nash (Stephen Whitehead, Christian Tippette, Jermaine Jones, Coleman Cherry) 8:41.00; 4x200m Relay – Wilson Hunt (Tae Davis, Marcus Medina Artis, Domanique Singletary, Ben White) 1:32.30; 4x100m Relay – Wilson Hunt (Tae Davis, Domanique Singletary, Ben White, Dexter Wright) 44.00; 4x400m Relay – Nash Central (Alex Corbin, Nick Manning, Chris Eley, Lance Williams) 3:28.00.
GIRLS’ RESULTS: Shot Put – Khadijah Kale (SN) 32-04.00; Discus – Nakeisha Jones (WH) 109-03; Long jump – Takeyra Thomas (RMH) 16-03.00; High jump – Ashley Wollett (NN) 4-10.00; Pole Vault – Asia Bryant (NC) 6-06.00; Triple jump – Kambria Lynch (NN) 33-00.00; 100m Hurdles – Kambria Lynch (15.90); 100m Dash – Paradise Henderson (WF) 12.37; 1,600m Run – Lauren West (WH) 5:36.00; 400m Dash – Joelle Brown (WF) 1:00.80; 300m Hurdles – Krystal Atkinson (NC) 47.10; 800m Run – Lauren West (WH) 2:27.40; 200m Dash – Paradise Henderson (WF) 26.10; 3,200 Run – Michaela Williams (NC) 13:24.00 4x800m Relay – Nash Central (Carisha Leonard, Chulena Williams, Natalie Manning, Michaela Williams) 10:25.00; 4x200m Relay – Rocky Mount High (Jasmine Davis, Laneeja SheppardMaria Pettis, Nyana Edwards); 4x100m Relay – Nash Central (Kiera Ausby, Analya Harris, Asia Bryant, Krystal Atkinson) 1:47.30; 4x400m Relay – Nash Central (Tkeyah Macklin, Kiera Ausby, Natalie Manning, Krystal Atkinson) 4:11.00.
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz @rmtelegram.com