3A Boys Track Regional:West boys take it
By David Shaw
MOUNT PLEASANT — West Rowan’s boys track team used a time-tested formula to prevail in Saturday’s 3A Midwest Region championship meet.
The Falcons scored in both expected and unexpected ways at Mount Pleasant High School, where they totaled 96 team points and captured their first regional title since 2002.
“It’s a happy day,” coach Ralph Ellis beamed after West qualified seven individuals and its 4 x 200 relay team for Friday’s state meet in Greensboro. “We had a lot of kids break seed. We’re not good at a whole lot of things, but we can jump a little, run a little and hurdle a little.”
West had a pair of first-place finishers — defending state champ Daishon Barger in the 110-meter hurdles and Jamarian Mabry in the long jump. Barger crossed the line in 15.20 seconds, nearly a second off his seed time but four-hundreths of a second quicker than runnerup Will England of Northwest Cabarrus. It was his first race since falling on a hurdle in late March. Mabry (22-3) and teammate Trey Mashore (21-8) finished 1-2 in the long jump, extending a friendly rivalry.
“We seem to push each other every day in practice,” Mashore said. “There’s always a little bit of trash talk, but it’s all fun-and-games.”
In addition, the WR 4 x 200 relay team (Brandon Ijames, Daisean Reddick, Tevin Gregery, C.J. Ellis) placed first in a personal-best 1:30.73.
“To me, 200 (meters) is long way to,” said Ellis, the sophomore who anchored West’s winning entry. “I’m more of a sprinter. But in that last leg I just had to maintain my speed, instead of trying to speed up around the turn.”
Ellis also took home a second-place ribbon in the 100-meter dash, finishing in 11.07 seconds. The winner, Weddington’s Brandon Little, crossed in 11.06. “It was the toughest race I’ve had all season,” Ellis said.
West’s Trey Cuthbertson was second in 300 hurdles (42.86) and teammate Quinton Phifer was first-runnerup in the high jump (6-4). Ijames, seeded 12th, was third in the 200 (23.64). “Stuff like that made the day,” Coach Ellis said. “Those were surprises. When you break seed you have a chance to win this thing.”
Ellis was genuinely impressed with all of the Falcons, including one who didn’t qualify for the states.
“Dashun Mason, a freshman,” he indicated. “He made the finals in two events and scored points for us. We weren’t expecting that.”
Mason was fifth in the 100 hurdles (16.20) and seventh in the 300 hurdles (44.34). His performance eased some the sting caused when West’s 4 x 100 relay team was disqualified. It entered with the second-best qualifying time but was DQ’d when C.J. Ellis mishandled a baton handoff and ran out of lane. “We ended up getting nothing for that,” his coach said.
By day’s end, though, West had itself an impressive body of work. “I’m real pleased,” Coach Ellis said with a post-meet laugh. “And real happy.”
A year after sharing the regional title with A.L. Brown, East Rowan’s boys placed sixth in the team standings with 61 points. Consider it an accomplishment after senior Ben Hancock was disqualified from the meet because he reportedly “blacked out” prior to his first event, the 200 dash.
“I hate that he didn’t have the opportunity to go to the states,” said East coach Rick Roseman. “He could have won the 400 here. And the 4 x 400 relay, which he’s part of, had a shot at a school record.”
Officially, Hancock was booted because he failed to show up at the starting line for the 200. He left the school and was taken for medical treatment. Roseman estimated his loss cost the Mustangs 20-25 team points.
Without Hancock other Mustangs rose to the challenge. Seniors Jordan Hopper and Sam Sherman won field events and Cole Honeycutt surprised everyone by placing first in the 800.
If Hopper had his way, he would have been at home tucked in bed yesterday morning. Instead he found himself rallying to win the discus with his best throw ever, 149-10.
“When I woke up all I wanted to do was go back to sleep,” said Hopper, who also qualified in shot put (4th with a 47-9 1/2). “Then I got here, saw the competition and thought I had a chance to win. Everybody else looked kind of stiff.”
Hopper will try to walk on at Appalachian State next year. “He’ll be all right,” said Sean Rinehart, East’s throwing coach. “He cares about it, as opposed to some guys who just show up and throw. He actually works hard and comes in ready to work.”
Sherman, a Western Carolina signee, won the shot with a 53-9, edging Robinson’s Neshawn Dingle by five inches on his second-to-last attempt. He had one small obstacle to overcome.
“The circle here is a little smaller,” Rinehart said. “And Sam’s a full-circle thrower. We had to spend some time practicing, shortening up his first stride.”
Honeycutt helped the Mustangs bring a reckless day in for a safe landing. He bested an impressive field in the 800, winning in 1:58.63 and giving the school record (1:57) a run for its money.
“I knew the guys I had to beat so I just paced off of them,” said Honeycutt, who was in fourth place halfway through the race. “I knew if I could stay close until the last 100 (meters) I could outrun them down the stretch. Still, that’s easier said than done.”
This marked Honeycutt’s first appearance in any meet beyond regular-season duals. He believes he’s fully recovered from a stress fracture in his back that has plagued him all season. “It feels amazing to win,” he said. “I never stopped trying to get here.”
Other East qualifiers included Hakeem Gittens (4th in the triple-jump, 43-4) and the 4 x 800 relay team. Comprised of Honeycutt, Brad Oden, Joseph Furtado and Eli Walton, it finished fourth in a school-record 8:13.27.
South Rowan’s Michael York capped a terrific high school career with a disappointing day. He was fifth in the 1600 (4:41.62), didn’t make the score sheet in the 3200 and miscalculated during the Raiders’ fifth-place 4 x 800 relay (a school-reord 8:17.94).
“He had a rough 4 x 8 and I don’t think he fully recovered,” said SR coach Bob Marchinko. “He went out way too fast. The rest of the day was him paying for it.”
York was a county and conference MVP this year and has earned a full ride to Lenoir-Rhyne.
On the girls side, there was little to applaud. Rowan County’s only state qualifier was East senior Oliva Sabo, a ninth seed who finished second in the discus with a PR 100-9. Her previous best had been 91 feet.
“She came out of the second flight and absolutely made it her’s today,” said Mustangs’ assistant coach Laurie Wyrick. “She was on.”
South sophomore failed to qualify for the state meet but impressed coach Angie Chrismon. She cleared 9-0 to place fifth in the pole vault and missed qualifying based on her number of missed attempts (4).
“She normally uses a 120-pound pole, but when weighed in today she was 120.4,” Chrismon noted. “So she had to go with a 130, something she’s unfamiliar with. I had no doubt she’d handle it and I’m proud that she perservered.”
The top four performances in each event qualified Friday’s state meet at North Carolina A&T University.