Prep Track: Salisbury's Brown wins indoor high jump state title
By Mike London
Salisbury senior William Brown recently signed to play linebacker for Fayetteville State, but the Broncos got an even better athlete than they figured on.
Brown won the state championship in the high jump in the 1A/2A/3A state indoor track meet in Chapel Hill on Saturday. He cleared 6 feet, 6 inches for the gold, matching his career-best on his pressure-packed, final leap.
Brown was runner-up in the event last winter, clearing 6-4, and coach David Johnson believed there was a good chance Brown could claim the state title, especially after he soared 6-6 to win a meet in Winston-Salem two weeks ago against a strong field.
“He beat the guys in Winston-Salem that he was going to have to beat to win the state,” Johnson said. “So he had a lot of confidence going to Chapel Hill.”
On Saturday, five competitors cleared the bar at 6-4, with Brown, Weddington’s Cole Finch, Union Pines’ Spencer Walden, Currituck’s Cody Aarestad and N.C. School of Science & Math’s Darrow Goff moving on to attempts at 6-6 at the Eddie Smith Indoor Arena.
“The pressure was on a little bit,” the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Brown said. “Because the guy from Weddington (Finch) was really jumping good.”
The misses piled up at 6-6.
Brown, the fourth competitor to jump, failed twice at that height, but on his third and final try, he was successful. He saw the faces of his competitors as he bounced back to his feet.
“There was a little shock there, like, ‘Hey, that’s it,’ ” Brown said.
But Finch, who had been the leader (fewest misses) going to the 6-6 height, still had to make his final try. Brown watched with his heart pounding.
“I actually could hear my heart beating,” Brown said. “And he almost made it. His leg barely clipped the bar.”
Johnson was thrilled at Brown’s victory. Brown is one of those guys easy to pull for because he does the job not only athletically but off the field and in the classroom.
“William’s got some God-given ability, but that ability also comes with a great attitude and a great work ethic,” Johnson said. “He’s put in the time and the effort, and he’s coachable. He listens when you tell him something, and he’s always looking for ways to get faster, stronger and better.”
As a Salisbury high jumper, Brown was a year behind super athlete and current UNC football player Darien Rankin, who had a personal best of 6-8.
“Darien was a mentor to William and he was always jumping a few inches higher, so William was in his shadow a little bit,” Johnson said. “But today, William showed the ability that he has. We expect big things from him outdoors this spring, not just in the high jump, but in the 400 and the 4×400. He’s versatile.”
Brown, who has the goal of topping 6-8 in the high jump this spring, earned a ring as a key member of Salisbury’s 2010 state championship football team, but Saturday was very special to him.
He went to Chapel Hill as Salisbury’s lone male representative — a one-man track team — and came home a winner.
“Winning in football was great — that was a lot of us pulling together,” Brown said. “But this is something I accomplished as an individual. I just feel really good right now. I feel like a champion.”