NPC Boys Track Meet: Mustangs three-peat
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY — The 800 was the pivotal race, as East Rowan’s boys held off determined Carson to win their third straight NPC Championship Meet on Tuesday.
Cole Honeycutt was flying in the 800, and when he peeked over his shoulder coming out of the final turn, he was relieved and maybe surprised to see red instead of orange.
The guy Honeycutt expected to see breathing down his neck was Carson’s Nathan McMasters, who had pushed him in the 1600, but the only person in Honeycutt’s rearview mirror was teammate Graham Lyerly.
East went 1-2-5 in the 800 — Honeycutt’s younger brother Conor took fifth for a 20-6 edge over the Cougars in the event — and that’s when coach Rick Roseman knew the Mustangs would return to the winner’s circle.
East scored 168 points. Carson had 137. Statesville (98) nosed out West Rowan (93) for third place.
“On paper, the seeds said that we should win and that we controlled our destiny, but an awful lot can happen,” Roseman said. “That 800 was huge. That’s when I finally took a breath.”
A lot really can happen. A false start here, a dropped baton there, a cramp, and any team can falter.
But distance MVP Cole Honeycutt stepped forward. He was 4-for-4 in his events, taking the 800 and 1600 on his own and handling his role in winning the 4×400 and 4×800 relays.
“The 1600 was a tough race because of the heat, and I knew I had to keep pushing to get ahead of Nathan because he’s got a great closing sprint,” Cole Honeycutt said. “It felt like my feet were on fire and like the track was burning a hole in my shoes.”
While Honeycutt is the general, he has an army behind him. There wasn’t a single event in which the Mustangs didn’t score at least one point.
“That’s what we do,” Roseman said. “We’re blue collar. We get three kids in each event, and they’re all clawing, trying to get something.”
East’s Cole Honeycutt, Lyerly, Raykwon Torrence and Dalton Bost won the 4×400, and the Honeycutt brothers, Lyerly and Brad Oden won the 4×800. The other firsts for East came in the pole vault, where Marshall Shank won his aerial duel with WR’s Caleb Cranfield, and the triple jump, where springy Hakeem Gittens delivered once again.
“I don’t want to sound cocky,” Gittens said. “But we knew if we all just went out and did our jobs we’d win the conference championship.”
Field events MVP Myquon Stout, an immensely powerful sophomore, starred for the Cougars. He swept the discus and shot put, while teammates Chris Barnhardt and Tre Williams picked up seconds.
The Cougars also got wins from Darius Gardner in the high jump; Jacob Fink in the 3200, and Rodney Richards in the 110 hurdles. Richards was delighted to top West’s fine hurdler Trey Cuthbertson.
“Trey’s beaten me a lot more times than I’ve beaten him, Richards said modestly. “It was just my day.”
Dontae Gilbert placed in all the jumps for the Cougars.
“Carson is tough, and they’re coming on,” Roseman said. “They’ve got the same kind of kids we do, and I mean that as the highest compliment. They’re relentless. They got after it today.”
Statesville’s Labryant Nichols keyed his team’s third-place finish. He was a force in the shorter relays and blazed to wins in the 100 and 200 for sprints MVP honors.
East celebrated another league title, but it was clear Cole Honeycutt wants more.
“We’re 25-1, and that one loss (to Carson) was when we had a lot of guys out,” he said. “It’s great to win the conference, but we’re looking at bigger things. We want to keep it going at the regional.”
Results are in Scoreboard.