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West Rowan boys win county track & field meet

Rowan County boys track & field championships

Wayne HInshaw/for the Salisbury Post … East Rowan’s Christian Bennett won the discus and was second in the shot put

By David Shaw

sports@salisburypost.com

GRANITE QUARRY — Even if you’re not a numbers person, this one can’t be ignored: 130.

That’s how many points longtime West Rowan track & field coach Ralph Ellis felt he could squeeze out his team’s 15 entrants in Wednesday’s Rowan County boys championship meet.

“A hundred and 30 — and not a single point more,” he said at East Rowan High School, where the Falcons won their first title since 2016. “I was a little surprised we won with the numbers we had. Before the meet, I said, ‘We gotta score 130 to have a chance.’ I didn’t think we’d win the meet with that, but it’s all I thought we could score. And that’s exactly what we scored, isn’t it?”

Right on the button. West dethroned two-time defending champion East (121) and outpointed South Rowan (117), Carson (113), Salisbury (39) and North Rowan (14). East had 10 points erased after its winning 4×200-meter relay team was disqualified for two baton handoff infractions.

“I come away feeling that if we don’t get DQ’d in the 4×2, we win the championship by one,” said disappointed East coach John Fitz. “That’s the fact of the matter.”

East failed to pass the baton inside the exchange zone on both the first and last handoffs. West, which initially placed second in 1:38.84, was elevated to first place, making for a 12-point swing on the team scoresheet.

“I don’t know how we did this,” Ellis said in his back-porch vibe. “We had a lot of quality, not quantity, and just enough of it. They tell me you can win with that kind of team.”

West was led by junior Jalen Houston, who captured the 100 dash in 11.0 seconds, the 110 hurdles in 14.86 and the 300 hurdles in 42.31. He alone accounted for 30 points and was named the meet’s sprints MVP. Houston also anchored West’s 4 x 100 relay team that placed second in 44.33 seconds.

“In the 100, my strategy was mostly to push off the block as fast as I could,” Houston said, after winning the 100 for the second straight year. “Then just relax and keep my pace up. I felt like I ran with the wind.”

In the 110 hurdles, Houston said he was running for time and “shooting for the low 14’s,” a mark that would place him among the state’s elite. West teammate Thomas Waldo also claimed two events, winning the 800 in a season-best 2:08.07 and the 1600 in 4:40.86. He added a third-place finish in the 3200 (10:54.63), amassing 26 team points and distinction as the meet’s distance MVP.

“The 1600 is my favorite race,” Waldo said, after edging South sophomore Noah Julian (4:41.69) by less than a second. “I sat behind Noah the whole race and started pushing him in the last two (hundred meters). My final lap was like 65 seconds. I’ve never done a final lap that fast, but it’s my senior year. Finally my turn.”

Waldo outran South’s Ari Moya in the 800 (2:10.24). “I didn’t think I’d get the 8,” he said. “It’s my first time running it at county and third time this season. I just sat behind Moya and let him go. Then with about 70 or 80 meters (to go), I made a move and got around him.”

Ellis, now in his 25th season, anticipated contributions Houston and Waldo. “But the jumpers, I think, was the difference,” he said. “And our shot-putter (Colton Evans) finished fourth — he was seeded sixth or seventh.”

Also noteworthy was Jeriah Ford, who placed fifth in the high jump in just his second meet.

“Lots of surprises today,” said Ellis. “East had a lot of kids. South had a lot of kids. Carson had a lot of kids. We had just enough.”

•••

East’s Christian Bennett was name field events co-MVP after winning the discus (133-3) and placing second in the shot (45-9). Both throws paled when compared to his qualifying numbers. The Mustangs finished 1-2 in the pole vault, led by Caleb Jarvis (10-0) and Jax Fitz (8-6). Cooper Wright added a first-place finish in the 400 (53.46) and senior Sam Wall took the triple jump with a leap of 44-1 1/2, edging Salisbury’s Tyrone Johnson (43-9 1/2). “It’s not one of my best,” said Wall. “I just came out here and did the best I could do.”

Wall finished third in the 100 (11.33) teamed with Jacob Downing, Bennett and Vincent Jones to win the 4 x 100 relay in 43.67 seconds.

•••

South’s Julian won the 3200 run in 10.18.46, some nine seconds faster than his previous best. He was second behind Waldo in the 1600 and ran the third leg in the Raiders’ winning 4 x 800 relay (8:38.42). South coach Hunter Moody called Julian’s 3200 a “big-time run.”

“Today, I ran everything hard,” said Julian, who bested runner-up Zach Barbee of Carson by more than 24 seconds. “In the 3200, I was under my lap pace the whole time. I wanted to lead the race and they just let me.”

South teammates Brenden Finger (5-10), Terrence Fullard (5-8) and Marcus Holloman (5-8) were the meet’s three best high jumpers.

•••

Carson senior Teolyn Woodruff was seeded No. 2 in the shot put, but his personal-best throw of 47-2 won the competition. “It came on my very last throw,” he said with a smile. “I just had to stay calm, be relaxed and throw. You can’t over-think it.”

Carson also won the 4×400 relay. Ricky Musselwhite, Hunter Courtney, Christian Turner and Jaxon Wheeler teamed to finish in 8:38.42, more than half-a-minute ahead of West’s entry (9:13.01).

•••

The last MVP award presented went to Salisbury’s Johnson, who accumulated 18 points and shared the field events honor with Bennett. Johnson won the long jump (21-2) and was was second in the triple jump. As a sprinter, he won the 200 (22.25) for the third straight year and placed second in the 100 (11.19).

“The 200 is a tough race because you sprint from start to finish,” he said. “I’m proud of everything I did today. I gave it my best.”

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