Will the Carrboro girls be on top again? Who will fill the void left by Berry Academy's move to the 3A classification?
Events to Watch
High Jump: The veteran senior, Emily Kimble (Owen), and last year's star newcomer, sophomore Hunter Welborn (Starmount), enter with identical 5' 6" performances from the regional meets. Behind them is freshman Vanisha Wilshire (Louisburg) at 5' 4". plus two more freshmen at 5' 2".
3200 Run: Arden Vessie (Corinth Holders) enters as the top seed, having narrowly defeated Helen Morken (Carrboro) in the Mideast Regional. However, Allie Castro (North Lincoln) has run 11:18 this year, and she cannot be counted out in this race. There should also be a tremendous battle for fourth through sixth places, although it is doubtful that Jessica Wallace (First Flight) will stay in this race after being the #1 seed in the 800.
400 Dash: Jaleesa Smoot (Salisbury) and Alexis Robinson (Greene Central) both ran in the 57's at their regional, but they may have their hands full with two girls from the Mideast: Marissa Bellamy ran 54.63 last summer, while Ro'Daijah Faucette (Cummings) has a PR of 56.16 (although she will have to come out of the slower heat as a consequence of a very slow final at the regional last weekend).
4x800 Relay: Carrboro will probably pull away for the win, as they haven't really been pushed on the way to their #1 seed. However, the race for the next spot on the podium could be intense, with four teams (North Henderson, Pisgah, West Stokes, and Swansboro) battling for three remaining sets of medals.
300 Hurdles: Nora McKiver (T. W. Andrews) is probably the only thing standing in the way of Evans claiming three individual titles at this meet. McKiver won both hurdle races at last year's state meet, but Evans won both at their regional last weekend. In addition to the battle up front, there are two more girls under 47 in the race: Samirah Stephens (Cummings) and Elizabeth Easter (South Iredell).
Athletes to Watch
Francesca Evans (Cummings) is one of the most versatile and skilled athletes in North Carolina. The current state leader in the triple jump, she holds a three-foot advantage over the rest of the field in that event. She is also the #1 seed in the 100 hurdles, although the gap is much narrower there (0.02 seconds, to be exact). Marissa Bellamy (Bunn) won all three sprint races at last year's state championship; her times have been slower this year, but then the lack of trials in the 200 and 400 should help. Paisley Simmons (T. W. Andrews), who finished second in the 100 and 200 to Bellamy last year, earned some revenge at the regional by winning the 100 and claiming the top seed. Grace Morken (Carrboro) won the 1600 and 800 last year, and though her seed time in the 800 is lower than expected, she has a history of saving her legs by only running as fast as she needs to go to win.
Teams to Watch
Carrboro has massive numbers in the distance races, including the top 3 seeds in the 1600; expect the older Morken to bring home two titles, and watch to see how freshman Maysa Araba holds up in the multi-event grind against much tougher competition than she faced at her regional. Cummings brings it in the power events, with the #1 and #2 triple jumpers, #1 and #3 high hurdlers, and potential winners in the 400 and 300 hurdles. Cuthbertson has a range of talent, including sprinter/jumper Raven Covington, but they will sorely miss their 4x100 (disqualified at the regional); they will need young talent to step up in order to contend.
Events to Watch
Long Jump: Looking at season bests, you have four jumpers within five inches of each other in this field. Tevin Bates (Greene Central) is the leader, and he is so close to the 23' mark, I am sure he can taste it. Don't count out Isaiah Moore (Cummings), a great all-around athlete, or Sheldon Grady (Kinston), whose speed is a big asset in this event.
Discus: Although the winner might not be in much doubt, as Adam Manns (Draughn) leads the field by over 20 feet, there are five throwers behind him who have thrown over 140', including three that have gone farther than 150'. Look for the duo of Northside throwers, James Rowland and Victor Campbell, to rise to the occasion.
3200 Run: With 5 runners from only 2 teams at the top of the list, none of which had to run all-out at their regional, this race could play out very different from the seeding. Andrew Fea (North Lincoln) and teammate Ryan Shannon have both gone 9:50 or faster this year, while A. J. Tucker (Cedar Ridge) has broken 10 and is the 2A state champ in cross country. This is only the first episode of this battle, too, because the top 7 seeds in the race will be back next year.
200 Dash: Although Shaheed Swinson (Kinston) established himself as the favorite, there is not dominant sprinter in this race (especially without Tevin Hester, who did not run it at his regional). With four boys having clocked sub-22 times last weekend, this should be a great finish, and could go to the most aggressive curve-runner.
300 Hurdles: Three competitors within three tenths of a second--that makes for an exciting race! In fact, the top 6 are separated by less than a second, so this could go to the young man who finds and maintains his rhythm early, leaving enough gas for the push to the finish. Give the early nod to Thomas Jones II (Cummings), who has the fastest season best among the group.
400 Dash: Top seed Marcus McDowell (East Lincoln) will have four other sub-50 sprinters chasing him, if you include the season best for Bryon Maye (Roanoke Rapids). There could be some strategy involved in this race; will any of the boys that are doubling in the 100 and 400 decide to skip the shorter race to save their legs? Casey Evans (Forbush) has the best pure speed in this 400 field, as he is the top seed in the 100; that could be an advantage if he gets out hard.
4x200: Beddingfield's quest for three relay titles will meet its stiffest resistance in this race. Top seed Forest Hills has a solid advantage over the field, but there are 6 teams under 1:30 and four under 1:29, and all it takes is a little bobble by the front-runner to get everyone else right in the race.
Athletes to Watch
Adam Manns (Draughn) is as dominant an athlete as you will see in any classification, and it would be a huge upset if he did not bring home gold in both throws. William Brown (Salisbury) cleared 6' 10" at the regional, and he will be all but impossible to beat if he gets that height again. Isaiah Moore (Cummings) is the favorite in the 110 hurdles, the event in which he actually won the 3A title last year as a freshman at Williams; he could earn solid points in the long jump and high jump, as well. Marcus McDowell (East Lincoln) won all three sprints in his regional, but he will face a much tougher task in the 100 and 200 this weekend. Tevin Hester (Granville Central) is the heavy favorite in the 100, but surprisingly he did not run the 200 at his regional. Ethan Smith (Cedar Ridge) is the 3rd-ranked vaulter in the state (all classes), and he has his eyes set on the 15-foot mark this weekend. A. J. Tucker (Cedar Ridge) has a chance to add two individual titles to the one he earned in the fall, as he is the top seed in the 1600 and the 3200 (although he has his hands full in the second one, as listed above).
Teams to Watch
This could develop into a tight three-team battle for the championship. Cummings has the slight edge based on their season bests, but they have a couple of guys who didn't make it out of the regional in events where their season best could have scored points. Cedar Ridge depends heavily on A. J. Tucker and Ethan Smith, although they do have depth in the distances (curiously, their 4x800 seems like it could be faster, with three guys who made the state meet individually). Beddingfield has great depth, and could become just the fourth boys' team to finish in the top 2 in all four relays (T. W. Andrews did it twice, and Berry Academy in this meet last year).
GIRLS: Carrboro's distance depth proves too much for Cummings, while Cuthbertson finishes a very close third.
BOYS: Cummings does better than their regional performances, but Beddingfield's depth takes the day.