Jon Beyle (East Chapel Hill) looks to become a double-winner in the throws, with his sights set on the state lead in both.
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(With performance list)
Events to Watch
200m Dash: Giving added meaning to the term "fast section," the top 8 girls in this race are all under 25 seconds. Tyler Brockington (Dudley), known by many as a hurdler, showed her sprinting ability in the indoor 300 and again this spring as she earned the top seed here. Even though there are no preliminaries in this event or the 400 (or even the 300 hurdles, in Brockington's case), there is always the possibility that tired legs will affect the outcome of this race: watch out for Alexis Murphy (Apex), who has no other races between the 100 and 200. Also keep an eye on Sabrina Moore (North Mecklenburg), who was not pushed at all in her regional.
800m Run: As long as everyone can stay upright through the first curve, this is going to be an incredible race. Early position is important, as there are 10 girls who ran under 2:20 in the regional (and 2 more who have been under that barrier previously). Shelby Howell (New Hanover) is the defending champion and top seed in this race. After a very competitive 1600 race, you have to wonder if the athletes that are doubling will be at a disadvantage. In fact, a few may decide to walk off in the 1600 and save their legs for this race. If everybody that is signed up for both races runs both race, then perhaps Maura McDonnell (Green Hope), Tres Lesane (Terry Sanford), and Jennie Cunningham (Pinecrest) will take advantage of the fatigued legs of their competitors. On the other hand, Shelby ran both races last weekend, and still won the 800 in 2:14.38...
1600m Run: Let's face it, girls' distance running is the best thing North Carolina has going right now, overall (Wakefield's national excellence notwithstanding). Last year, a downpour just before this event helped drive the performances to new heights; this year, it looks like the sun will stay out, although 78 degrees is a lot cooler than it could be at this time of year. Samantha George (Millbrook) is the heavy favorite, but she will be attempting a serious double in the 3200 for the first time in her career, and she might only do enough to win. Still, there are 3 girls in the field who have already been under 5 minutes, and a whole host of girls who have been very close, so this should be a great race.
100m Hurdles: We've been a littel spoiled with great hurdlers in the past few years: if nobody breaks 14 in this race, it will only the second season out of the last six in which that was true. Fortunately, there are a few really good candidates to break into the 13's today. Cheyenne Hutchinson (Hopewell) is the top seed and current state leader with a mark of 14.09, while Alvonna Blakney (West Mecklenburg) is only a tenth behind at 14.10. Never count out Alexis Perry (Jordan), who hasn't really been challenged in a high hurdle race this season.
4x100/4x200: Wakefield appears to be a little banged up, and they did not field a 4x100 last weekend, opening the door for other teams to step through. Southern Durham took advantage at the Mideast Regional, running 48.00, but West Mecklenburg has been in the 47's repeatedly this year and could be considered the favorite. In the 4x200, Wakefield ran what is for them a pedestrian 1:40.78 last weekend, and finds themselves in the #3 spot coming into today's meet; I'm betting that pride and championship experience take over and lead the Wolverines to the win. Parkland's girls upped the pressure by posting a 1:39.50 (only the eighth team in state history to break 1:40), and the Dudley and West Meck girls will be right there, as well.
4x800: Green Hope was beaten by Broughton last weekend, setting the stage for a grudge match today. Meanwhile, T. C. Roberson posted a big time in the West Regional, and you certainly can't count out Watauga. Could be four teams under 9:20, a feat that only four NC schools have previously achieved (Green Hope among them). Add in great depth in this event -- 15 of the 16 teams ran under 10 minutes at their regional -- and this should be a great starat to the track events.
Long Jump: Darlene Girardeau (South View) leads five girls who cleared 18 feet or more last weekend, with her 18' 8.5" mark. If the jumpers get to go with the wind at their backs (instead of into the wind as they did at the 3A meet), then it could take 19 feet just to get onto the podium. Alexis Perry (Jordan) is the state leader at 19' 5.75", and Girardeau's best mark this year is only a half-inch behind that. Watch out for Ariah Graham (Wakefield), who has also been over 19 feet.
Athletes to Watch
Anna McBride (Davie) is the defending champion in the 3200, having set a state meet record last spring, and she also won the race at the indoor state meet. She will have her hands full with Millbrook's George, though. Sydney White (East Forsyth) is the defending champion and overall state record holder in the pole vault, but she might face some competition from Kristen Lee (Wakefield). White has been stuck on 12' 6" for some time now, and Lee trails by only one height. Markia Franklin (Southern Durham) is a potential champion in the 100 dash, if she can get past Moore and Murphy. Ariah Graham (Wakefield) and Aalayah Faulcon (Southern Durham) staged an epic battle in the regional 400, both going under 55 and pulling their competitors to the top 4 seeds in this race. Graham also competes in the long jump and bothe are entered in the 200, and both girls also run relays for their teams. Tametris Morrison (Southeast Raleigh) is the top seed in the 300 hurdles with her regional mark of 43.76. Shemiah Brooks (Southwest Guilford) leads the field in the triple jump, and she is also a top-flight 100 hurdler. Breanna Warren (Western Guilford) is the top entrant in both throws, and double-winners have been rare in those events at the NCHSAA state meets so far; she will have to throw well in the discus to hold off Enloe's Alyssa Dunn, while Brianna Tate (Grimsley) has the best PR in the shot put.
Teams to Watch
Even with their squad at less than full strength, Wakefield is the heavy favorite to win their third straight outdoor title. Watch closely today, though, as the Wolverines graduate a ton of talent and could be beatable next year, and they seem to be only one injury away from coming back to the field this year. The rest of the field is very closely-packed, and the battle for the second-place trophy could be intense; West Mecklenburg, Dudley, and Western Guilford all have solid chances, and it wouldn't be hard to imagine Jordan, Southern Durham, Green Hope, or Southeast Raleigh getting into the mix, either. Is Parkland the team of the future? They are loaded with freshmen and sophomores, so it will be interesting to see how they do today.
Events to Watch
Shot Put: You should definitely find your way behind the scoreboard to watch this event (especially since there will be no races on the track for the first hour of the meet while this event is going). Jon Beyle (East Chapel Hill) leads a field that contains a whopping 11 50-footers; Beyle's mark of 55' 8" is over a foot ahead of the nearest competitors. Jalen Peterkin (Southern Durham) and John Leonard (Terry Sanford) are both over 54 feet.
Triple Jump: Although this is a bit of a down year overall for boys triple jumpers in this state (the first time in at least seven years that we haven't had a 48-footer), this tightly-packed field could lead to a back-and-forth competition. Jonathan Addison (Enloe) is the top seed, but Jaylon Holt (Southeast Raleigh) has a PR that would put him at #1. If Enloe hold true to their seed and takes the top spot (with Domonique Faison seeded second), they could be a serious factor in the team scores.
4x800m Relay: Mount Tabor was on a mission last weekend, clocking 7:50 and blowing away the competition at the Midwest Regional. In their eyes, that mission won't be complete without a title today; however, three other teams have been under 8 minutes this season and could steal the championship away from the Spartans. Cary won their regional by six seconds (7:55) and could have more to show today, while Reagan and Ardrey Kell have both run 7:58 (and insiders tell me the Raider WILL be going for it, rather than saving their legs for other races). With eight other teams under 8:10, there could be a great secondary race that develops behind the front four.
110m Hurdles: There is no dominant hurdler in this classification, and an evenly-matched field could make for a great final. A fast West Regional race has put their athletes in the top 3 seeds, led by Providence's Jordan Javadi, but don't count out Jordan's Matthew Foster. North Carolina seems to be in a boys' hurdling slump right now; Foster's state-leading 14.04 (a converted hand time) would have been only 8th-best in 2007. One big surprise in this race is the absence of Erin Foster, whose PR would make him the #1 seed; Jenkins failed to qualify out of the West Regional after leading in the preliminaries.
Wheelchair Shot Put: For the first time that I can remember, two wheelchair athletes will compete against each other in the state meet. Ty Ruvolis (Mount Tabor) and Matthew McDonald (Wake Forest-Rolesville) will not be on the track, and so less fans will notice their efforts, but it will be fun to watch the two compete. For the record, Ruvolis has the better throw coming into the meet. In the end, though, I hope this competition will inspire others to pursue wheelchair events.
3200m Run: Of the three distance races, this appears to be the one with the most evenly-matched field. Broughton's Sam Roberson has the ability to take over this race; he appeared content to pace his teammates in the regional, but should open it up today. Jacob Sears opted to focus on the 1600, but Jeremy Gower (West Johnston) and Jordan Marsh (Reagan) should provide some good push for Roberson. The race has 8 guys that ran under 9:40 last weekend, and 11 under 9:50, but only Roberson broke 9;30; expect that to change with at least 5 in the 9:20's or faster today.
1600m Run: A very fast Mideast Regional in this race led to their athletes having the top four seeds, but don't let that fool you; this will not be a Mideast walk-over. Bakri Abushouk (Cary) emerged from last weekend as the top seed, but state leader Craig Engels (Reagan) will have something to say about that today. Also, don't forget that Mount Tabor's Josh Copus has run 4:18 this year, although he may pour his best effort into the 4x8. If Philip Hall (Terry Sanford) is healthy, there could be seven runners under 4:20 in this race.
100m Dash: Without a dominant superstar in the 4A ranks, this has turned into a wide-open race. Joseph Horton (Knightdale) has the top seed, but there are two other sprinters within a tenth of him -- freshman Jakara King-Penn (Reagan) and Brandon McRae (Hoke County). Keep an eye on Aaron Tindall (Olympic), who has shown flashes of brilliance this year.
Athletes to Watch
Jon Beyle (East Chapel Hill) is the top seed in both throws, and his pursuit of the 170' mark in the discus continues (although A&T's uphill throwing facility could be his biggest opponent today). Jonathan Addison (Enloe) is the leading entrant in both the high jump and the triple jump; will going back and forth between them help him to keep warm and elevate his performances, or will it wear him out? He is also entered in the long jump, and if he hits his PR in that event could be a triple winner. Austin Vegas (East Forsyth) has led the state in the vault all season, and he seems to have gotten over the small rash of no-heights he had earlier this year; Reid Harris (Watauga) is on the rise and could challenge Vegas for the title. Erin Jenkins (Vance) is the top seed in the 300 hurdles, almost a full second ahead of the next competitor; his experience in the 400 hurdles helps immensely in this race. Craig Engels (Reagan) is the favorite in the 1600 and 800, as he leads the state by a solid margin in each. The only two boys in North Carolina who have broken 48 in the 400 will battle today: Brian Davis (Fuquay Varina) is the expected veteran, while Kwame Donyinah (Myers Park) is the upstart. Joseph Horton has emerged as the centerpiece of the Knightdale machine, and he holds the top seed in the 100 and 200 against a strong field that has no dominant guy. His fortunes in the two sprint races will go a long way to determining his team's final position. Finally, one athlete noteworthy for his absence: Bryce Love (Wake Forest-Rolesville) saw his season end early, and fans of the sport are sorry that we did not get to see his developing excellence in this meet.
Teams to Watch
Knightdale's boys have branched out a bit this spring, adding the 800 and the 4x8 to their normal repertoire of sprints and jumps. If Horton holds true and their relays run as expected, they are the favorite to win. Enloe has legitimate title hopes, too, with their field event prowess and a top-seeded 4x200. Reagan is under-seeded in the distance races due to tactics in their regional, and they will most likely get a 20-point performances from Craig Engels to build around. Broughton and Cary will have a tough time getting into the team title hunt, but should be close enough to capitalize if any opportunities present themselves.