The first of three articles looking back on the best performers and performances of the spring season, today's piece focuses on field events. Overall, this was an unusual year for the field events in North Carolina: some events of traditional strength were weak this year, while other events produced numerous amazing performances; some events captured the interest of North Carolina's track community, while others continued to labor out of the eye of the general fan. Let's start our look back with the winners of the NCRunners Fans Choice polls:
Sydney White, East Forsyth, Pole Vault
NCRunners Fans' Choice, Best Female Field Event Athlete
Although you wouldn't know it from observing her in competition, where she always seems to sport a happy smile regardless of the outcome, Sydney actually struggled (relatively speaking) for much of the indoor and outdoor season. Advances in her physical training (namely, more speed), made it hard for her to find the right combination of pole and approach. After breaking the 13-foot mark for the first time late last summer, Sydney was stuck in the 12' to 12' 8" range from December through May, although that was good enough to earn her two more NCHSAA 4A state championships (check out her event graph to see the plateau). She finally broke through the 13-foot mark again at the beginning of June, and then hit her stride at the perfect time: a PR jump of 13' 3.5" sent her travelling to Europe for the second straight summer. If her pattern holds true, she will pull out her best performance of the year in Barcelona for the World Junior Championships. Sydney finished the year as the best female vaulter in state history, and she ranks second in the nation, the best finish of any North Carolina athlete in any event. She will continue her career at Wake Forest University in the fall.
Adam Manns, Draughn, Throws
NCRunners Fans' Choice, Best Male Field Event Athlete
Adam was absolutely dominant in both the shot put and the discus throw this year, claiming his second straight NCHSAA 2A state title in both events. He finished the spring season with the top mark in the state in both events, as well. If there was any source of frustration for Adam, it was probably that his best discus mark this spring did not exceed last season's best of 179 feet, which ranks him 15th in state history in that event. On the other hand, he has improved from 50' 11.75" in the shot as a sophomore to 56' 3" as a senior, with a four-foot improvement in the past year, alone (you can see his stats here). Adam will continue his career at East Carolina, where he looks forward to learning some new events.
Alexis Perry (Jordan) 19' 5.75" LJ, 5' 8.5" HJ
Josh King (Fike) 6' 8" HJ, 47' 11.25" TJ
Jonathan Addison (Enloe) 6' 8" HJ, 23' 9.5" LJ, 46' 11.5" TJ
Looking Back on Spring 2012: Field Events
Although these events did not grab much attention, it was a very good year for the girls' throwers. Brianna Tate (Grimsley, right) became the first NC girl to throw farther than 43 feet since 2009, and she finished the year top-ranked with her mark of 44' 10" (6th all-time). Hendersonville's Hailey Cook went right with her, finishing with a mark of 43' 8.25" (11th all-time), and she will be back next year to try to match Brianna's distance. Two other 40-footers return, as well: Breanna Warren (Western Guilford) and freshman Mookie Chavis (Bunn), who could find herself climbing the all-time list very soon. Breanna also topped the list for the discus throw with her season best of 139' 2", good for 14th all-time. Once again, Hailey finished second in the rankings, throwing 137' 2" (19th all-time). Both of them will be back next year to challenge the 140-foot mark!
For the boys, four other throwers joined Manns in getting past the 55-foot mark this year, plus two more over 54 feet, as the state showed the most depth in this event in recent memory. Jon Beyle (East Chapel Hill) ranked second in the shot, leading all juniors in the state, while Myquon Stout (Carson) was third overall and the top sophomore. There will be 3 55-footers and 13 50-footers back for next year, not including those whose improvement will carry them over the 50-foot mark. Beyle was also the second-best discus thrower in the state, coming just short of the 170-foot mark with his PR of 169' 10". The thrower with the best national ranking, however, did not come from the shot put or discus lists; Colin Minor, a sophomore at South Brunswick, cracked the Top 25 in the country in the hammer with a heave of 186' 3".
By some standards, a girls' long jump season that held the promise of 5 or more 19-footers turned out a bit disappointing; Shakeela Saunders moved back to Virginia, injuries hindered Ariah Graham, and last year's state leader did not crack the 19-foot mark this year. However, the event still produced a number of exciting competitions throughout the year. The multifaceted Alexis Perry (Jordan, left) led the state with a mark of 19' 5.75", putting her in 21st on the all-time list. She narrowly edged Darlene Girardeau of South View for the season lead, as she jumped 19' 5.25" to rank 23rd all-time; sophomore Courtney Crawford (McMichael) will be the top returner after leaping 18' 7.5" this spring. Our state produced a 40-foot triple-jumper for the fourth time in the last five years, although the depth in the event is not as great as it was two years ago. Shemiah Brooks (Southwest Guilford) moved all the way up to 8th on the all-time list with her PR of 40' 11" (jumped at New Balance Indoors), although her outdoor best was 40' 4.75". Francesca Evans of Cummings also cracked the all-time list, ranking 25th with a mark of 39' 9" and sustaining a proud tradition at her school. Dejah Hayes (Western Guilford) will be the top returner with her mark of 38' 6.5".
The boys' competition was a mixed bag. On the one hand, there were 10 23-foot long jumpers in the state, the most since MileSplit came on the scene in 2005. On the other hand, the state failed to produce a 24-foot jump, possibly due (at least in part) to indoor leader Khouortne Whitted's disappearance from the spring season. After a slow winter season in which he hardly jumped at all, Frank Quarles (Douglas Byrd) came on strong at the end of outdoors to lead the state with his leap of 23' 11", earning the NCHSAA 3A title in the process. Jonathan Addison (Enloe) and Cameron Hudson (Berry Academy) both jumped 23' 9.5" to tie for second-place honors on the season. 2012 also saw somewhat of a resurgence in the boys' triple jump (after perhaps the weakest year for that event in recent history last spring). However, it took until June before a jumper cleared 48 feet, making this the second straight year that North Carolina did not produce a 49-foot or greater performance. George Freiberger of Westchester Country Day ended with the state lead by soaring to 48' 5" at New Balance Nationals. The only other athlete to break 48 feet was rising 9th-grader Marcus Krah (Shepard Middle/Durham Striders), whose stunning performance in the early summer was almost 4 feet farther than his previous PR; his jump of 48' 2.25" is better than any freshman in the country this past spring.
There was tremendous depth in both the girls' high jump this spring, as 9 girls cleared 5' 6", the most in the last 5 years. At the top was Alexis Perry (again), with her mark of 5' 8.5"; she cleared 5' 8" or better 4 times during the season. Two young returners will seek to follow in her footsteps: freshman Elizabeth Olesen (Hickory Ridge) jumped 5' 7", and sophomore Hunter Welborn (Starmount) cleared 5' 6". William Brown (Salisbury) was the only boy to clear 6' 10" this spring, although he only cleared it once. Spencer Walden (Union Pines) jumped 6' 9" to rank second in the state, while versatile athletes Josh King (Fike, below) and Jonathan Addison (Enloe) were among five who had a best of 6' 8" this past season. Grant Rivers (Hendersonville) is the lone returner among those who jumped 6' 8" or better, so the state is going to need some athletes to develop next season to avoid a slump in this event.
It was another banner year for girls' pole vault, as North Carolina continues to produce national-caliber athletes in this event. In addition to Sydney's aerial heroics, North Buncombe's Sage Proffitt was able to clear 12' 6", putting her into a tie for second place all-time. Rising senior and leading returner Kristen Lee (Wakefield) also owns a 12' 6" performance, although her best in the spring season was 12' 0". She will be pushed by Rayna Yvars (Green Hope), who set a best of 11' 11" at New Balance Nationals. On the boys' side, it was a case of several new talents rising to fill the place of the many top vaulters that graduated last year. One thing was constant, though: Austin Vegas (East Forsyth) led the state for the second straight year, with a PR of 15' 7" set early in the spring season. Austin struggled at the end of the season, though, while rising senior Ethan Smith (Cedar Ridge) came on strong to post his 15' 3" mark at the NCHSAA 2A state meet. The future is bright with 6 returners over 14 feet, including Ian West (Fike), the #2 freshman in the country according to the MileSplit databse.