Tevin Hester of Granville Central continued his streak of great performances at national meets, whie girls' hurdlers rewrote the record books.
This is part 2 of our look back at the spring track season we just completed, and today the focus is on the sprints and hurdles. Overall, the depth and talent in the girls sprint/hurdles events continues to increase every year in North Carolina, with no sign of letting up anytime in the near future. On the other hand, we seem to be going through a bit of a slump in the boys' hurdles over the past few years, although some of the young talent in the state bears the promise of returning to sub-14 sometime soon. This was also a year where injuries took away a LOT of great performances in these events, for both boys and girls, leaving us wondering what could have been. Before looking at each event, let's award the NCRunners Fans' Choice picks:
Alexis Murphy, Apex, 100/200
NCRunners Fans' Choice: Best Female Sprint/Hurdle Athlete
Although her budding (and friendly) rivalry with Gabrielle Gray was cut short due to Gabby's injury struggles, that does not take away one bit from what Alexis accomplished this season. She was the strongest short sprinter in the state from the get-go after posting a wind-aided 11.84 in March, and she closed that out with twin championships in the 100 and 200 at the NCHSAA 4A state meet. Most impressive of all was her improvement in her signature event, the 200: she went under 25 seconds 8 times this spring (last year, she didn't get there until May), and then ended up with a wind-legal 23.96 as her crowing achievement. Her times in the 100 and 200 rank her 8th and 12th, respectively, on the state's all-time top 25 list. Alexis will continue her development at the University of South Carolina next year, where she will be teammates with several of the girls she battled in the sprints this year.
Tevin Hester, Granville Central, 100/200
NCRunners Fans' Choice, Best Male Sprint/Hurdle Athlete
Imagine what Tevin can do when he focuses on sprinting year-round? The top-ranked 100m runner in the state didn't begin serious training until February due to basketball season, and he still managed to show significant signs of improvement from last year. Some minor injuries forced him to give up the 200 at the end of the high school season, but he won his second straight NCHSAA 2A state championship in the 100, and then came roaring back healthy at New Balance Nationals. First he earned the national title in the 100, equaling his all-time PR, and then he raced to second in the 200 to cap off the season. Built like a true 100 runner, watch for him to make a solid leap forward at Clemson, where he will continue his sprinting career.
Tyler Brockington (Dudley) 200/300H
Ariah Graham (Wakefield) 400
Kwame Donyinah (Myers Park) 400
Looking Back on the Spring: Sprints/Hurdles
Weather played a big part in the progression of sprint times around our state. An unusually cool spring held things back for much of April, as sprinters waited for warm temperatures to unleash their full power. Even when good times were posted, high winds often rendered the performances illegal (as was the case with the 4A state championship, where the fastest 100 times of the season were all wind-aided). Still, North Carolina continued to produce some of the best sprint talent in the country, as evidenced by the number of strong collegiate programs that recruited our best talent. Gabrielle Gray (High Point Central) was able to overcome her injury long enough to post an 11.70 at her regional, good for second in the state. Meanwhile, some returning talent continued to develop, promising that the NC girls will still be strong nationally next year. Nyshedra Brown (West Craven) and Sabrina Moore (North Mecklenburg) both went under 11.80 and 24.50, both cracked the all-time top 25 in the 100, and both will be back to improve on their marks next year. In the 200, Tyler Brockington (Dudley) ended up with the #2 ranking behind Murphy, while Tyra Lea (Wakefield) led the returning contingent with her 24.18 time. Despite having some injuries that affected her training, Ariah Graham (Wakefield, right) still led the state in the 400, where the top 4 performances were from seniors. Freshman Layla White (Cary) is the top returner with a mark of 56.13. The last year in which a North Carolina girl failed to break 55 seconds in the 400 was 2008, so we will need big development from our youngsters to keep up that streak (or a move up from a 200 star like Tyra?).
Boys sprints were intensely competitive this spring, especially the 100 and 200. Cameron Hudson (Berry Academy) actually put up the top mark in the 100 with a wind-aided 10.47 that earned him an NCHSAA 3A state championship. Junior TJ Logan (Northern Guilford), a football star, made a big splash in his first track season, finishing with a wind-aided 10.51 to lead all returners. Sophomore Jahmaal Daniel (Terry Sanford) came from seemingly out of nowhere to have a breakout day at the NCHSAA 4A state meet, clocking 10.55 to win the 100 after finishing third at his regional; he will also be the top returner in the 200. Joseph Horton (Knightdale) posted the best 200 time of the season in winning a 4A state title, with his 21.03 putting him in 10th place on the all-time list. The top 6 boys 200 runners were seniors, so the slate has been wiped clean for next year, and the door is open for young talent to step up. Speaking of which, junior Kwame Donyinah (Myers Park, below) made a huge leap forward in the 400 this year, collecting a 4A state title and clocking 47.27 to lead the state (ranking 13th in state history in the process). He was joined by fellow sub-48 junior Xavier Jones (Ragsdale), which should set up an interesting year in that event for 2013. Breakout sophomore Trentavis Friday (Cherryville) is close behind, meaning three of the top 4 in this event are returning.
Once again, the wind had a huge effect on the rankings, as the top 5 performances in the state all came in the wind-aided 4A final. The state leader and top returner, Mollie Williams of Clayton, proved that her 13.66 was no fluke, as she also had wind-legal 13.70 and 13.76 performances that would also be state-leading times. If you accept the wind-aided time, she ranks 6th in state history; her best wind-legal time puts her in a tie for 7th. Alexis Perry (Jordan) comes out second with either wind-aided or wind-legal times, while Nora McKiver (TW Andrews) and Hunter Roberts (Southwest Guilford) will be back next year to challege Williams. Seven of the state's top 35 performances of all time were set this year! Tyler Brockington (left) led the 300 contingent, putting up the second-best time in state history with her 41.81. Alvonna Blakney (West Mecklenburg) finished with the #2 ranking in the state, while Tametris Morrison (Southeast Raleigh) returns with a PR 43.13, giving her a chance to move up from her current all-time #6 ranking. Once again, the girls' record were heavily rewritten this year, as 6 girls either entered into or moved up among the top 28 performances all-time. The future is bright in the girls' hurdles, with another great senior class shaping up for 2013 along with young talent like freshmen Ariel Davis (Northern Guilford) and Ebony Williams (Parkland).
2009 was the last year that North Carolina produced 2 sub-14 boys high hurdlers (in 2007 there were seven!), and two of the last three years there have been none in the state. Things are looking up, though, with a returning duo of Cummings hurdlers poised to break through next year. Isaiah Moore led the state with his 14.10 clocking at NBN, while teammate Thomas Jones II is only 0.02 behind. In the 300 intermediates, Erin Jenkins (Vance, below) led the state with his time of 37.92; his 54.28 for 400 hurdles put him in the state's top 25 all-time. Erin will be back next year to try to bring back the sub-37 times that we haven't seen since 2009. Jones II is also an outstanding 300 hurdler, having ranked third in the state this year (the #2 returner). Also noteworthy was Wesley Tucker (Jacksonville), who improved to 14.22 and 38.17 this spring.