Ten Home State Athletes Ready To Thrown Down at AAU JO Games

* Laila Jones took home the win at adidas Middle School Nationals in the discus. (Photo by Dan Loughlin)



Laila Jones - TriCity Relays of NC

Jones is on the verge of being a star in this sport. She is already elite in both shot put and discus at the middle school level, and backed it up with wins in both events at adidas Middle School Nationals and AAU Region 25 12U. Her personal bests of 115-1 in discus and 41-8 in shot put are both U.S. No. 1 this season for her age. She also holds the AAU 8U shot put record, and is gunning for both of the AAU 12U records in Greensboro. 

Drew Johnson - Charlotte Panthers

Johnson will be lining up for his final track competition of the season before he turns his focus to his first high school cross country season. He just won the AAU Club Nationals 14U 1,500m run clocking 4:12.47. At AAU Region 25, Johnson dipped under 2:00 for the first time in the 800m, taking the win in 1:59.21. The rising freshman at Lake Norman Charter will look to solidify himself as one of the top runners in the class of 2026. 

Lauren Tolbert - Carolina Express

Tolbert has been nothing short of a superstar -- and we mean beyond the state lines of North Carolina -- during her career at Highland Tech. Now, the Duke signee gets one more crack at the elusive 800m North Carolina state record. The record, standing at 2:06.66, is well within reach for Tolbert. She clocked 2:06.94 at the Brooks PR Invitational in June, finishing runner-up. Tolbert has gone sub 2:10 five times in her career, and she's looking for No. 6 to be a personal best, and new state record. She is only competing in the 800m, so she really gets to put all her energy into that one record she has been chasing for so long. The AAU Junior Olympic Games 17-18 age group record is 2:07.04 from 2016

Zoe Dorsey - Fayetteville Flyers

Dorsey has already proven she can hang with the high school athletes. She won the NCISAA DIII 400m and 800m and took second in the 200m finals. She was the only girl to score points for her Fayetteville Academy squad and she led them to a ninth place finish as a team. She took home the wins at AAU Region 25 in the 200m, 400m, and 800m. 

JaMeesia Ford - Fayetteville Flyers

Ford (above) really came into her own this season on the track. The junior was runner-up in the 100m, third in the 400m, and seventh in the 200m at the NCHSAA 4A State Championship. She built off that performance to win the 100m, 200m, and 400m at AAU Region 25. This season, she is NC No. 2 in the 100m and 200m, and she sits No. 4 in the 400m. Her 100m and 200m time are both U.S. Class of 2023 No. 10 marks this season, while her 400m time is junior class No. 5. 

Chaunesse Barringer - Cabarrus County Jets

The NCHSAA 3A and AAU Region 25 long jump champion, Barringer will compete one final time before heading off to UNC-Charlotte in the fall. She has a wind-aided personal best of 19-10.25, which is all-conditions U.S. T-No. 28 this season. She has jumped over 19-feet three times this season, including a 19-9 leap at her conference championship. At AAU Region 25, she won the competition with a jump of 18-8.75, winning by over four inches. 

Xavier Branker - Elite T&F Training

In 2022, Branker proved to be one of the elite hurdles in North Carolina, if not the country. He captured the NCHSAA 4A 110mH and 300mH state championships in May and followed it with a win in the AAU Region 25 110mH. He holds a personal best of 14.32 from 2021. His season best of 14.34 came in a runner-up performance at All American Track Classic in April in South Carolina. 

Kenneth Byrd - Dynamic Speed Kinetix

Byrd has shown he is an elite pole vaulter, but now the rising junior wants to prove he can do more than the one event. He won the national title in the decathlon at adidas Nationals, tallying 6508 points. He won the decathlon discus, pole vault and high jump. His point total of 6,508 is U.S. No. 5 this season, and No. 2 among sophomores. Byrd won the AAU Region 25 pole vault and decathlon, as well. During AAU Regionals he won each event in the decathlon, a rare and challenging feat. 

Nina Dominique - Charlotte Heat

The freshman standout Dominique is taking to the track once more to chase some big times. During the high school season she was fourth in the 200m and fifth in the 100m at the NCHSAA 4A State Championship. She was runner-up in the finals of the adidas Nationals Freshman 100m dash. At the 2021 AAU Junior Olympic Games, Dominique was sixth in the Age 14 100m and 200m.

Teri Pridgen - Charlotte Heat 

Pridgen was runner-up to Dominique at AAU Region 25 in the 15-16 100m dash finals. In the spring, she won the NCISAA DI 400m to go along with runner-up finishes in the 100m and 200m. She went on to win AAU Region 25 in the 400m. At adidas Nationals, she was seventh in the championship 100m and fifth in the championship 200m.