Comparing New Bern Boys, Cuthbertson Girls Relay Dominance

In one of the most incredible feats in national high school track and field history, the New Bern High boys' team blitzed through the national scene in stunning fashion, from 2006-2009.

Winning an unprecedented number of national titles, setting national records, and running roughshod over the rest of the country, as they literally flew all over the country competing, they won with such consistency and dominance that if you hadn't seen it in real-time, you might not believe it had actually happened.

But the numbers don't lie: 16 national titles, 2 runner-up finishes, 8 national meet records, 3 national high school records (2 of which still stand, the 800-meter sprint medley and 1,600-meter sprint medley), 2 No. 2 all-time performances, 3 more that were top-5 all-time, 1 national sophomore record, 16 performances that were ranked No. 1 in the country from 2006-2009, and 38 total performances that were ranked top-10 nationally in their respective events during that four-year span. 

New Bern also won 4 boys' outdoor track state titles and 2 more state indoor titles, along with 18 individual or relay state titles in that four-year span.

Despite the 3 national high school records, the most stunning was the 3:08.05 Andrew Hendrix, Anthony Hendrix, Fuquawn Greene and Miles Sparks (Nicholas' son) ran in the 4x400-meter relay (averaging 47.01 for each leg) in 2009 for No. 2 in national high school history. It was the closest any team had or has come in the last 40 years to challenge the national high school record of 3:07.40 set by the legendary Hawthorne (CA) team from 1985.

The dominance began in 2006 with Karjuan Williams, a nationally ranked 800-meter runner displaced by Hurricane Katrina, and ended with the Hendrix brothers (Andrew and Anthony), Sparks, Greene and Daishawn Styron teaming up for record-setting individual events and dominating relays.

Their feats were covered by the New York Times, Runner's World and other national media outlets. 

And then everything stopped for the eastern North Carolina school, nestled between the Trent River and Neuse River and close to the southern tip of the Outer Banks.

The likelihood of such a dominance happening again seemed far-fetched.

Until the Cuthbertson High girls' started their run on the national scene. 

With Cuthbertson setting two national records at this year's New Balance Indoor Nationals in Boston, in the Distance Medley Relay and 4x1,600-meter relay (three national high school records total since last year after breaking the indoor 4x800-meter relay) and winning seven total national titles in various events the past few years, their performance conjured up memories of the New Bern boys' dominance.

With an outdoor season remaining, Cuthbertson could likely win more. And even though they won't match the number of national titles New Bern collected in the same span, New Bern's sudden ascension and sudden departure from the national scene reminded of the greatness of achievement. It was also a reminder that when greatness happens, track fans, and the track community in general, need to soak it up, enjoy and celebrate when performances at such a high level and high volume are happening, instead of taking it for granted.

Single dominant performances happen each year, but the depth of their dominance was what was remarkable, which is what made New Bern's accomplishments so special and stunning at the same time. 

One of the architects of that New Bern team was Nicholas Sparks, the famous author of books that have become movies (The Notebook is the most famous). Sparks, though, isn't only a famous author, he was an 800-meter runner at Notre Dame in the 1980s and ran on the school record-setting 4x800-meter relay (a record that still stands nearly 40 years after it was set). The track at New Bern is also named after him, cementing his impact on the program in such a short span.


MileSplit/NCRunners reached out to Sparks, who has a new novel "Counting Miracles" that will be in stores September 24 and who has also been on the board of the USATF Foundation, to get his thoughts on his time at New Bern, a chance to look back at those teams, and his reflections on the Cuthbertson girls' relays.

---People say there is no magic pill, but obviously you were doing something right because New Bern had not been at the level prior to that, and the school has not been at that level since you left. What was the secret to having so much success?

SPARKS: "The success we had was largely the result of two factors: a dedicated, creative coaching staff, and a plethora of quality athletes. The head coach, Mark Robison, was highly supportive when it came to individualized training and a schedule that allowed the team to compete around the country. Dave Simpson excelled at motivating the athletes to compete with confidence at the highest level. I, on the other hand, was responsible for conceiving and coaching the workouts. Without the three of us working together -- each of us with a specific role to play -- I doubt we would have had the success we did."

"As for the athletes -- so many of whom were incredibly talented -- I suppose that came down to a bit of luck, as it often does. The talent we had on those teams was extraordinary, and the athletes were motivated to be the best. Added to that was the cumulative effect of belief:  success in 2006 led them to believe 2007 would be even better, etc. By 2009, it had become a team for the ages."

---How did your time at Notre Dame help prepare you for that time?

SPARKS: "It aided me immensely, not only with knowledge about the importance of specific training, including plyometrics, form drills, and hill running, but more importantly, the importance of avoiding injury. Because I suffered through a number of injuries at Notre Dame, I was determined not to allow that to happen to the athletes at New Bern. As hard as the athletes ran on workout days -- and some of the workouts were incredibly difficult -- the athletes were in many ways undertrained. Even our 800-meter runners never topped 20 miles in a week, and they were always given two complete rest days per week (Friday and Sunday) with no running at all. The longest run any of them ever did was four miles, and in four years, they only did that a couple of times."

---Was there anything specifically that prepared you as a coach to help the kids achieve at such a high level?

SPARKS: I did a lot of research into various coaching philosophies. I know how the East Germans and Soviets trained, I know how the Kenyans and Moroccans trained, I know how Americans trained in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. I studied the methods of various college coaches and programs, as well. I chose the best elements of each and incorporated it into the training program on an age-appropriate level."

---How did you help the kids handle all of the attention (the internet was abuzz back then and you and the team were getting major attention in outlets like the New York Times, Runner's World, and other news outlets).

SPARKS: "The athletes WERE caught up in it; they couldn't help it. By February of 2009, they'd show up at a meet and would end up signing autographs for an hour. Before races, other teams would go up to them and say, 'It's an honor to be in the same race as you.' Yet, I mentioned that Dave Simpson was excellent when it came to mental preparation. When it was time to compete, the athletes would be ready. To be honest, I'm not sure HOW he was able to do it as well as he did. At the time, it was a wonder to me as well. And yet, when the gun went off, the kids would race with complete confidence."

 ---How does that make you feel knowing that two of those national records still stand and that no team has come close to duplicating what New Bern did 15-18 years ago?

SPARKS: "I love that the athletes were able to be as successful as they were. In 2009, the team brought home eight national titles, they had the No. 1 time in the US in seven different relays (three indoor, four outdoor), won the state team championship, and mythical national team championship while setting three national records. They were also nationally ranked in a number of individual events, as well."

"But, obviously, records are made to be broken. In time, those records will be broken." 

---It seemed to start with Karjuan Williams (who was displaced from New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina), but Anthony and Andrew Hendrix, along with your son, were freshmen back then. Was Karjuan a motivating factor for them, to see that it could be done? Or do you think they were on track to accomplish all of that regardless if Karjuan had moved to New Bern and accomplished everything he did his lone year in 2006? (Karjuan Williams won the 800-meter indoor and outdoor national title, anchored the winning 1,600-meter sprint medley indoors and outdoors, and helped set an outdoor meet record to give New Bern four national titles in 2006)

SPARKS: "Yes, in many ways, Karjuan was the catalyst; it was because of him that other, younger athletes (the Hendrix twins, Miles, Fuquawn, DeShaun, etc.) believed they could be successful, as well. In 2006, however, he wasn't the only excellent athlete at New Bern. Darryl Reynolds was one of the top hurdlers in the country in both the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles, and Kelvin Hardesty ran 10.4 in the 100 meters."

---What did you learn from that experience about student-athletes and people in general? 

SPARKS: "I learned that the mental aspect of training was in some ways more important than the physical training.  While the athletes had an excellent training regimen and were wildly fit, by 2009, most of the real training concerned the mental aspect of racing. It is challenging to run fast every single month from January to June, and it's even more challenging when excellence (and the setting of national records) is expected race after race. It wore on them. By late May, the athletes were mentally exhausted, so in preparation for the national championships in late June, I decided to give the athletes a complete rest. From June 1-June 22, the athletes had one workout (on June 10th), and it wasn't a difficult workout. The three weeks off were just what they needed: At the Nationals, they set the national record in the 800-meter sprint medley, ran US No. 1 in the 4 x 200, ran 3:08.05  (No. 2 all-time) in the 4 x 400, and won the national championship in the 1600-meter sprint medley (in a pedestrian time of 3:23, but they'd set the national record of 3:19.58 in March, so they were told just to win it.)"

---What were your fondest memories (or favorite memory) from that time?

SPARKS: "The 3:08.05, in the 4 x 400 relay, their final race together, is a moment I'll always remember. The 1600-meter sprint medley relay record was also pretty special." 

---I read an interview in 2016 with where you were asked if you would ever write a novel on athletics? You said, "If I write anything at all, I'd write a non-fiction account of the 2009 season."  Does that still hold true? If so or if not, would you ever consider writing about that special time from 2006-2009, considering it looks like it might not ever be duplicated again, at least to that depth?

SPARKS: "Perhaps I'll write something someday. It was a special and memorable time in my life."


Considering the dominance of the Cuthbertson girls' team (three national high school records, seven national titles), what would you tell them to do as far as soaking it in and enjoying the moment? 

SPARKS: "I would tell them to do their best to appreciate the moment, even as I know their appreciation will grow stronger with the passage of time. Right now, though, they're still in it, so -- if I was their coach -- I'd more than likely say, 'there's more to come.'  AND, based on my experience, as the later part of the season approaches, I'd allow them more rest than they think they need. Resting worked for New Bern, and it will work for them."


800-meter sprint medley: 1:28.20, New Balance Nationals, Greensboro, June 20, 2009

(Daishawn Styron, Fuquawn Greene, Andrew Hendrix, Anthony Hendrix 46.39)

*Still the national high school record

1,600-meter sprint medley: 3:19.58, Raleigh, March 27, 2009

(Fuquawn Greene 21.5, Miles Sparks 21.8, Andrew Hendrix 46.6, Anthony Hendrix 1:49.7)

*Still the national high school record

--also had the No. 5 (still 9th) all-time performance at 3:22.47 in 2006

4x400-meter relay (indoors): 3:13.06, New York, Feb. 6, 2009

(Anthony Hendrix 47.7, Fuquawn Greene 48.8, Miles Sparks 49.0, Andrew Hendrix 47.6)

*No. 2 all-time now, but it stood as the national high school record for 10 years before Bullis broke the mark by a mere 0.53 seconds in 2019.

--Has 2 of the fastest 4 4x400-meter relay performances in national indoor history



--4x400-meter relay, 3:08.05, 2009 (No. 2 all-time)

--Anthony Hendrix, indoor 600 meters, 1:18.36 (No. 2 at the time; still No. 10 performer all-time)

--4x200-meter relay, indoors, 1:27.02 (was No. 3 all-time)


2006 Indoors:

--Karjuan Williams, 400 meters, No. 7 nationally, 47.99

--Karjuan Williams, 500 meters, No. 1 nationally, 1:02.80 (**No. 2 all-time**)

--Karjuan Williams, 800 meters, No. 1 nationally, 1:50.74 (**No. 4 all-time; and 1:50.68 on oversized track, was No. 2 all-time for oversized track)

--1,600-meter sprint medley, No. 3 nationally, 3:29.63 (No. 19 all-time)

2006 Outdoors

--Karjuan Williams, 800 meters, No. 1 nationally, 1:49.97

--Daryl Reynolds, 110-meter hurdles, No. 8 nationally, 13.72

--Daryl Reynolds, 300-meter hurdles, No. 7 nationally, 36.71

--1600-meter sprint medley, No. 1 nationally, 3:22.47 (No. 4 all-time)

2007 Indoors

--Anthony Hendrix, 500 meters, No. 4 nationally, 1:04.72

--Anthony Hendrix, 800 meters, No. 8 nationally, 1:53.28

--1600-meter sprint medley, No. 3 nationally, 3:28.39 (No. 15 all-time)

2007 Outdoors

--Kelvin Hardesty, 100 meters, No. 6 nationally, 10.51

--1600-meter sprint medley, No. 1 nationally, 3:24.5

2008 Indoors

--Fuquawn Greene, 200 meters, No. 7 nationally, 21.72

--Anthony Hendrix, 500 meters, No. 4 nationally, 1:05.24

--Mike Price, long jump, No. 9 nationally, 23-7.25

--4x400-meter relay, No. 5 nationally, 3:20.72

--4x800-meter relay, No. 1 nationally, 7:46.80

--1600-meter sprint medley, No. 2 nationally, 3:29.24

2008 Outdoors

--Fuquawn Greene, 100 meters, No. 7 nationally, 10.46

--Fuquawn Greene, 200 meters, No. 12 nationally, 21.08

--Anthony Hendrix, 800 meters, No. 24 nationally, 1:51.55

--4x400-meter relay, No. 14 nationally, 3:14.55

--4x800-meter relay, No. 17 nationally, 7:46.12

--1600-meter sprint medley, No. 1 nationally, 3:23.76 (No. 17 all-time)

2009 Indoors

--Fuquawn Greene, 55 meters, No. 5 nationally, 6.29

--Fuquawn Greene, 60 meters, No. 8 nationally, 6.80

--Fuquawn Greene, 200 meters, No. 3 nationally, 21.39 (No. 16 all-time)

--Anthony Hendrix, 400 meters, No. 3 nationally, 47.73

--Andrew Hendrix, 400 meters, No. 7 nationally, 48.15

--Anthony Hendrix, 500 meters, No. 1 nationally, 1:03.48 (No. 8 all-time)

--Andrew Hendrix, 500 meters, No. 2 nationally, 1:03.65 (No. 13 all-time)

--Anthony Hendrix, 600 meters, No. 1 nationally, 1:18.36 (**No. 2 all-time**)

--Andrew Hendrix, 600 meters, No. 4 nationally, 1:18.89 (No. 6 all-time)

--4x200-meter relay, No. 1 nationally, 1:27.02 (No. 3 all-time)

--4x400-meter relay, No. 1 nationally, 3:13.06 (national high school record)

--1600-meter sprint medley, No. 1 nationally, 3:26.28 (No. 5 all-time)

2009 Outdoors

--Fuquawn Greene, 100 meters, No. 6 nationally, 10.39

--Fuquawn Greene, 200 meters, No. 18 nationally, 21.20

--Anthony Hendrix, 400 meters, No. 22 nationally, 47.03

--Anthony Hendrix, 400-meter hurdles, No. 7 nationally, 52.40

--4x200-meter relay, No. 1 nationally, 1:24.80 (No. 25 all-time)

--4x400-meter relay, No. 1 nationally, 3:08.05 (**No. 2 all-time**)

--800-meter sprint medley, No. 1 nationally, 1:28.20 (national high school record)

--1600-meter sprint medley, No. 1 nationally, 3:19.58 (national high school record)


(16 national titles, 2 runner-ups, 8 meet records)

2006 Indoor

---Karjuan Williams, 800 meters, indoors, 1:52.56 (meet record)

---1,600-meter sprint medley, 3:29.63

(Rigdon Whitfield, Kelvin Hardesty, Darryl Reynolds, Karjuan Williams)

2006 Outdoor

---Karjuan Williams, 800 meters, 1:49.97

---1600-meter sprint medley, 3:22.47 (meet record)

(Rigdon Whitfield, Kelvin Hardesty, Karjuan Williams, Andrew Hendrix)

2007 Indoor

---1,600-meter sprint medley, 3:28.38 (Meet Record)

(Kelvin Hardesty, Fuquan Greene, Andrew Hendrix, Anthony Hendrix; Miles Sparks)

2007 Outdoor

***(1600 SMR was DQd for being out of zone, but would have won)

2008 Indoor

---4x800-meter relay, 7:58.18

(Ronald Barnes, Anthony Hendrix, Andrew Hendrix, Rodney Stewart, Miles Sparks)

---1600-meter sprint medley, 3:29.24

(Fuquawn Greene, Miles Sparks, Andrew Hendrix, Anthony Hendrix)


RUNNER-UP: 4x200-meter relay, 1:30.02

(Fuquawn Greene, Andrew Hendrix, Anthony Hendrix, Mike Price, Daishawn Styron)

RUNNER-UP: 4x400-meter relay, 3:22.12

(Anthony Hendrix, Fuquawn Greene, Rodney Stewart, Andrew Hendrix)

2008 Outdoor

---1600-meter sprint medley, 3:23.76

(Miles Sparks, Fuquawn Greene, Andrew Hendrix, Anthony Hendrix)

2009 Indoor

---Fuquawn Greene, 200 meters, 21.53 (sophomore national record)

---4x200-meter relay, 1:27.91 (meet record)

(Fuquawn Greene, Daishawn Styron, Anthony Hendrix, Andrew Hendrix, Mike Price)

---4x400-meter relay, 3:15.02 (meet record)

(Anthony Hendrix, Fuquawn Greene, Miles Sparks, Andrew Hendrix, Judson McAden)

---1600-meter sprint medley, 3:27.64 (meet record)

(Fuquawn Greene, Miles Sparks, Andrew Hendrix, Anthony Hendrix, Daishawn Styron)

2009 Outdoor

---4x200-meter relay, 1:24.80

(Fuquawn Green, Andrew Hendrix, Anthony Hendrix, Daishawn Styron, Miles Sparks)

---4x400-meter relay, 3:08.05 (meet record)

(Anthony Hendrix, Miles Sparks, Fuquawn Greene, Andrew Hendrix)

---800-meter sprint medley, 1:28.20 (national record; meet record)

(Daishawn Styron, Fuquawn Greene, Andrew Hendrix, Anthony Hendrix)

---1600-meter sprint medley, 3:24.54

(Fuquawn Greene, Andrew Hendrix, Anthony Hendrix, Miles Sparks, Daishawn Styron)