HICKORY – Following numerous dominant performances in Regional competition over the weekend, high school athletes across the area are preparing to be crowned the top performer in their respective events at this weekend’s NCHSAA track and field state championships.
Bunker Hill played host to the 2A West Regional meet last Saturday, with the Bears’ Cameron Mcdaniel winning in the long jump and triple jump. Bandys also had a two-time winner as JaTay Culliver outran the field in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. The Trojans’ Alex Reavis claimed the high jump title as well and will enter the state event with the best mark of any other competitor.
Hibriten’s short relay team also picked up a pair of Regional gold medals, as did the Panthers’ Miles Simon in the 300-meter hurdles. Newton-Conover also had a Regional champion with its 4x400 girls relay squad. And at the 3A West meet held at Watauga, Alexander Central’s Lyndon Strickland won titles in the shot put and discus – though he won’t be the only Cougar competing for a state championship this weekend.
To qualify for the state meet, competitors had to finish in the top four in their event at Regionals. The state championships will take place at North Carolina A&T State University, with the 2A and 4A meets going Saturday and the 3A meet moved from Friday to Sunday due to the threat of severe weather.
On the strength of victories from Culliver and Reavis, Bandys placed fourth at the 2A West Regional, six points ahead of fifth-place Hibriten and 20 in front of Bunker Hill in seventh. Joining the Trojans duo at state will be Chase Clanton, who qualified for the 300-meter hurdles by finishing fourth in the Regional.
Speaking of Bunker Hill, the Bears send two of their boys to Greensboro. Along with Mcdaniel, Raheem Carson qualified for state after taking second in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.13 seconds.
Andrew Davis and A’Qui Thompson will look to bring a state championship back to Fred T. Foard. Davis finished fourth in the Regional pole vault event, while Thompson took second in the 400-meter dash.
Hibriten will have five members of its 2AA state-winning football team looking to add another championship to cap their academic year. Aaron Logan, Karson Pilkenton, McKinley Witherspoon and Jonas Brown had the top Regional times in the 4x100 and 4x200 relay races. Witherspoon will also race in the 200-meter dash. And Simon, the MVP of the football title game, ran the 300 hurdles in 40.03 seconds to qualify with the fourth-best time for any 2A boy this season.
Newton-Conover’s Jalen Johnson has a shot at three different titles this weekend. He’ll race in the 200- and 400-meter dashes as well as the 4x400 relay team with Keldon Stinson, Caleb Henze and Noel McIver. Additionally, Brandon Johnson qualified for the 100-meter dash.
Micah Cobb is Maiden’s lone state qualifier. He placed third in the Regional discus event.
Bunker Hill and Newton-Conover are the only area teams to send girls to the 2A championships. For the Bears, Caroline Hilliard will compete in the 800- and 1,600-meter races, having finished third in both events at the Regional. Naeousha Ramseur will also have a shot at three titles: she qualified for the 100-meter dash as well as the 4x100 and 4x200 relays with teammates Na’Mya Hector, Jahlein Summers and Jada Perkins.
Add the Red Devils’ Brianna Carson to the list of possible three-time winners as well. She qualified in both the 100- and 400-meter dashes. And her 4x400 relay team with Anna Loudermelt, Elaina Ramseur and Mia Macon won at Regionals and will be in the top half of the state field.
Strickland had the top marks in the 3A West shot put (49-01.50) and discus (155-11) and enters state among the top four in each event. Fellow Cougar Cooper Castellaw placed third in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 10:01.60, booking his ticket to state as well.
Hickory and St. Stephens each had one runner qualify for the state meet. The Red Tornadoes’ Elijah Milsaps took fourth in the 300-meter hurdles (41.34), while the Indians’ Jayden Hefner also finished fourth in the 1,600-meter run (4:29.90).
Alexander Central had a trio of girls place third in their respective events at the 3A West Regional. KeyKey Miller qualified for the state triple jump event with a mark of 35-06.50. Kacey Payne will represent the Cougars in the shot put after her distance of 32-01. And Madison Ratchford had a mark of 104-10 in the discus to join Miller and Payne at state.
Carter Lewis will be the lone representative for South Caldwell at the state championships. He qualified for the pole vault by placing fourth in last weekend’s 4A West Regional at Providence High School, posting a mark of 13.00 feet. Only five 4A pole vaulters across the state have reached a higher distance this year.