The North Carolina high school state championship is live on FloTrack this weekend, beginning Friday, May 19. We preview all of the 4A boys action below.
The target is certainly on J Johnson's (Panther Creek) back after going undefeated against North Carolina competition this outdoor season. He holds the best mark in the state at 10.34. Brandon Ray (Athens Drive), Rondell Terry (Garner), and Kobe Barnes (Wakefield) have had incredible seasons and have taken many swings at Johnson but came up short. They went 1-4 last weekend at 4A Mideast and all rank in the top five for 4A this year. Brenton Ervin (Mallard Creek), the winner of a tough 4A West region, hasn't gotten to race Johnson head-to-head this season and is ranked No. 4 in 4A. Could Ervin be the one to score the upset this weekend, or will the Mideast region sweep the boys 100?
J Johnson (Panther Creek) will have a rematch with Trequan Barnes (Parkland) from a crazy-fast 300 this indoor season. They come in as the top seeds at 21.47 and 21.75, respectively, this outdoor season. Barnes and Jalen Jones (Hoke County) will have a short break in between the open 400 and will look to complete a tough double. Rondell Terry (Garner) was impressive last weekend at the 4A Mideast Region and holds a season's best mark of 21.82. Johnson certainly will come in as the favorite, and many will look to deny Johnson of a double victory this weekend.
Jalen Jones (Hoke County) looks to be in top form and is the defending champ. He comes in with the top seed time of 47.87 and is the only 4A boy under 48 seconds. But expect a big day from Trequan Barnes (Parkland), as he needs every point he can get to lead his team to a team title. Barnes has run 48.04, and this looks to be a battle between the two. Just a sophomore, Joshua Parks (A.L. Brown) hasn't lost in his last nine races and set a PR at 4A West in 48.88. Could he score an upset on Saturday?
Cedric McGriff (Providence) has been the one to beat in the short hurdles all season long, but he's going to have an angry Raymonte Dow (High Point Central) on his hands. Dow is a 300m Hurdle specialist and defending champion in the event. Dow was DQed after falling twice (and still placing third) at the 4A Midwest Regional. He's going to come out hot in the 110m hurdles, his only individual event of the day. McGriff hasn't broken 14 this season and did a year ago. Could this be the first week he does so?
300m HurdlesWith defending champion Raymonte Dow being DQed (read above) at regionals, this race will have a new favorite in Elijah Knight (Cary), who has a strong chance at the individual crown. He is the only boy in the field sub-39 with a PR of 38.34. Dexter McDuffie (South Central) has the next fastest PR at 39.01 and seems to be the only big challenger unless someone has a breakout day to take down Knight.
Similar to the boys 1000 this indoor season, the boys 800 seems to be wide open, but Christian Pigues (Rolesville) defined himself as the one to beat after winning the indoor 1000 and the 4A Mideast regional last weekend, running a 1:54.95 off a 58-59 first 400! Andrew Brooks (Broughton) holds the top time in the 800 in North Carolina this year with a 1:53.3 from two weeks ago. Brooks is on Broughton's 4x800 and a qualifier in the 1600. He'll certainly run the 1600 and expect him to not run on Broughton's 4x800 in hopes for two strong individual performances. Canoy Tyree (Mallard Creek) has a big win under his belt after beating a loaded field at the Bojangles Classic 800 in 1:54.11. You also have Ian Delgado (Green Hope), who will double back from Green Hope's 4x800, but he's got the wheels to go 1:52! Joel Shores (Southeast Guilford) and Juan Rodriguez (Parkland) battled it out in the 4A Midwest 800 last weekend in what was a major breakthrough race for Rodriguez. Also, Evan Harris (Lake Norman) certainly is capable of much faster than his 1:56 season's best and has a 4:16 1600 PR, so he's certainly got the strength to hold onto a fast pace!
Cameron Ponder (Mt. Tabor) and Connor Lane (Cardinal Gibbons) have a big rematch on their hands from this indoor season. Lane edged Ponder, but eventually was DQed for an infraction earlier in the race, making Ponder the 4A state champion. Once again, they're the top two in this field and have converted 1600 season's bests of 4:10 for Ponder and 4:14 for Lane. There are also plenty of studs in this field who have the potential for a breakout race in Finn McBride (Green Hope), the 4A Mideast champion; Andrew Brooks (Broughton); Hayden Blalock (Providence), the 4A West champion; Sam Grelck (Cardinal Gibbons); and Ares Epps (Green Hope). We should see the majority of this field under 4:20 if the pace goes out honest and possibly even a sub-4:10 effort to take the win!
This field is LOADED with some of North Carolina's best all-time distance runners in Connor Lane (Cardinal Gibbons), Ian Shanklin (Page), and Cameron Ponder (Mount Tabor) who all had sub-nine-minute times at Arcadia, running 8:47, 8:50, and 8:56, respectively. Both Lane and Ponder will double back from a 1600 battle, and Shanklin will come back from a 4x800 leg earlier in the day. You also have John Tatter (RJ Reynolds) and Ben Savino (Apex), who certainly are capable of running sub-nine minutes and are not afraid for the challenge. Tatter actually beat Shanklin and Ponder at 4A Midwest last weekend. Savino has run 9:12, but just hasn't gotten the right race recently to run fast. His 9:19 effort at 4A Mideast was solo last weekend. Will the 4A Midwest prove to be dominant, or will anyone be able to break up its strong four and repeat a Midwest podium sweep?
The 4x100 is one of the most fun events to watch on the track, because to win against a tight field like this you have to have perfection around the track. Parkland, Mallard Creek, and Reagan come in with the three fastest times of the year with a 41.97, 42.05, and 42.14, respectively. We did see a good battle last weekend between Panther Creek and Garner at the 4A Midwest Regional as both ran season's bests of 42.43 and 42.49, respectively. Panther Creek certainly has the best anchor in J Johnson if it elects to run him in the event. The Catamounts will likely add him in whatever they think they can place the highest in between the 4x100 and 4x400. Parkland will look to sweep the 4x100, 4x200, and 4x400 on Friday as it comes in with the top time in all three. It certainly will not be an easy feat.
Parkland is the top seed and has the best two 200m runners in the field between Trequan Barnes and Justin Burnette, who will both be in the 200 final later on in the day. Parkland ran the top time at the regional meets after clocking a 1:26.65, which was also its fastest FAT mark of the year and a second better than every school but Reagan. The Mustangs will certainly have a target on their back, and West champion Mallard Creek and the Mideast champion Garner are going to come out hungry for the state title. It will likely come down to which team has the best anchor leg between Barnes (Parkland), Rondell Terry (Garner), and Brenton Ervin (Mallard Creek). Second-seeded Reagan has a handful of guys who could run its final leg, but Mashion Powell is the expected anchor.
Cary, the indoor state champion for 4A, has been incredible in the 4x400 all year long. While the Imps are certainly expected be on their A game, the Midwest region had three teams break 3:20 in Parkland, Grimsley, and Mount Tabor, going NC Nos. 1-3 this season. Mallard Creek, which won the 4A West, has run 3:21.71 this season and will certainly be in the mix as well. Mallard Creek and Parkland are two favorites for the team title, and according to our virtual meet, it's going to come down to the 4x400! Who will rise to the occasion to claim the team title?
All season, I've been waiting for Green Hope's boys to show their cards in the 4x800 in what they can really run. They have four guys from 1:55 to 1:57 but have not put together a 4x800 that's gone sub-eight this year. Matthew Kehn, who is one of their leaders, didn't run at the regional meet whatsoever, and if he's out it certainly makes the race a lot more interesting. Also with Epps, Delgado, and McBride all having individual events, we might see them run below full strength. And if they were to do that, they're deep enough to still be in title contention. Three teams have run sub-eight in Millbrook, Mallard Creek, and Cary this season. Millbrook won the strong Mideast region last weekend and will come in with a lot of momentum. Mallard Creek won the West over Providence, which will both be eyeing a state title this Friday. A big surprise from last weekend was East Chapel Hill, which won the Midwest region in 8:01.45. Could the Wildcats have a lot more left in the tank? How many teams will be under 8:00 on Friday morning? Can Green Hope defend?
Austin Harrison (West Forsyth) was the indoor shot put champion and has been head and shoulders better than the rest of his 4A competitors this year. It seems like a big focus for him could be the success of teammates Nathan Myers, who is the No. 2 seed in the discus, and Zach Weinstein, who is the No. 5 seed in the shot put. Going 1-2 in either event would be huge for their team points, as they look to be in the mix for a trophy at the end of the day. Harrison has throw over 58 feet both indoors and outdoors this year, and the 60-foot mark is going to be on his mind in the shot put. North Mecklenburg sophomore Chancelor Crawford will be looking for the upset in both events, as he ranks No. 2 in the shot and No. 3 in the discus. Crawford and Myers could very well be the state's top two throwers the next two seasons.
Seth Rabinowitz (Providence) and Doug Scott (Broughton) are the only two who have cleared farther than 14-0 this season with season's bests of 14-7.5 and 14-6, respectively. But do not count out indoor state champion John Lehe (Lake Norman) and Patrick Freeman (Mount Tabor). Lehe actually beat Rabinowitz at the 4A West regional as Scott won the Mideast and Freeman the Midwest. It's a different result between these four every time, and all have an equal shot at winning come Friday.
This is one of the most wide-open events of the weekend, with the top nine boys between 6-4 and 6-7. Idris Bernand (Mallard Creek) is the top seed at 6-7, and we will get to see how he fares on the big stage this weekend. Seth Clyburn (West Forsyth) was the indoor state champion and will look to make it 2 for 2 this season in the high jump. He has been stuck at 6-6 for a while now and will likely need to improve on that if he wants to win it this weekend. Jabrill Griffin (North Mecklenburg) and Charles McBride (Apex Friendship) should also be in the mix, as both have cleared 6-5. With so many boys close together, it very well could end with multiple athletes at the same height. Every jump matters, as just one miss could move you from first to second.
Parkland and Mallard Creek are separated by just three points in this team battle. Both have athletes in the 200 and 800 that they expect to score points, and two schools will also compete in the 4x100, 4x200, 4x400 head-to-head. Mallard Creek's X-factor could be its 4x800, which is ranked second and could be HUGE for the Mavericks. If Canoy Tyree can win the 800 individually, they very well could be carrying home that team trophy. They also have an underrated Brenton Ervin in the 4x100 and 4x200. Parkland will look to score 30 points in a sweep of the three sprint relays and get a big day individually from Trequan Barnes in the 200 and 400. Barnes has been magnificent all outdoor season, and the expectations will be no different this Friday.
West Forsyth and Panther Creek both are able to be in the mix this weekend. You won't see much from West Forsyth on the track, as it is carried heavily by an awesome throws squad. The Titans have the best individually thrower in both shot and discus in Austin Harrison and are projected for 34 points total from three athletes. They also will have Seth Clyburn contending for an individual title in the high jump, and if he wins that, West Forsyth is going to be right up there with Parkland and Mallard Creek. Panther Creek also will look to score 30 points from J Johnson, who is favored to win the 100/200 and long jump. The Catamounts also load up in the 4x100 and 4x400, where it is critical they score points in both. In the 800, Kyle Fawzi also needs to outscore Canoy Tyree and Parklands Juan Rodriguez if Panther Creek wants a shot. Fawzi is projected outside of the top eight in the virtual meet but could easily be a top four finisher. The Catamounts' 4x400 ran 3:22.68 last weekend without J Johnson, who split 47.5 at Bojangles Classic. We won't know till the 4x100 if they choose to run him on anchor in the 4x100 or 4x400, but the decision could be vital for a team title shot.
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