By Jason Creasy of NC Runners
This weekend's NCHSAA State Championships will be brought to you LIVE on FloTrack! You can watch this event live with the MileSplit Universal plan to unlock all of the rankings, photos, archived race video, and more. Photos and archived race video from the event will go up on Sunday morning. We're super excited that state meet weekend is finally here and are glad to be live-streaming the event for the first time in NCHSAA track and field history. Below you can find a preview of what you can expect from the team scores as well as a glance at the top events to watch for on Friday.
Boys Team Battle
North Brunswick doesn't seem to have the full squad that qualified for this meet, as it didn't double up JC Smith and Cameron Barnhill in the 100/200. While each are just doing one individual track event, North Brunswick will still be formidable on Friday unless a lot goes wrong. Jayhlen Washington is likely to score 30 points individually, which may outscore most teams in 2A. North Brunswick is ranked NC No. 1 in the 4x100 but didn't run its team at regionals.
If NB does slip up, Brevard and Croatan will be knocking on the door. They'll also be battling throughout the day in what will likely be a battle for second place. They'll kick off the day in a head-to-head battle in the 4x800, where they're the top two seeds. Croatan is powered through relays and middle distance runners, while Brevard is solely distance and 4x800 powered by Noah Graham, who could sweep the distance events.
During indoors, we saw an epic anchor leg battle between Brevard and Croatan, and it's set up to be an epic rematch. They come in as the top two seeds, with Croatan at 8:15.01 and Brevard at 8:15.53. It's going to come down to a battle on the anchor leg. Croatan has a few options with Tyler Robinson and Michael Quispe as possible anchors, but you know Brevard is going to have its star Noah Graham running the anchor leg on Friday.
This race is wide open with seven athletes having PRs within half a second of each other. Reidsville's Issac Hill has the top time in 2A this season at 49.67, but Carrboro's Quinton Adams is just behind at 49.69. Shelby's Lathan Kee ran the fastest time from last weekend, clocking a PR of 49.99. CATA's Jesse Ballew also looked strong while dominating his Midwest competition despite not running the fastest time. Also, Croatan's Tyler Robinson ran the 500 indoors and fell in the last 50 meters to knock him out of a podium finish. He will be expecting to come back in a big way in this 400.
The rematch from indoors and XC is back once again between Forbush's Dakota Mendenhall and Brevard's Noah Graham. In two state championship races this year, Graham has just narrowly edged Mendenhall, leaving Mendenhall extremely hungry for his first individual state title. Mendenhall looked strong last weekend at the Midwest regional, winning the 1600 and 800 in 4:22 and 1:58, respectively. Graham has the fastest season's best mark of 4:18 (converted Mile) and will be looking to defend his individual title.
Forbush's Dakota Mendenhall beat the defending outdoor champion in Surry Central's Daniel Alvarez-Orlachia at the Midwest regional last weekend as both ran season's bests of 1:58. Brevard's Noah Graham will be doubling back from the 4x800 and 1600 as well and comes in with the fastest PR of 1:57. Mendenhall will come back from the 1600, and Alvarez-Orlachia will be fresh. Will Mendenhall, a junior, be able to steal one way from the two seniors? Don't count out indoor 500 champion Michael Quispe (Croatan). He's run 1:59.1 this season and certainly is capable of much more.
Boys 300m Hurdles
You're going to have to pay attention to both heats of the 300 on Friday as T.W. Andrews' Will Manneh has the fastest time on the season. But despite winning the 4A East, he's ranked ninth overall based off seed times, so will be in heat 1/2. We saw North Wilkes' Kameron Walsh upset the Midwest favorite Ellijah Gaddy (Forest Hills) last weekend, solidifying himself as a contender for the title. Smoky Mountain's Connor Moore won the West last weekend and will be running out of lane four. If Manneh impresses during the first section, it'll put a ton of pressure on the boys in section two to run fast.
It should be the North Brunswick show with JC Smith, Cameron Barnhill, and Jayhlen Washington likely being three of its four legs. While this might not be a tight race, North Brunswick will attempt to do something special as these three seniors run their final relay together. Shelby and Chase will look to rain on NB's parade.
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