Southern Nash's Nadir Thompson, shown winning the 200-meter dash in the NCHSAA 3-A East Regional on May 14, 2016, at Fike High, will return for the 3-A East Regional meet Friday at Swansboro after sitting out the past month with a strained hamstring. Thompson is the reigning state 3-A champion in the 200.
Scott Jones | Special to the Times
Hunt's Jeremiah Ganaway goes up for a high-jump attempt at The Wilson Times Track Classic at Fike on April 10. He tied the meet record as he won the event with a height of 6-10.
Sheldon Vick | Special to the Times
Fike's Elijahwon Cooper lifts off during his high-jump attempt at The Wilson Times Track Classic on April 10 at Fike. Cooper finished second with a personal-best clearance of 6-6.
Sheldon Vick | Special to the Times
By Paul Durham
Among the top story lines for Friday’s North Carolina High School Athletic Association track and field 3-A East Regional meet at Swansboro are the potential return of a state champion and a likely renewal of the Hunt-Fike rivalry in the boys high jump pit.
Southern Nash junior Nadir Thompson, the defending state 3-A champion in the boys 200-meter dash, is expected to compete for the first time in a month after straining his hamstring during a meet in early April.
Thompson, who won the state 3-A indoor title in the 300 dash earlier this year, is entered in the 100 and 200 as well as part of the Firebirds 4x200 relay team.
Southern Nash coach Brian Batchelor said that Thompson may not compete in all three events.
“We’ll get there and let him get loose and let him decide,” said Batchelor.
Thompson’s injury was not a serious one but extra precaution was exercised since he not only has another year of track in high school but is also an NCAA Division I football recruit. He recently decommitted from North Carolina State University and is being pursued by a number of major programs.
Despite sitting out a good portion of the season, Thompson still possesses the No. 2 seed time in the 200 at 22.04 seconds, six-tenths of a second slower than No. 1 Josh Moore. Thompson’s 100 seed time of 11.01 is eighth best among the 15 entries.
He is listed on Southern Nash’s 4x100 quartet with Corey Foster, Zonovan Knight and Dae’One Wilkins. However, Batchelor noted the Firebirds’ seed time of 1:31.61, which ranks fourth, came from last week with Kevin Terrell running Thompson’s spot.
In the high jump, Hunt junior Jeremiah Ganaway enters as the top seed with a clearance of 6 feet, 8 inches, which ties him for the best in the state this spring. Ganaway set that standard at The Wilson Times Track Classic on April 10, tying a meet record, in just his second competition ever.
His coach, Rusty Boyette, says Ganaway can go even higher.
“He’s been in practice the last couple of days working hard. Unofficially, he cleared 6-10 in practice on the bungee rope,” said Boyette, explaining that was more like 6-9 with a bar in place.
However, Ganaway didn’t reproduce any such height at the Big East Conference championship meet last week, clearing just 6-4, and Fike sophomore Elijahwon Cooper was there to snatch the conference title. Cooper, who has cleared 6-6 twice in meets this season, is seeded second, setting up a potentially fierce battle for the regional title.
“Oh yeah, it’s going to be exciting,” said Fike coach Sonny West.
West pointed out that Cooper had a personal-best jump of 6-0 at the regional last year at Fike when he was just a freshman.
“I would be pleased if he did that (another PR) again,” West said.
The key to the high jump battle is getting over the bar first. If jumpers end up with the same height, the one that cleared it first gets the gold.
“Vertical jumps, when you get it on your first attempt, that puts pressure on the other jumpers,” West said.
Cooper is also entered in the long jump and triple jump, although West said he may pull out of one. Fike teammate Mike Ward is seeded fifth at 43-5.75 in the triple jump. West said that Ward, who didn’t qualify for the long jump, may benefit with having just one event since he’s battled an ankle injury down the stretch of the season.
Beyond Ganaway, Hunt has a host of athletes in the regional, giving Boyette hope that a few can break through and finish in the top four and earn a spot in the NCHSAA 3-A championship meet May 20 in Greensboro. There are 13 athletes competing 18 events, both girls and boys, as well as six relay teams.
“It’s definitely the largest group we’ve carried to the regional and probably the best group of runners, jumpers and throwers in a while,” Boyette said.
Junior Tyler Burns enters as the third seed in the 200 at 22.14, a tenth of a second behind Thompson of Southern Nash. Burns ranks fifth in the open 100 dash and is on the Warriors’ 4x100 and 4x200 relays. The former, which also includes Dionte Alson, Brandon Chapman and Daquanne Glen, ranks fourth in the seeding with a time of 44.04 seconds.
Junior India Barfield has the Lady Warriors’ best seed at No. 5 in the discus at 103-10.
Having so many competitors regional-bound is something new — and exciting — for Hunt, Boyette said.
“The atmosphere and the feelings in practice have been pretty good this week. Everybody’s excited,” he said. “Most of them are just excited to be able to go.”
The other best bets in the area to reach the state 3-A meet are from C.B. Aycock. Senior Trevor Holt is seeded second in the boys shot put (52-9) and third in the discus (153-7). Senior Cyerra Carter, fourth in the girls long jump (17-5) and triple jump (35-8), while junior Kamarion Graham is No. 2 in the boys 100 (10.74) and fifth in the 200 (22.14).
Meanwhile, Southern Nash’s Foster ranks fifth in the 400 (51.24) and junior Cassidy Pennington enters with the second seed in the girls 300 hurdles with a time of 47.74. Firebirds sophomore Ricky Knight is seeded No. 6 in the boys shot put (48-2).
2-A EAST REGIONAL
While Beddingfield swept the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference championships with the girls and boys teams winning a combined 14 events, neither the Lady Bruins nor the Bruins have one of the top two seeds in any event for Saturday’s 2-A East Regional meet at Pasquotank High in Elizabeth City.
In fact, only junior Kelsiyah Smith in the girls shot put ranks in the top three with a season-best heave of 35-9. However, what both Beddingfield teams do have is depth with 17 competitors entered in 24 individual events and all eight relays filled.
However, don’t expect any regional team titles for either Beddingfield aquad.
“I really think — I hate to look at it like that — but the chances of winning the whole regional are going to be kind of tough this year,” Beddingfield coach James Ward said. “So we need to focus on getting some people through in the individual events to the state championship.”
Making the quest that much more difficult for the boys is the presence of North Brunswick, which has won the last three state 2-A boys track and field championships.
“Man, those suckers are loaded!” Ward said while expressing relief this will be the last 2-A regional appearance for the Scorpions, who are moving up to the 3-A ranks for the next four years.
Just finishing in the top four and getting to the state meet is the goal.
“Anytime Beddingfield is on the track, we always want gold, silver or bronze, but, trust me, we will be happy with fourth!” Ward said.
Aside from Smith in the shot put, the highest seeds for Beddingfield are junior Keyona Batts, sixth in the girls shot put; junior Shimega Jackson, fifth in the girls long jump and seventh in the triple jump; senior Kenny Sims fifth in the boys triple jump and junior Aaron Bland, seventh in the boys 100 and eighth in the 110 hurdles. However, Ward warned that Bland will probably have to choose between those two since the events are run close together.
Overall, the 2-A East is just a tough regional, Ward said, noting that most of the top marks across the state in the 2-A ranks this spring come from the East.
Ward is optimistic about his relays, especially the boys 4x200 and 4x100, both of which are seeded fifth.
The meet, which is being hosted by Northeastern High, had been awarded to Beddingfield to host on the track at Fike but Ward said that he couldn’t find a timer and Northeastern got the bid instead.
SouthWest Edgecombe only has four regional entries, all in relays, but two of them are seeded in the top four. The Cougars 4x400 ranks second while the 4x200 enters No. 4.
Greene Central has 10 entries with its girls 4x100 team as the highest seed at No. 2. Senior Da’Jon Thaggard ranks fourth in the boys long jump.
North Johnston senior Dylan Pinder, who has claimed 13 career state championships — indoor and outdoor — in wheelchair events, will make his final appearance in a regional meet.