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PIKEVILLE _ Charles B. Aycock High boys track coaches are not worried about standout senior sprinter Kamarion Graham following through on his opportunity to compete at the next level.
The 17-year-old son of Yvonne Graham of Goldsboro has overcome huge obstacles in earning the opportunity to continue his career at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington on a partial athletic scholarship.
Graham signed his National Letter of Intent during an informal ceremony in the school’s new gymnasium attended by his coaches, family, teammates and friends Friday afternoon.
The 5-foot-8 sprinter’s standout junior season abruptly hit a wall when, as the No. 1 seed in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A championship meet, he false started and was disqualified in the 100-meter dash.
His senior season was delayed two months because of a lingering hamstring injury. But head coach Butch Bennett and assistants Scottie Rodgers and A.J. Jordan are convinced Graham is now hitting full stride.
Graham will be competing in the regional Saturday at the University of Mount Olive as the 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference champion in the 100 and in a pair of relays. He mentions goals of winning the 100 and helping the relay teams earn state berths.
“It definitely hurt me,” Graham reflected on his misfortune in last year’s state meet. “But it made me want to come back strong and be calm. I learned a tough lesson. It taught me to always be calm and focused.
“Then, I was out the first two months this year, but I am getting back to feeling faster than before.”
Graham won the conference 100 with a time of 10.81 seconds after posting a 10.88 in the preliminaries.
Jordan, who was the coach who most worked with Graham, expects the Seahawks to utilize him in the 100, 200 and in relays. The UNCW program, said Jordan, is rebuilding after nearly being phased out a few years ago.
Graham chose the Seahawks over North Carolina Central and Liberty University.
“They have great facilities and a great environment,” Graham explained his decision for choosing UNCW. “The team and coaches welcomed me. The atmosphere was great and it’s not too far from home.”
“Very excited,” Jordan expressed of Graham’s decision. “He will be a huge addition. He has talent; he’s the real deal. You can’t teach speed and he has God-given speed. That made it easy for me to coach him. He has explosive speed out of the blocks and has excellent form — he runs tall and finishes strong.
“Coming in as a freshman, he will have a lot of hard work in front of him to prove himself. There’s no doubt he has the ability to help that program.”
Graham owns CBA records in the indoor 55- and 300-meter dashes and outdoors in the 100 and 4x200 relay. He was an indoor state qualifier in the 55 and 300.
He owns a 3.9 grade-point average and intends to pursue a degree in nursing.
Graham has participated in track since his freshman year at CBA and played basketball for four years and football for two.
“In my 10th-grade year, I missed the states by one spot,” Graham remembers. “I wasn’t taking it too seriously then, but I realized I could be pretty good and I started taking it seriously and starting working at it.”
Graham anticipates adjusting to the level of competition being his greatest challenge collegiately, but is confident he can improve his speed. His freshman-year goals include attaining all-conference in the 100, establishing personal records in all of his events, staying focused in school and becoming more responsible.
Of continuing his education because of athletic prowess, Graham responded: “It makes me feel blessed and thankful. Not everybody has this opportunity. I have to take advantage of it.”
That’s what his coaches expect to hear from him.