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ROCKY MOUNT — As Southern Nash High boys track and field coach Kwamaine Battle reminded, it’s all about the points, not the first-place finishes at a track meet.
The Firebirds got their share of wins but also proved proficient in racking up points to pull away in claiming their second team title in four years at the Scott Jones Memorial Classic as presented by The Wilson Times. Host Nash Central claimed its third girls championship in four years as senior Myka Hedgepeth became just the third three-time Most Outstanding Performer in the 27 years of the Classic.
“First place is great but having second, third and fourth — if we can get two or three kids in the second and third spot, those points will equal to just as much as a first place,” Battle said.
Southern Nash won three of the six relays in the meet, formerly The Wilson Times Track Classic, on a sunny, but blustery, day at Nash Central. The Firebirds had three second-place finishes, one third and two fourths.
“It’s pretty exciting right there,” Battle said as his athletes celebrated on the field after the final results were announced. “The kids worked hard though. I talked to them last week and they just took it to heart. We’ve got some guys who really pushed themselves. Today was tough.”
Indeed, the strong gusts of wind helped keep all the meet records intact, although some were challenged. The Firebirds dominated the throws with senior Ricky Knight taking the shot put with a career-best heave of 50 feet, 4 inches. Devonte Edmundson won the discus with a throw of 128-4 while senior teammate Lamont Williams was second at 114-1.
Southern Nash won the first relay, the 4x800-meter, by more than 24 seconds with the tandem of Shamir Small, Darin Bailey, Hunter Issette and Artavius Allen then added wins in the sprint medley relay (Xavien Smith, Jason Bland, Allen and Small) and distance medley relay (Small, Bailey, Issette and Allen). Senior Darius Edmundson took second in the 100 dash and Issette was the runner-up in the 1,600.
Fike, led by senior Elijahwon Cooper, was second in the boys meet. Cooper breezed through the high jump, not touching the bar until he reached 6-8, which would tie the meet record. With the unpredictable wind picking up on his final three attempts, Cooper, who won the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A East Regional with a 6-10 last year, couldn’t make it over.
“It was frustrating because the track is not as long in the back and I couldn’t get out of the mud without slipping,” he said.
Still, Cooper had a stellar day with a runner-up finish in the long jump and a third place in the triple jump as he finished behind Hunt senior Dionte Alston in the boys MOP standings.
Alston came the closest to breaking a meet record as his first attempt in the long jump was 22-9.5, a half-inch shy of the mark set by Fike’s Kishara Hamilton in 1993. However, Alston was beset by stronger winds on each of his subsequent attempts. He did take a break during the long jump to win the 100 dash in 10.99. Alston also was the anchor leg on the Warriors’ victorious 4x100 relay and finished fourth in the triple jump.
But overall, the results were a little disappointing for the Warriors, who finished fourth behind third-place Kinston.
“I was really surprised and a little disappointed,” said coach Will Edwards. “We had some things happen. Our last 4x4 guy pulled his hamstring and we lost our points in there. Winning that would have been enough for us to be in second for sure. Then we had some things happen in some other areas where we could have done a little better and we just didn’t have our best day.”
Beddingfield’s only win in the boys meet came in the 4x200 while Fike’s Davis Nicol won the pole vault. C.B. Aycock’s Chance Hobday outdueled Southern Nash’s Issette in the 1,600.
LADY BULLDOGS RIDE SENIORS
Hedgepeth again led the way for the Lady Bulldogs as she won the high jump, pole vault and 100 hurdles while finishing second in the triple jump. Teammate Naudika Howard won the long jump and Nash Central was victorious in the 4x100.
“It’s a surprise,” Nash Central coach Juan Jackson said. “With such a heavy loss from graduation last year, we had four key seniors returning this year — Myka Hedgepeth, Sarah Hicks, Naudika Howard and Alexis Eason. With those four seniors’ leadership and getting the troops to rally behind and everybody scoring every point they could helped tremendously. It was a total team effort. I’m astonished!”
Beddingfield junior Makayla Everette swept the girls throws,including a personal-best discus throw of 116-3, just three feet shy of the meet record.
“It’s a great accomplishment. It took a lot of hard work and time out of school to do what I did,” assured Everette.
Hunt finished second in the girls points total with senior Isabel Reed winning the 1,600 and running the anchor leg on the Lady Warriors’ victorious 4x800 and distance medley relays.