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The second annual Scott Jones Memorial Classic as presented by The Wilson Times promises to be a competitive affair with the chance for spectacular individual performances Monday at Nash Central High.
The event, formerly The Wilson Times Track Classic, reaches its 27th incarnation with a noon start. Teams from Beddingfield, C.B. Aycock, Community Christian, Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf, Fike, Franklinton, Hunt, Kinston, Nash Central and Southern Nash will compete in the last big meet for many of them before spring break and the conference and regional meets to follow.
“We’re excited to host it and the level of competition that’s going to be there is surely going to get everybody ready for their conference championships and the regional competition that we’re going to face later in the season,” Nash Central coach and Wilson native Juan Jackson said.
This is the second year in a row and overall that Nash Central has hosted the meet after stepping in at the last moment when rain killed the chance for Southern Nash to host.
While no meet records fell in 2018, some could topple Monday with a handful of individual performers, many of which will be competing head-to-head, promising to carry the show.
Leading the way is Hunt High senior Dionte Alston, who boasts the top boys long jump in the state in all classifications and all associations this spring. Alston, who won the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A indoor long jump in February with a leap of 23 feet, 5.5 inches, has gone 23-6 to set the state outdoor standard so far. The meet record is 22-10, set by Fike’s Kishara Hamilton in the third edition in 1993.
But Alston will be tested by Hunt teammate C.J. Ward and Fike senior Elijahwon Cooper, with both having jumped more than 22 feet.
“Every day in practice and at meets, they’re always competing with each other,” Hunt coach Will Edwards said of Alston and Ward. “I tell C.J. that at any moment, he’s going to be the one leading the pack.”
Beddingfield’s Zach Adams and Southern Nash’s Darius Edmundson and Quinton Cooley, along with Jaylan Robinson of C.B. Aycock, are also long jump contenders.
The triple jump features Kinston senior Niejel Wilkins with the top NCHSAA 2-A effort of the season at 46-10. But Alston (45-7), Cooley (45-0), Cooper (44-5) and Ward (44-4) aren’t far behind.
“If you want to see a show, just pull up a chair at the long jump and triple jump pit and sit back,” Fike coach Sonny West said.
With just the 100 dash as the only individual sprint event, Alston, Edmundson and Adams are expected to duel to the finish line.
Cooper enters as the hands-down favorite in the high jump, having cleared 6-10 on his way to the NCHSAA 3-A East Regional title last spring. Nash Central’s Jahkee Williams could provide a challenge to Cooper, who will also run the anchor leg of the Golden Demons’ 4x100 relay as well as jumping in all three events.
“He could score in all three (jumps) at the state meet if he wants to but doing all three might be too much,” West said of Cooper. “But two should be doable, so we’ll just have to see.”
On the girls side, Nash Central senior Myka Hedgepeth will attempt to become just the third three-time Most Outstanding Performer in meet history, joining Fike’s Sabrina Thompson (1993-95) and Southern Nash’s Meka Battle (1998-2000). She is entered in the high jump, long jump, pole vault and 100 hurdles.
“She’s done exceptionally well. She’s working hard and that’s all she’s been talking about is defending her title,” Jackson said.
However, Hedgepeth will have some competition from within her own team as Lady Bulldogs senior Sarah Hicks is in three individual events.
Beddingfield junior Makayla Everette looms as the favorite in the girls discus and shot put.
Kinston and Beddingfield won the girls and boys team competitions, respectively, last year. While the Lady Vikings may well contend again both Hunt and Southern Nash will be threat to win the girls meet. The Lady Warriors have senior Isabel Reed in the 1,600 run and as part of relays while junior Jada Carpenter figures to be a factor in all three jumps.
The Ladybirds will be led by Jenira McKoy in the 100 as well as their 4x100 and 4x800 relays.
Fike’s Nyrria Foster is Hedgepeth’s main competition in the 100 hurdles and will be part of the Lady Demons’ relays.
The boys team competition should be a battle but the defending champion Bruins likely won’t be part of it.
“Like in all sports, we’ve taken a hit,” lamented coach James Ward. “In the past, at times, we’ve had 75 girls and guys out there but we show up to a track meet now, we show up on one bus. We’ve got about 25 girls and guys total.”
Ward pointed to the efforts of Adams and Travon Newsome as noteworthy, but conceded: “We just try to score points wherever we can.”
Nash Central’s Jackson said that his team is also facing a numbers crunch this spring but has potential event winners in hurdler Byron Hawkins and Williams in the jumps.
Jackson, who got a chance to see Southern Nash at the Nash County Championships at Nash Central last week, predicted the Firebirds would win Monday.
In addition to Edmundson, Southern Nash has the top seed in the shot put in Ricky Knight and the 1,600 in Hunter Issette as well as the 4x800 relay.
Hunt is also gunning for its first Classic title after sharing the boys crown with Kinston in 2017. The Warriors, as usual are strong in throws, with senior Christian Phaby, in his first year on the team, leading the way. Hunt also has a solid cast in the relays with athletes such as Elijah Anderson and Bill Harris able to run in four relays.
Edwards is particularly high on the Warriors 4x100 tandem, which he believes has state championship potential.
“We’ve got a group of guys that are really clicking together and are all getting fast together as a team,” he said. “As soon as we get our handoffs just right, I feel like we’ll be No. 1 in the state in the 4x1. We’ve got the potential. I’ve seen it but we’ve got to get everything clicking together.”