Prep track: North eyes twin titles
By Mike London
SPENCER — Spring-cleaning efforts at North Rowan on Thursday afternoon included the polishing and dusting of trophy cases.
But the Cavaliers may have to make room for some new hardware in the near future.
North’s boys enter today’s 1A state meet at North Carolina A&T as the prohibitive favorite. There’s a chance they’ll not only win but win going away.
The Cavalier girls have a solid chance to make it a daily double, although they’re expected to be involved in a tight, three-team scrap with Hendersonville and Monroe.
“We don’t really worry so much about the other teams,” said North standout Teaunna Cuthbertson, who will compete in the long jump, triple jump, 100 hurdles and 4×100 relay. “We just want to stay focused on our own performance and do what we’re capable of doing. It’s like Coach (Robert) Steele tells us, ‘If you want it, go get it.’ We want to go get it.”
North’s girls are defending champions in 1A, adding to the three 2A titles the school scooped up from 1999-2001 in the Tasha Pharr era. Pharr was a three-time meet MVP before excelling for Alabama’s Crimson Tide.
Cuthbertson’s efforts will be enormous today, as will those of Meloney Ramos, who will be counted on for points in all four of her events — the 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles, triple jump and long jump.
Ramos and Cuthbertson are likely to go 1-2 in both the 100 hurdles and long jump.
“One day it’s me, the next day it’s Teaunna in those events,” the personable Ramos said with a laugh.
Ramos was scintillating in last Saturday’s regional held in Monroe, posting a nationally elite time in the 100 hurdles prelim (a blazing 13.81 seconds). She won that event and placed second in three others.
“I ran my fastest time ever in the hurdles at the regional,” Ramos said. “Researching it on Milesplit, that puts me fourth in the nation.”
Ramos, a senior headed to Western Carolina, wants to go out in style as far as her prep career. No one doubts that she’ll finish it with multiple medals around her neck.
“I’m going to put it all out there,” she said. “My goal is to win four events for my team.”
Also pivotal for North’s girls are the 4×100 and 4×200 relays. The Cavaliers, who boast a small army of spunky sprinters — Christen Jones, Tianca White, Timesheia Allen, Akevia Charleston, Tinka Bush — are threats to win both.
n North’s awesome tradition in boys track goes way back to Burt Barger’s coaching era. The Cavaliers won three straight titles in the old WNCHSAA from 1965-67.
Hall of Famer Steele has been the driving force in the Cavaliers racking up nine outdoor titles in the modern era, with five straight 2A crowns from 1994-98 (Greg Yeldell was a three-time MVP) and four more (2003-05, 2007) in an era when North featured an amazing crew of jumpers paced by Terry Wood, Mark Sturgis and Andre Tillman.
Today, North eyes its first crown in the 1A ranks. Quiet, husky thrower Garland Archie and dazzling, upbeat hurdler Johnny Ray Oglesby could win two events apiece, while versatile Sam Starks — just as in basketball — could score in a lot of different ways.
North won the Midwest Regional by a staggering 106 points over YVC rival West Montgomery, blowing away the field in what is usually the most competitive regional.
“We know that if we go out and do what we’re all supposed to do, we should win state,” said towering Malik Ford, who took the high jump in the regional and was a key member of the Cavaliers’ state-championship basketball team. “The regional was good fun, and we won it by a lot, but we know we have to keep our focus for the state meet.”
The sleek Oglesby agrees with his tall teammate.
“You can look at how the points are supposed to go,” he said. “But the state meet will still not be a play-around. You’ve still got to go out and run and compete.”
The wise veteran on the team is Starks, a still unsigned senior athletic marvel who is a top-flight jumper, hurdler and sprinter.
“This is a strong team, and it’s a tough team that knows how to compete,” he said thoughtfully. “We’ll go our hardest and we expect to do well, but you have to remember this is the state. Some athletes may not have shown everything they can do in the regional, but they’ll show it in the state. This won’t be easy.”
On paper, at least, it looks like it might be relatively easy, but the Cavaliers, doing an admirable job of staying humble, expressed respect for contenders West Montgomery, Hendersonville and the defending champion, the North Carolina School of Science & Math in Durham.
“Science and Math has some athletes and a lot of good distance people,” Oglesby said. “That’s probably going to be the toughest competition.”
Science & Math rolled in the East Regional and could pile up points in the 800, 1600 and 3200. The Unicorns also are factors in the jumps and throws.
North will count on major points in the 4×100 and 4×200 relays from athletes such as Titus King, Daylon Gray, Darius Jackson and Jamone Kelly.
Ford could challenge in the high jump. Starks is a favorite in the triple jump.
Oglesby, Starks and King, in some order, could realistically could go 1-2-3 in the 110 hurdles. That would provide a major boost.
“It doesn’t matter who wins, but we’ll do everything we can to go 1-2-3,” Starks said. “This is a team. This is a team game for individuals, and we all know what our roles are. We’re going to try to get this.”