Parkland’s McNeill cruises to state indoor title

Parkland’s McNeill cruises to state indoor title
February 18
00:00 2016
Photo by Craig T. Greenlee
Parkland’s McKinley McNeill left battles with Kleo Torres of Southeast Raleigh during the first leg of the 4×400 relay. McNeill beat Torres to win the 500-meter dash title at the state meet.



As expected, McKinley McNeill of Parkland claimed ownership of the 500-meter dash at last week’s Class 4-A state indoor track & field championships held at JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem. The senior quarter-miler bided her time over the first half of the race, and then closed with a killer kick to win by a comfortable margin.

McNeill covered the distance in 1 minute, 14.24 seconds, .14 seconds shy of the current state record, which was set a year ago. The victory over second-place Kleo Torres of Southeast Raleigh was hardly surprising. Entering the state meet, McNeill had the second-fastest time in the nation at 1:13.02.

McNeill entered this race with every intention of shattering the state record. As things turned out, though, it wasn’t going happen. During the early stages of the race, McNeill didn’t get out fast enough to give herself a reasonable chance to go after the record.

Not only that, but there was nobody in the field who could push her to her limit.

At the start, Torres seized control as the front-runner. With a little over 300 meters to go, McNeill bolted to the lead and never looked back. Torres eventually faded and finished a distant second at 1:15.98

“Initially, I was going to try to beat the state record,” said McNeill, who signed to run track at North Carolina last November. “I had a pretty decent race. I got a little bit slower (over the first 200) than usual. That kind of hurt me in the end, even though I had a strong finish.”

For the day, McNeill won two medals in the three events she competed in. Aside from winning the 500, she ran the opening leg of Parkland’s 4×400 relay, which included Kimani Davis, Shannone Cannon and Zjinaiya Francis.

The Mustangs foursome finished as the runner-up (3:59.97) behind state champ Southeast Raleigh who clocked 3:53.64. McNeill added to Parkland’s point total with a fifth-place finish in the 300-meter dash. “McKinley came in and did her thing,” said coach Antwan Hughes of Parkland. “Since she came in second last year to Layla White, I knew she really wanted it. In the 500, she did what she wanted to do.

As for the 300 (40.25 seconds), it was only a matter of her coming back and giving whatever she had left in the tank to give. McKinley pretty much did what we asked her to do, so I congratulate her on this being her first state championship in the 500.”

Ironically, it was McNeill who had a direct hand in the 500 record being set in last year’s race against three-time indoor 500 champ Layla White of Cary. In that race, McNeill competed from start to finish and lost by less than a meter as White collapsed after crossing the finish.

White and McNeill resumed their friendly rivalry during the spring outdoor season. At the state championships, McNeill evened the score by beating White in the open 400 meters to claim her first state championship in an individual event.

McNeill hasn’t run her best races yet. This year she got a late start in training because of all the traveling she did as a prized college track recruit who had nearly 20 scholarship offers.

“With all the official visits I made, I didn’t start training until mid-November,” she said. “Usually, I start in early October. But I always feel that there’s room for improvement. I’m still working towards reaching my peak during the out-door season.”

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