Parkland girls repeat as state indoor track champs

Parkland girls repeat as state indoor track champs
February 19
00:00 2015
(Above: Katlin Sherman (left) and Ebony Williams (right) ran wire-to-wire in the 300-meter dash at the state indoor track championships)

It really didn’t matter that Parkland wasn’t at full strength last week. The Mustangs repelled all challengers to win the team title at the girls’ Class 4-A State Indoor Track and Field Championships for the second year in a row.

As the meet entered its final hour of competition at the JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem, there was no doubt about which team would reign. The only question was who would finish second, third and fourth.

Parkland piled up 89 points to win handily over Apex (47) and Cary (46) and Leesville Road (41).

“It was a job well done,” said Coach Antwan Hughes. “The girls put forth a lot hard work and dedication on the track and they deserved every moment of excitement that came their way during the championships.”

Individually, there was no denying senior hurdler/sprinter Ebony Williams. After posting runner-up and third-place finishes at state meets in previous seasons, Williams delivered a sweetheart performance on Valentine’s Day – winning four gold medals and being named the state championship MVP.

“I was surprised when they called my name,” said Williams, who signed with Clemson. “Winning MVP just topped everything off.”

Williams bagged the first individual state championship of her career in the 55-meter hurdles. After getting off to a slow start, she accelerated after the second hurdle to breeze to a state-record (7.81 seconds) over runner-up Gabriele Cunningham of Mallard Creek (7.87).

“She beat me to the first hurdle, but I didn’t panic because I was still within striking distance” said Williams. “Once I got my speed going around the third hurdle, I felt good about my chances. I didn’t expect to set any records. All I focused on was winning.”

The 300-meter dash proved to be a replay of an on-going battle between teammates, which takes place every day at Parkland practices.

Williams and Katlin Sherman matched each other stride for stride, but it was Williams (39.06 seconds) who prevailed by an eyelash over Sherman (39.09) at the end.

“Ebony and I are evenly matched,” said Sherman, who also placed third in the 55-meter dash. “On any given day, it could me who wins, or it could be her.”

The 4×200 relay belonged to the Mustangs from the very start. Miaysha Bryant, Sherman and Shanone Cannon gave Williams a comfortable cushion and she sealed the victory with a strong anchor leg to set another state record (1:39.92). Cary was a distant second at 1:42.07.

Parkland put the finishing touches on its state championship with a pulsating victory in the 4×400 relay (McKinley McNeill, Sherman, Kimani Davis and Williams). Sherman lost the lead on the second leg and was in fourth place with 160 meters to go.

Coming out of the final turn, she brought the crowd to its feet with a blistering kick to put the Mustangs back in front. In the process, Sherman ran past Layla White of Cary, the three-time state indoor champ at 500 meters and last year’s state outdoor champ at 400 meters.

Cary regained the lead on the third leg. By the time Williams took the baton as anchor, she was 30 meters behind. Gradually, Williams began to gain ground, then she opened full throttle over the final 90 meters to run past Cary’s Lakeshia Warner. The dramatic come-from-behind victory produced a third state record (3:55.16) for Parkland. Runner-up Cary finished seven meters off the pace at 3:55.76.

“I went out on that first lap a lot faster than I anticipated and my legs started to tie up,” Sherman explained. “Then I got caught by three teams. That’s when I made up in my mind that I wasn’t going to go out like that. This is my senior year and my last state indoor championship, so I just left everything I had on the track.”

Given the lead that Cary had on the final leg, Williams figured that at best, the Mustangs only realistic hope was to concentrate on finishing second. But as the race continued, Williams sensed that there might be a remote chance to pull off a startling comeback.

“At first, I didn’t think it was possible to catch the first-place runner,” said Williams. “But as I started to get closer and closer, the crowd got louder and louder. I came around that last curve and decided to just go for it and things worked out in our favor.”

One of the most hotly-contested races of the state meet involved McNeill of Parkland and White of Cary in the 500-meter dash. McNeill surged ahead to take the lead with 190 meters to go and pushed White hard all the way to the finish line.

With 20 meters to the finish, McNeill tied up badly and couldn’t maintain her running form. White won by a stride in 1:14.10 and McNeill was second at 1:14.92. White collapsed from exhaustion after crossing the finish line.

Winning the team title serves as strong evidence of the

Mustangs depth. Entering the state championships, sprinter Erin Morrison (500, 4×200 relay, 4×400 relay) was unavailable because of an Achilles injury.

Jumps specialist Ila Mumford returned to action, but was still slowed by an ankle injury.

Even so, Mumford contributed to Parkland’s cause by finishing fourth in the long jump and fifth in the triple jump.

Nateja Hale and Jahnae Bowman exceeded expectations. Hale

was second in the triple jump (37-feet, 6 ½ inches) and fourth in the 55 hurdles (8.35 seconds).

Bowman placed sixth in the long jump (17-feet, 3 inches) and seventh in the 55 dash (7.24 seconds).

“With Erin being out and Ila not being 100 percent healthy, Nateja and Jahnae really stepped up big for us,” said Hughes. “They finished higher than where they were seeded in both of their events.”


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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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