Parkland High School girls’ team is on track to be champs again

Parkland High School girls’ team is on track to be champs again
April 02
00:00 2015
(Above: Parkland’s Katlin Sherman (light blue) finished third in the 200-meter dash to earn All-America honors at the New Balance Indoor Track and Field Nationals in New York last month.)

In spite of a training schedule setback and minor injuries, there’s not even a hint that Parkland might be slowing down. That’s bad news for the contenders who desperately want to unseat the Mustangs as North Carolina’s premier team in high school girls’ track and field.

Parkland, winners of back-to-back state indoor team titles in Class 4-A, has its sights set on repeating as state outdoor champs. For now, though, the singular focus for Coach Antwan Hughes is to get his athletes completely healthy and fully back on schedule with their training regimens.

The winter storms that caused area schools to shut down for nearly two weeks in late February, had a negative impact. No teams were allowed to conduct practices during that time. Aside from that, several Mustangs haven’t been at full strength because of nagging injuries.

Katlin Sherman (sprints), Ila Mumford (long jump) and Nateja Hale (hurdles/long jump) have had to deal with ankle injuries in recent weeks. Ebony Williams, state indoor champ in the 55-meter hurdles and 300-meter dash is getting over a slightly strained groin which occurred in the finals of the 60-meter hurdles at the New Balance Indoor Nationals in March.

Erin Morrison, who was Parkland’s top quarter-miler a year ago, is starting to come around after being sidelined for nearly eight weeks with an injured Achilles.

“We’re still a little behind (in training) because of that two-week layoff,” Hughes said. “But I’m satisfied with how training is going. The biggest challenge right now is trying to get past these injuries.”

The Mustangs weren’t at their best for the New Balance meet, yet they still turned in some credible performances individually. Sherman earned All-America honors with a third-place finish in the 200-meter dash (24.05 seconds).

On the morning of the race, Sherman woke up feeling pain in her right ankle. Despite the discomfort, she never gave any thoughts to scratching from the event.

“It was my last indoor nationals (for high school), and there was no way that I was going to sit that one out,” said Sherman, the state outdoor champ in the 100 and 200. “I got a good tape job on the ankle and then I just gutted things out. When I’m competing, I’m not thinking about pain. Since I had Lane 6, my entire focus was to get out fast and hold on to the end.”

Entering the indoor nationals, Williams was a solid pick to make All-America by finishing among the top six in the 60-meter hurdles. She ran well during the preliminary rounds. But in the finals, she hit a hurdle awkwardly, which caused her to break stride and lose contact with the front-runners. The end result was an eighth-place finish.

The Mustangs made amends in the 4×200 relay. McKinley McNeill, Sherman, Miaysha Bryant and Williams won comfortably in one minute, 38.10 seconds. The time was not as fast as Hughes had hoped for.

“I thought we might run faster,” Hughes said. “The girls ran good on the first day, but as the rounds went by (in their other events), fatigue started to set in and their legs weren’t fresh like they are normally. The long layoff had a lot to do with that.”

Over the first two legs, the 4×200 turned out to be a dead heat between Parkland and the Medgar Evers Track Club (NY). Bryant put together a strong third leg to give Williams, who ran anchor, a slight lead to work with. Williams pulled away andParkland won by six meters over the runner-up New Yorkers who ran one minute, 38.72 seconds.

A year ago, the Mustangs were the national indoor runners-up in this event, losing by .18 seconds to champ New Rochelle (NY). Three months later, Parkland delivered one of its best performances of the season in winning the 4×200 in decisive fashion at the New Balance Outdoor National Championships.

“We had the fastest time in the prelims, so we were ready when it was time to run in the finals,” said Bryant, a senior who will run for N.C Central. “All of us came together and agreed that we had to leave everything out there on the track. We were so excited and proud to win a national title in the relay.”

The first day of spring was two weeks ago and it’s still relatively early in the outdoor season. The Mustangs, however, are already showing signs of good things to come. They figure to be as formidable as ever when it’s time for state qualifying at the Class 4-A West Regionals in May.

As of March 29, Parkland athletes had the fastest times in North Carolina in five events: Williams (100 hurdles/13.84 seconds and 300 hurdles/44.06 seconds); McNeill (400 /56.24 seconds); 4×200 relay (1:42.58 seconds) and 4×400 relay (4:01.75 seconds). Look for the Mustangs to post progressively faster times as temperatures continue rise in the weeks ahead.

“We’re training hard and our times are dropping,” Bryant said. “The (unexpected) time off hasn’t helped any. But it shouldn’t be long before we’re back to running the times we should be running at this time of year.”

Sherman has mixed emotions about her final season coming to a close in less than six weeks. As a senior who has signed with University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she wants to cement a championship-winning legacy for those who come after her.

“It’s going to be a bittersweet time,” she said. “On the one hand, I’m excited about going to school and getting the opportunity to compete at the highest level in college. And I want to have a good high school track farewell. The goal is to finish strong and set the bar high.

“We’re all working to bring home another outdoor state team championship and I’m looking to get personal bests in the 100, 200 and the high jump. After that final (high school) meet, the next time I see my high school teammates, I’ll be wearing Carolina-blue.”

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