By Bret McCormick
Sprints are undoubtedly the most glamorous track and field events, but the Northwestern High School boys' victory in Thursday's York County Track and Field Championship was built on long distance running.
The Trojans got wins in the 3200, the 1600, the 800 and the 4x800 at York Comprehensive High School's track en route to bragging rights over the other six schools in the county.
“The Fort Mill kids are a quality distance program, South Pointe is a quality distance program, so we like getting after it with them,” said Northwestern coach Calvin Hudgins. “And this is just the first round; there will be another round next week that means something,” an allusion to the Region 3 meet next Thursday at the same venue.
Trojan junior Christian Acker got it started, holding off teammate Mason Lenox in the last couple meters to medal in the 1600 with a time of 4:32. Northwestern junior Chad Fennell turned in a strong performance in the 800, blowing away the field on the second lap for a five-second victory, before Lenox took his turn, outlasting Fort Mill's Christian Ruppe in the 3200 for the win inside of 10 minutes.
The Trojan girls won their half of the meet as well, though exact results weren't 100 percent confirmed by press time. But it didn't require computerized scorekeeping to see the potential in ninth grader Nadia White. She anchored the Trojans' win in the 4x100 with an impressive last leg, and also won the 100-meter in 12.3 seconds.
White was just one of a number of impressive female Trojan athletes on display. Northwestern got other individual victories from 10th grader Briana Lewis in the 400-meter (1:00), and junior Adia Simpkins in the 400 hurdles (1:07). In addition to the 4x100, Hudgins' girls also claimed top spot in the 4x400 and 800 relays.
While Northwestern dominated the distance events, Nation Ford's boys showed their overall athleticism, Dijuan Ussery and A.K. McCoy especially. Ussery anchored the Falcons' win in the 4x100, finished third in the 100 dash to Rock Hill's Malik Crawford (10.5 seconds) and Fort Mill's Josh Lafoe (10.6), and then nicked Crawford in a thrilling 200-meter by a tenth of a second (21.7, 21.8).
Ussery said one of his main goals was “to beat Malik (Crawford). That's what everybody wanted to see. So I just came out confident to do what I had to do.” Ussery said Crawford, who is a little shorter, “is quick. He comes out of the blocks faster. That's what I need to work on, but he's a good competitor.”
McCoy also ran in the victorious 4x100 relay, along with John Rice and Cameron Carter-Williams, and he triumphed in the triple jump too, lunging nearly 45 feet to top 18 other competitors.
Though he didn't show it Thursday, Ussery has one of the fastest 100 times in the state at the moment and is taking track and field much more seriously this year. He qualified for the state meet last year, but went to Nation Ford's prom, held on the same day, instead. Sorry to any girls hoping he'd ask them this year though, because Ussery doesn't plan to skip states.
“This year I'm putting my heart into it,” he said. “I'm trying to win.”
Boys Results 1. Northwestern 205.5, 2. York 103, 3. Fort Mill 89, 4. South Pointe 82.5, 5. Nation Ford 69.5, 6. Rock Hill 49, 7. Clover 27. Girls Results 1. Northwestern 204.5, 2. South Pointe 117, 3. Rock Hill 114, 4. Fort Mil 92.5, 5. Nation Ford 34, 6. York 20, 7. Clover 7. Bret McCormick • 329-4032. Twitter: @BretJust1T