All season long, East Lincoln has relied on a perfect mix of senior leadership and underclassmen contributions. Wednesday at the Southern Piedmont Conference track meet, it was no different.
Dominating performances by seniors Thomas Huntley and Brad Popple helped the Mustangs cruise to a 214 to 95 victory over host North Lincoln. Lincolnton was a close third with 94 points.
Huntley was an absolute show stopper in winning the high jump (6â€™10â€), triple jump (45â€™7â€), long jump (22â€™6.5â€ and 400 meters (51.25), leaving even his coach Lonnie Custer impressed.
â€œThome had a great day. Heâ€™s starting to understand long and triple a lot better and also had a personal best in the high jump. Heâ€™s a special athlete and a joy to coach,â€ he said.
â€œWe practice as a team and win as a team. Thatâ€™s all the coach (Custer) told us. No one person is better than anybody else and to cheer our teammates on,â€ Huntley said.
Huntleyâ€™s teammate Brad Popple, running with a broken little toe, won the 1600 (4:49.50) and 3200-meter runs (10.20.44). Custer said the broken toe wasnâ€™t the only thing Popple had to overcome.
â€œBrad showed a lot of leadership. He had some injuries no one really knew about and he was sick. He showed a lot of heart and a lot of character as far as how hard he worked,â€ he said.
The seniors werenâ€™t the only ones scoring points for the Mustangs, who won 10-of-18 events. Junior Matt Warren, junior Rick Handy, sophomore Lentwan Hamilton and freshman Cody Earnhardt all made their presence known.
â€œA lot of the young guys stepped up and contributed greatly to our conference championship. Iâ€™m really proud of them and I think the future is bright for East Lincoln the next few years,â€ Custer said.
Warren, who had never run track previous to this year, came away as the discus (128â€™9â€) and shot put (41â€™0â€) conference champion.
â€œI thought our guys performed at a high level. I challenged them before we got off the bus and I thought our kids performed just awesome,â€ Custer said.
Lincolntonâ€™s Michael Segura won the 110-meter hurdles (15.72) and 300-meter hurdles (42.19).
While the menâ€™s side went according to pre-meet predictions, the Lady Mustangs made it a clean sweep for the green and orange as they slipped past Lincolnton 135-122. Highland Tech finished in third with 77 points.
â€œI believe this is the first time in school history the girls have won a conference championship,â€ coach Melvin Morrison said.
Helping the Lady Mustangs earn the title was Victoria Ross. Ross won the 100-meter crown (12.66) and finished as runner-up in the 200 (26.00) and 400-meter runs (103.21).
Her teammate Amber Bowles finished second in the 1600 (5:50.53) and 3200-meter runs (12:49.83) .
Miracle Colon won the 300-meter hurdles (53.46) and was third in the 100-meter hurdles (19.03).
Lincolntonâ€™s Morgan Turner garnered the Southern Piedmontâ€™s athlete of the year after winning the 800 (2:30) 1600 (5:33), 3200 runs (12:44).
East Lincolnâ€™s 4 x 100 meter relay team comprised of Tanika Byers, Cassandra Smith, Colon and Ross took first and the 4 x 400 relay team of Rachel Smith, Byers, Casey Cline and Colon finished first.
In the field events, Tasha Bradsher was second in the shot put (32â€™11â€) and Ashley Wingate was third in the discus (83â€™3â€).
â€œThis is the most dedicated girlsâ€™ team Iâ€™ve ever had by far. Weâ€™re 19-1 in the conference with our only loss coming to Lincolnton in the county meet,â€ Morrison said. â€œTheyâ€™re a well-coached team and a very fine team and to come back and beat them was something special. They were the favorite,â€ he added.
by John Mark Brooks