Many of the same athletes that were pioneers for the first Sandhills Community College men's and women's cross country meet at Catawba back in September broke new ground again at the Braves Track Classic held at UNC-Pembroke last Friday.
As the only junior college in an 11-team field the Lady Flyers finished seventh. The Flyer men came in ninth out of 10 teams that included No. 7 ranked UNC-Pembroke (NCAA Div. II rankings). UNC-Pembroke won both team competitions.
"The beautiful thing about the meet was you couldn't tell we were a junior college," Flyers' coach Jef Moody said before his team worked out on the track at Pinecrest High School on Monday. "We were competing and that's what we want to do. And everybody felt good about it."
Moody's squad is scheduled to compete against a number of the same teams, including UNC-Pembroke, in the Trojan Challenge at the University of Mount Olive this Friday and Saturday. With some weeks off in between they are also entered in meets at North Carolina A&T and Duke leading up to the NJCAA National Championships in May.
Pinecrest graduate Tyrese Kelly, who won both the long jump and triple jump at the NCHSAA 4A State Championships last spring, led the Flyer men by finishing second in the triple jump and fifth in the long jump. Alex Worley (Pinecrest) also earned points with a throw good for sixth place in the javelin.
Anjel Rowe (Pinecrest) placed in two events for the Lady Flyers. She was sixth in the 400m hurdles and seventh in the 100m hurdles. Sara Lindell (Union Pines) picked up points by finishing fourth in the 3,000m steeplechase as did Emily Doorey (Pinecrest) by placing seventh in the high jump.
Rowe and a number of the other Flyer runners were feeling some of the same kind of nervousness as they did seven months earlier when they competed for the Flyers for the first time at Catawba.
"It was a wonderful experience," she said. "I was really nervous at first, but I wasn't scared. Coach told me that it's okay to be nervous, but not to be scared."
In addition to earning the points for her team, Rowe's times in both events qualified her to compete at the national championship meet to be held at Mohawk Valley CC in Utica, N.Y on May 10-12.
Other NJCAA qualifiers include Kelly in his two events, Daniel Taylor (Union Pines) in the 5,000m run and Doorey in the discus.
Others came close including Lindell who missed the standard by just over one second in the steeplechase. The obstacle course event includes jumps over water and hurdles. Moody was impressed that she cleared every hurdle cleanly.
"I wanted to stay in shape for cross country and Coach Moody encouraged it," she said. "I had never done hurdles, but jumping over the water was the hard part for me. It's actually kind of fun and I did better than I thought I would. I'm going to try to shave some seconds off this weekend."
One of the most impressive performances was by Taylor who finished 12th in a field of 30 runners in the 5000m. He was the runner-up at the NJCAA Cross Country Championships in November. Based on his time at Pembroke compared to the winning time last year at nationals, he shapes up as a contender for the national title in May.
At Mount Olive, he and teammate Andrew Bowen (Hoke County) are entered in the 10,000m event.
"Daniel's time was crazy fast," Moody said. "It might be the best in the nation. He's committed to win the individual title and we're committed to winning the team title."
The versatile Doorey and Worley were exposed to the heptathlon (seven events) and decathalon (nine events), respectively, as members of the local Sandhills Track Club. They will compete next week in those events in the Bill Webb Combined Events Classic at High Point University.
"When Coach Moody was at Pinecrest he always tried to challenge me to get into something new," Worley said. "I did it once in summer track with Coach Nat Carter. The 1,500 and some of the throwing events will be the hardest for me. It will be pretty interesting."
Doorey thinks getting the steps right for the long jump will be her biggest challenge.
"I had my first Heptathlon last summer and really liked it and want to keep with it."
Moody won two individual state championships at Pinecrest and an NAIA title at UNC-Pembroke and has also coached at both places. Helping him on Monday was volunteer assistant coach Bobby Phillips, a Union Pines High School graduate and lifelong friend, who has had two coaching stints at Rutgers, and also coached in Japan. The Flyers also train at the college and at Union Pines High School.
"They are going to be fine," Moody said of his team that currently has 20 athletes. "That's because they've been training and I know they trust the training.
"I was thoroughly impressed by every one of them. Someone said to me 'you're team is a bunch of warriors'. I said, no, they're a bunch of Flyers."
Other Flyers competing at the Braves Classic included John Grimm, Jordan Anneheim, Daniel Hagan, Isaiah McGilvary, Lawrence McGilvary, Enya Dewars, Claudette Smith and Keisha Smith.
Sandhills Placers and NJCAA Qualifiers* at UNC-Pembroke – Men - Kelly – 2nd triple jump (14.11m*), 5th long jump (6.60m*); Worley 6th javelin (40.06); Taylor – 12th 5,000m (15.27.74*); Women – Rowe – 6th 400m hurdles (1.13.69*), 7th 100m hurdles (18.23*); Lindell- 4th 3,000 steeplechase (15:20.22); Doorey – 9th discus (31.86*)