2022 CHS men’s track team SPC 1A/2A champions
Justin W. Willyoung, Head Men’s Track and Field Coach at Cherryville High School waxed philosophical about his team’s recent Championship win last week.
“Where do I even begin with this one?” said Coach Willyoung.
“Let’s just say I spent hours and hours in the evening and weekends drawing up all possible scenarios; point combinations, underperformances, over performances, wildcard entries, etc. and none of them ended up being even close to what actually happened. Every now and then all that stuff goes right out the window and the team just steps up and does amazing things exactly when it’s needed the most.”
He continued, “I feel like this team was destined to make this happen; that is the only way to explain the outcome. The meet did not start well for us, we left a ton of points on the table, we had some underperform and a few other schools over performed. We found ourselves unfamiliarly down early and our chances of winning kept getting smaller and smaller as the day went on. We got a few big sparks from guys that were trying some new events who did very well.”
Willyoung noted junior Danyel Thompkins came through in a big way by scoring unexpected points in the 110 hurdles and the 800 meter dash. Young Thompkins was also a member of the 4x100-meter relay team.
Said Justin, “Danyel gutted out some great races and gave us the chance to stay in the meet,” adding that senior Cooper Sloan had his workload altered to try and match the flow of the meet and he adjusted amazingly well.
“Our seniors did what they always do and when the pressure was on, they excelled. The pivotal part of the whole meet came with three events left when we were almost mathematically eliminated from a chance at victory. Down 27.5 points with three events to go there was only one way to win and this is where it gets legendary!”
Willyoung noted that as they were heading into the 200-meter dash CHS needed a clean sweep of that event to stay alive. The only problem was that the men were ranked 4th, 5th, and 6th. “However, this was no ordinary group,” he said. “This was seniors Jackson Owens, Cooper Sloan, and Mason Grindstaff. This was a group I knew I could put the entire weight of the situation on their shoulders and be confident that they could make it happen. I pulled them together and said that our only chance to win this meet was a clean sweep, that’s its… no other options.”
“We got this coach”, Willyoung quoted them as saying, and the rest is history. They would go on to take 1, 2, 3 in that event but not without a little drama.
Said Willyoung, “Coming off the turn and into the final stretch we were sitting in 1st (Jackson), 4th (Cooper), and 6th (Mason). Jackson maintained his lead and cruised to an easy victory, Cooper made an amazing push and vaulted into 2nd where he would stay, and Mason, with 50 meters to go, was still in 6th. It seemed unlikely that we would get our sweep, but right at that moment Mason did what Mason does and dug deep; he hit another gear and sprinted past the rest of the competitors into 3rd. It was an absolutely amazing clutch performance! Time and time again this season our seniors have come up big in high stakes situations, these three young men did it and gave us our chance. Now, all of the sudden over the course of just one event, we found ourselves sitting 3.5 points back with two events left. In the 2-mile we had just one competitor, freshman Logan
“Jud” Ervin. We desperately needed Jud to have a personal best performance, beat the Burns kids that were in that race and score us valuable points. He did all three.”
Said Willyoung, “Jud crushed his personal best time by 10 seconds and scored us 3 points to bring us within ½ a point headed into the last event. So there we were, ½ point out of 1st place and in another must-win situation. Burns was seeded less than one second behind us in this event, the 4x400-meter relay and if they won, it was over. Once again, I gathered the boys together, Jackson Owens, Cooper Sloan, Yandel Lazala, and Jack Mulvey and let them know what we needed. They already knew and they were ready. Yandel jumped out of the gate early and gained us a lead that we would never relinquish, Cooper and Jack widened the gap and Jackson brought it home and just like that, in the span of three events, we went from almost zero percent chance to win the meet to Conference Champions! Truth be told, if there was one event and one group of young men needed to win a meet, I would pick this group every single time. Our 4x400-meter relay is highly ranked in the state and all four competitors and our two alternates for that event are absolute warriors. They come out and compete hard in this event each and every time.”
Champions: (ALL of CHS’ champions set new meet records in their events and CHS is the first ever 1A/2A Southern Piedmont Conference champions): Jackson Owens – 200 meter, 400 meter, 4x400-meter relay; Cooper Sloan – Shot Put, 4x400-meter relay; Yandel Lazala –4x400-meter relay; and Jack Mulvey – 4x400-meter relay.
All Conference: Jackson Owens, Cooper Sloan, Yandel Lazala, Jack Mulvey, Gavin Cease, Mason Grindstaff, and Taishan Bell.
A list of everyone who finished; every young man we brought contributed to the win: 4x100 relay – 6th place, Kam Bolin, Gavin Cease, Danyel Thompkins, Marlon Gomez; 4x200 relay – 2nd place, Gavin Cease, Yandel Lazala, Cooper Sloan, and Mason Grindstaff; 4x400 relay – 1st place, Yandel Lazala, Cooper Sloan, Jack Mulvey, and Jackson Owens; 4x800 relay – 5th place- James Bell, Cain Cash, Marlon Gomez, and Robbie Bowman; Taishan Bell – 2nd Long Jump, 5th triple jump, and 7th 400 meter’ Amarius Berry – 5th discus’ Kam Bolin – 6th 110 hurdles, 7th 300 hurdles, and 6th 4x100 relay; Logan Ervin – 6th 3,200 meters; Mason Grindstaff – 3rd 200 meters, and 6th 300 meter hurdles; Caleb Hovis – 5th shot put; Yandel Lazala – 6th triple jump, 6th 400 meters, 2nd 4x200, and 1st 4x400 relay; Jack Mulvey – 3rd high jump, 3rd triple jump, and 4th long jump, 1st 4x400; Jackson Owens – 3rd 100 meters, 1st 200 meters, 1st 400 meters, and 1st 4x400 relay; Cooper Sloan – 1st shot put, 2nd 200 meter, 2nd 4x200, and 1st 4x400; and Danyel Thompkins – 6th 800 meter, 7th 110 hurdles, and 6th 4x100 relay.