Northwestern boys’ track and field won its fourth Class AAAA state championship Saturday at Spring Valley High School, topping second-place Wando by more than 40 points.
The Trojans entered the Friday-Saturday meet knowing they had almost double the point possibilities of any other team in the meet. Far from underdogs, Northwestern’s boys handled their business, scoring in the meets they were expected to en route to a convincing championship.
“We felt like if we just performed as well as the week before the qualifier that everything would fall into place,” said Northwestern coach Calvin Hudgins. “And we actually ran even better than we did in the qualifier.”
While the boys managed expectations, Northwestern’s girls’ defied them. The Trojan girls finished in a third place tie with Ridge View, thanks in large part to a couple of seeding-defiant results. Brianna Lewis was seeded seventh in the 400-meter hurdles but ran nearly four full seconds faster than her seeding time to win the event by 12 tenths of a second.
Northwestern’s 4x100 girls’ relay, consisting of Lewis, Adia Simpkins, Aubriana Thompson, and Nadia White, took first place, running a 47.32 to just nip a win from second-placed Ridge View.
“They were the seventh seed coming in,” said Hudgins. “Our relays just really performed extremely well.”
Northwestern’s girls scored in six other events to secure the third place tie. The boys won a number of events to cushion their overall first place position. Clemson signee Chad Fennell won the 800, Tre Stanley won the 400-meter hurdles, Daniel Bolin claimed the pole vault title as one of three Trojans in the top-four of that event, and Northwestern’s 4x800-meter relay unit - Christian Acker, Grayson Boatwright, Chad Fennell, and Chad Rollins - rounded out the gold medals.
The boys’ championship was Northwestern’s first since 1985, following titles in 1974 and 1975. The Trojan girls exceeded expectations; it was perhaps even harder for the boys to live up to the lofty expectations they had headed into the state meet.
“I can tell you it’s harder for coaches,” said Hudgins. “To fulfill your dreams is one thing, but it’s another thing when you know you can do it. It’s a totally different mindset when you’re going into the state championship and you’re afraid of blowing it, instead of chasing the win. It’s a totally different attitude, and the kids handled it very well.”
The Trojans grabbed a number of second places, too. Quan Caldwell narrowly missed clearing 6 feet, 8 inches in the high jump, which would’ve forced more jumping from eventual winner Quantez Brown of Dorman. Caldwell finished second, as did Stanley in the 110-meter hurdles wrapping up a great day for the senior. The Trojan 4x100 and 4x400-meter relays also narrowly missed out on winning, but added valuable points to the team’s overall score.
Success wasn’t limited to the purple and gold. Clover’s Keyshawn Pressley finished second in the 100-meter dash, losing out to Spartanburg football star Tavien Feaster by 0.16 seconds. Feaster would also win the 200-meter.
York’s Markell Castle placed fourth in the boys’ long jump and third in the triple jump, while Rock Hill 10th grader Tylia Moses placed second in the girls’ triple jump and fourth in the long jump. No doubt, Saturday was the first of many podium visits for Moses.
And South Pointe distance runner Victoria Burdette capped a fine senior season by finishing second in the 1600. Aiken’s Ashbrook Gwinn smoked the field, winning by 10 seconds, but Burdette was the first one to cross behind her.