Breah Taylor, seated center, is the first East Carteret track and field athlete to earn a full scholarship in nearly 20 years. Others in the photo are, left to right: seated, her mother Sherita Shelton and father Jason Shelton; standing, East Carteret Principal Katherine Steele, Athletic Director Tod Morgan, track and field coach B.J. Frazier, her uncle Bryan Shelton, her aunt Tenea Strayhorn, Assistant Principal Juanita Russell and her cousin Jayden Shelton. (Contributed photo)

BEAUFORT — There was a time when Breah Taylor didn’t think she was good enough to compete in college.

But now the recent East Carteret graduate and seven-time state champion is heading to the Division I level after accepting a full track and field scholarship from Appalachian State.

“I never really thought I could do this,” she said. “Others were telling me I could. I didn’t really think about state championships as good reasons. Even though I won, I was looking at the numbers, how do they compare. I wasn’t sure.”

Taylor was dominant at the 1A high school level, winning three consecutive triple jump state titles and two long jump state crowns in a row. She also won two gold medals as a part of relay teams and helped lead the Mariners to a state runner-up finish this spring.

Taylor won the triple jump this spring by nearly two feet, leaping to a 38-foot, 9-inch distance. She won the long jump by almost seven inches, leaping 17-10.5. Last year, she won the triple jump by almost four feet and the long jump by a foot.

When she won two gold medals at the 1A state meet as a sophomore, she helped East break a long drought in that department.

Cora Johnson was the last female athlete to win gold, finishing first in the long jump in 2000. She went on to earn a scholarship from East Carolina in 2001. East Carteret coach B.J. Frazier believes she’s the last athlete from the school to earn a full track and field scholarship.

“It’s hard to believe,” he said. “I’m excited for Breah. She deserves it. She was amazing to watch for three years. There are not too many people that have seven state titles.”

Taylor’s numbers already compare favorably at the college level.

Her personal record in the triple jump is 41-04.5 and her PR in the long jump is 18-11. Her best triple jump mark would have earned her a silver medal at the Sun Belt Conference Outdoor Championships this spring while her best distance in the long jump would have placed her eighth.

In another comparison, the best long jump by an Appalachian State athlete this season was 17-0 by senior Ila Mumford and the best triple jump was 38-03.5 by freshman Hassani Burris.

“And all she’s done is mostly raw talent,” Frazier said. “Breah hasn’t been in the weight room. She doesn’t start training for track until basketball is over, and she plays basketball year-round (AAU). She’s just naturally gifted. It’s impressive.”

Despite her accomplishments, Taylor, who is also an all-conference basketball player, at one time felt she was destined to end her athletic career in high school.

“I wasn’t really looking at playing sports in college,” she said. “I thought I would go to school just for academic reasons. It wasn’t on my mind. It didn’t feel like the opportunity was really there.”

She eventually started to look at competing at the college level and began to consider a few programs such as UNC-Charlotte and Johnson C. Smith. Then Appalachian State came calling early in her senior year.

“They didn’t start showing interest in me until late,” Taylor said. “It was really quick, not much time went by. I signed in November after they got up with me just a few months before. It’s such a beautiful campus, and the coaching staff was great. Other schools seemed to have one or the other. They had both.”

With the Mountaineers, she’ll receive top-notch coaching. Frazier played football in Boone and was later a graduate assistant coach when Damion McLean, now the head track and field coach, was an assistant.

“I know him well,” Frazier said. “He has led a lot of kids to conference championships. He was a jumper back in the day so he knows his stuff. It’s a great fit for her.”

A 2002 graduate of Appalachian State, McLean captured Southern Conference outdoor long jump titles in 2000 and 2001.

He began his coaching career at his alma mater in 2003 and assumed the role of head track and field coach in 2018. In all, he has coached 37 conference champions, 104 all-conference performances and six conference MVP’s. In addition, he has coached 17 NCAA qualifiers.

After initial qualms about continuing her athletic career, Taylor, although a bit apprehensive, is now confident of her abilities translating to the next level.

“It’s Division I, so that makes me nervous,” she said. “It makes me, wonder how I’m going to keep up with these DI athletes. I think I can compete. The coaches will help me get better. I think I’m ready. It’s exciting.”

And now that she will devote all of her time to track and field, Frazier is confident she will continue her success in college.

“I think we will see another level of Breah,” he said. “She’s competitive, so it will be great to see how she develops as an athlete. With year-round training, and getting in the weight room, I’m excited to see what happens. The sky is the limit for her. There is lots of room for improvement. I think we will hear her name called again on a bigger stage.”

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