IN THIS CORNER

If Kinston is the basketball capital of eastern North Carolina, Tarboro the football capital and Whiteville the baseball capital, does that make Carteret County the flagship county of track and field and cross country?

The numbers would seem to back it up.

There was plenty of success before, but let’s just take a look at the county’s achievements since 2010.

There have been seven team state championships in that time.

Croatan accounted for five of those, winning the boys cross country title this past fall, the boys winter indoor track and field titles in 2018, 2019 and 2022, and the girls winter indoor track and field title in 2022.

The West Carteret girls won the winter indoor track and field title in 2013 and the spring outdoor track and field title in 2017.

Nine teams earned state runner-up finishes in that time.

The Croatan boys were the runner-up in winter indoor track and field in 2017, in cross country in 2021 and in spring outdoor track and field in 2022.

The Croatan girls were the runner-up in cross country in 2014.

The West Carteret girls were the runner-up in spring outdoor track and field in 2013, and the runner-up in winter indoor track and field in 2017 and 2022.

The East Carteret girls were the runner-up in spring outdoor track and field in 2019 and 2022.

There have been 26 state champions in girls spring outdoor track and field since 2010.

East’s Breah Taylor and West’s Blake Doge each accounted for five, Croatan’s Sammy Jo Layko and Kaleigh Hanson each collected four, and East’s Cece Johnson won three.

There have been 15 state champions in boys spring outdoor track and field since 2010.

Croatan’s Brendon Hodge and Michael Quispe earned five apiece, and West’s John Crossley won three.

There have been 25 state champions in girls winter indoor track and field since 2010.

Dodge racked up nine, West’s Mackenzie Whitaker had four, Hanson took home three, and Croatan’s Navaya Zales and West’s Tyler Collins contributed two apiece.

There have been 14 state champions in boys winter indoor track and field since 2010.

Hodge won six and Quispe four.

Three county girls have captured cross country state championships in that time.

Dodge gave the county its first cross country champion in 2011, followed by West’s Emme Fisher in 2016 and Zales in 2022.

If this was all there was, it would be more than enough, but there is a great deal more.

Twenty-one county track and field and cross country athletes have competed at the Division I level since 2010.

West has been responsible for 14, including Nathaniel Williams (N.C. State), Andrew Spear (Appalachian State), Katie Cease (Appalachian State), Cameron Eure (UNC Asheville), Hunter Newman (UNC Asheville), Samantha Decker (UNC Asheville), Rachel Rouse (Western Carolina), Charles Cooley (Western Carolina), Jenna Reiter (UNC Greensboro), Dodge (North Carolina), Fisher (North Carolina), Crossley (East Carolina), Whitaker (East Carolina) and Braxton Plisko (U.S. Air Force Academy).

Some of these athletes haven’t just competed at the DI level, they’ve shined.

Whitaker won the pentathlon with a meet record 3,954 points at the 2020 American Athletic Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships. She previously took second in the long jump at the AAC Indoor Championships and second and fifth at the AAC Outdoor Championships in the long jump.

Cooley captured gold at the Southern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships by taking first in the pole vault with a personal-record 15 feet, 11 inches. He had previously taken fourth and third in two previous Southern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships.

Williams finished in the top five in the discus for four consecutive years at the ACC Outdoor Track and Field Championships, and twice earned All-ACC honors. In 2012, he finished second before going on to take third in the NCAA regional and 13th in the NCAA Championships. He was a two-time All-American (2012, 2013).

Fisher was named the Most Valuable Runner for the women’s cross country team at UNC Wilmington and then transferred to North Carolina where she earned an All-ACC honor with a fifth-place standing in the 1-mile at the Atlantic Coast Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships in a personal-record 4 minutes, 46.13 seconds

Dodge earned an All-ACC honor by taking sixth in the 800 meters at the Atlantic Coast Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships in a personal-best 2:007.02.

Croatan has seen four athletes compete at the Division I level, including Robert Brenneman (UNC Asheville), Hanson (UNC Charlotte), Quispe (U.S. Naval Academy) and Zales (East Carolina).

Three East Carteret athletes have competed in Division I, including Taylor (Appalachian State), Johnson (UNC Wilmington) and Andralyn Livingston (East Carolina).

County athletes have won six Most Valuable Performer awards at state track and field meets since 2010. Dodge won three in her career, and Whitaker, Hodge and Zales each captured one.

Dodge and Crossley are two of the best running athletes in state history.

Dodge earned her 15th individual state title in the 800 meters at the 3A state championships in the spring of her senior year to break a tie with Wilson Fike's Sabrina Thompson for the most state championships by a female in the 3A division.

She ended her high school career owning state meet records in the indoor and outdoor 1,600 meters, 1,000 meters and 800 meters.

Dodge finished fourth at the New Balance Nationals in the 800 meters in her junior year and recorded the 10th fastest time in the nation in the 800 meters as a senior.

She capped her career with the N.C. High School Athletic Association Female Athlete of the Year award.

Crossley captured a national title at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals after his senior year with a time of 1:48.01, making him the fastest high school boys 800-meter runner in state history. He also set a meet record with the time and was eighth all-time nationally.

Crossley, who won three state championships during his senior year, including setting a 1A/2A/3A state winter indoor record with a 2:30.34 in the 1,000 meters, won the Gatorade N.C. Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year award.

If Carteret County isn’t the standard bearer for these sports in the eastern part of the state, I don’t know who is.

(Send comments or questions to jj@thenewstimes.com or follow him on Twitter @jjsmithccnt.)

(1) comment

BlueDevilRunner3

It’s such a great running community! The county has also turned out runners who have gone on to win half marathons, win marathons, and win ultra marathons

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