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GREENSBORO — This time, Hunt High senior Jeremiah Ganaway wasn’t going to let his opportunity get away from him.
A year after entering the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A track and field championships as the top seed in the boys high jump — and finishing eighth — Ganaway was ready and focused, despite a slight case of the jitters, at Sunday’s state 3-A championship meet at Irwin Belk Track on the campus of North Carolina A&T State University.
He cleared 6 feet, 6 inches on his second try at the height and that was good enough make him the state champion.
“It feels great! It’s just a feeling I can’t explain!” he said in a telephone interview.
Warriors head coach Will Edwards said it was a matter of staying focused against a field that included Fike junior Elijahwon Cooper, the East Regional champion who shared the top seed of 6-10 with Ganaway at the state meet.
“We knew going in that we were the best,” Edwards said. “We just needed to have a good day. If we did our normal day, like we always do, we were going to be just fine. As long as we could shake off the nervousness, we were going to win this thing.”
Ganaway, who cleared 6-10 on his third try at the 3-A East Regional meet May 12 at the University of Mount Olive, learned a valuable lesson that day as Cooper claimed the regional title after hitting 6-10 on his second go.
“My focus was really just on hitting everything my first time or my second time and not try to wait until the last one to hit,” Ganaway said.
With four jumpers clustered with a seed jump of 6-4, Ganaway knew that his competition was going to come from Cooper, who had already placed 10th in the long jump and was entered in the triple jump as well.
But Cooper, second in the 2017 state 3-A meet, failed to clear 6-6, opening the door for Ganaway.
“When he got out, I was really surprised,” Ganaway said. “It kind of took a weight off my back. I could get through the competition. From what I heard coming, the other guys were doing, like, 6-4, so I was thinking, ‘I got it if I just do the right things.’”
Northern Guilford sophomore Rashawn Pleasant, who got over the bar at a personal-record 6-6 on his third try, was his only competition.
“I feel like that put me ahead and if we had another go, I feel like I could have hit 6-8. It was just jitters, really,” Ganaway said.
With no pressure, Ganaway took three tries at 6-8 in the humid weather but didn’t make it. He would have to settle for being state champion even though he hoped to challenge the state 3-A record of 6-11 set by West Brunswick’s Derek Frink in 1995.
“I was still trying to go for 7 feet. But there was just so much going on,” Ganaway explained.
Cooper, who cleared 6-4 on his final try, ended up fourth behind Jacksonville sophomore Julien Stephens, who got over on his second attempt.
Sunday was a day of retribution for Ganaway.
“t was a tough day last year and one day we were talking and I said, ‘Listen, we’re going to forget about last year and we’re going to get that ring,’” Edwards said. “We both agreed and he pounded it out and worked out and just came out here this time and the jitters were gone. He wasn’t nervous and kind of knew what to do and it helped out a lot.”
Now the irony for Ganaway, who had been chasing a state title since Edwards approached him after his junior basketball season, is that he will be immortalized as a Warriors track and field state champion on the wall of the gymnasium where he practiced and played his favorite sport of basketball.
“It feels really good to be a part of Hunt history,” he said. “It feels real good, you know, and it all started with the track coach coming to me at the gym and telling me, ‘Hey, come do high jump. I feel like you can jump.’ It’s a blessing, to be honest.”
OTHER 3-A COMPETITORS
After taking fourth in the high jump, Cooper’s day was over. Fike head coach Sonny West said the junior said his knee wasn’t feeling right after competing in the long and high jumps, so he pulled out of the triple jump, in which he was seeded fifth. Cooper was 10th in the long jump with a leap of 19-7, well off his seed distance of 21-9.5.
C.B. Aycock senior Kamarion Graham took sixth in the boys 100-meter day with a time of 11.09 seconds after running 10.98 in the prelims. Graham was part of the Golden Falcons 4x100 relay that also finished sixth and set a school record in the process with a time of 42.99 seconds. Joining Graham on the unit were Rico Dawson, Jaylan Robinson and Alijuan Moore.
Disaster struck for Southern Nash senior Nadir Thompson in the 100 prelims. The East Regional champion in the 100 and 200, Thompson, who has run sparingly all spring, re-injured his hamstring in the 100 prelims and finished 15th. That ended his day as he pulled out of the 200 dash and the 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams. Kendrick Bell took Thompson’s place on both relays, alongside Zonovan Knight, Dae’One Wilkins and Darius Edmundson. The tandem finished 11th in the 4x100 relay and 15th in the 4x200.
Aycock senior DeShawn Owens also placed 15th in the boys 1,600 run with a time of 4:42.67.
Fike junior Davis Nicol didn’t clear the opening height of 11-6, which was his career best, in the boys pole vault.
On the girls side, Aycock senior Arlanda Faulkner was 11th in prelims in the girls 100 hurdles and ddidn’t qualify for the final.
Weddington won its second straight 3-A boys championship while Durham Hillside edged Winston-Salem Parkland 62-61 to win the girls team title. There were five records broken in the state 3-A girls championship.
HORNETS’ DEANS IS 4TH
In the 1-A championship meet, which was being contested simultaneously at Irwin Belk Track, Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf sophomore Jeremiah Deans placed fourth in the boys shot put. Deans, who won the 1-A Mideast Regional title with a throw of 43-10 last weekend, posted a personal-best toss of 44-9 on his second throw Saturday. Gray Stone Day School’s Jason Reynolds was the winner at 49-7.
Hornets head coach Leonard Baker said that Deans had some extra motivation following the death earlier this month of assistant coach Tom Watson, who was a former thrower at East Carolina University.
“Tom’s influence got Jeremiah to change his technique and work on his explosion,” Baker said. “And Jeremiah has consistently got better throughout the year especially in the last month.”
Watson, who was in his first season with the Hornets, died unexpectedly May 5.
“So he has not been there physically the last weeks, but he has certainly been there spiritually,” Baker said.