GREENSBORO — For Western Carolina-bound Ryan Eldridge, the final chapter of his high school career was the best of all. As for Sarah Brown, she’ll have plenty more chances to hear her named called in the years to come.
The North Surry senior shot putter and the Surry Central sophomore pole vaulter each made it a clean sweep of their respective events for 2018, adding the NCHSAA 2A outdoor track and field state title to the indoor version they won back in February. Both won their titles without the competition even being particularly close, and with performances that put them into the record books.
Both events were held in the morning session of the meet, held at N.C. A&T State University. Brown went into her event as the clear favorite, while Eldridge, despite his status as the reigning 2A indoor champion in the shot, had just the third-best qualifying performance. Only four competitors had made a qualifying put of 50 feet or more during the outdoor season, and Eldridge’s best of 51’0 1/2” had been bested by Keziah Everett of Farmville Central and Alex Trexler of Central Davidson at some point during the season.
Regardless of seeding, neither event was even close on Saturday.
Central has been developing a strong pole-vaulting program for a few years now, and last year, a Golden Eagle won the men’s 2A title. This season, Brown was a heavy favorite. Her season best of 12 feet even was 18 inches better than anyone else in the 2A women’s classification had done during the outdoor season. Leanna Seagraves of Draughn and Pearl Ballard of East Henderson were seeded second and third with a best of 10’6”. There were 13 people entered in the finals, including Brown’s freshman teammate Peggy Prevette.
Four of the 13 finalists failed to clear the bar at any height and were eliminated. Ballard was off-form and couldn’t top nine feet, which was the same height that Prevette, Liz Morgan of East Henderson and Lacey Triplett of Wilkes Central were halted at. Tiebreakers left Prevette in sixth place, with a vault six inches better than her previous best, and as the only freshman to score in the event.
Left in the competition by that point were Brown, Seagraves and Ally Osterberg of North Davidson. Osterberg settled from bronze after bowing out at a season best 9’6”. Seagraves and Brown both reached 11 feet even, but only Brown could clear the bar at 12. The previous 2A state outdoor women’s record had been 11’2”, set by Danielle Brown of Franklin High School four years ago.
“She had beaten the record at two other meets, but the conditions were not quite as good today,” said Central head coach Jason Bryant. “It was great for her to do it again at the state meet and break the record.
“It’s going to be exciting to see what she can accomplish with two more seasons to go. She has a lot of potential left, both in the pole vault and in some other events.”
Brown also qualified in the 300 hurdles and finished 11th, three spots out of the points.
Brown’s 10 points, added to the three earned by Prevette, actually put Central in sixth place in the team standings at that point, although they would fall back as they day moved along.
Brown won by a foot, which was impressive enough. But Eldridge, representing North Surry, took on a strong field and utterly crushed it. In fact, the competitors at other schools are fortunate that the Greyhounds are only a 2A school.
In Eldridge’s case, he actually was not the Midwest Regional champion. At last week’s regional meet, held at Surry Central of all places, he was a little off his best performances. Fortunately, a little off for Ryan Eldridge in the shot is still better than most anyone else, and he finished second overall, nine and a half inches behind Trexler, and easily qualified for states.
On Saturday, the final put of the senior’s high school career soared an amazing 59 feet, two inches. This was more than eight feet better than what he had done at regionals, and more than six feet better than his performance (52’5”) in the indoor final back in February — which in and of itself had been good enough to beat the 3A indoor champion’s performance. It was also a new 2A state record, shattering the previous mark set by Kenneth Rowland of Northside-Jacksonville back in 2009 by 19 inches.
Although he had finished second at the regional, Eldridge was still seeded first overall, which meant he got to take the last put of each round. Each athlete received six attempts, with the best performance counting in the standings. Everett, the East Regional champion, took the early lead, while Eldridge moved into second place on his second attempt, which went more than 51 feet. He took over first place in round three, when his put flew more than 54 feet. This would never be matched by anyone else in the competition.
Eldridge already knew he was the state champion when he got back into the circle for the final shot put of his high school career, which was also the final one of the 2A meet. He let fly, and the 12-pound ball sailed into history.
The East Regional champion, Everett, ended up in second place, or in this case the B-flight, with a put of 51’9”, seven feet and five inches behind Eldridge. Trexler was third, at 50’8”. No one else even topped 49 feet on Saturday.
“Ryan had a great week of practice,” said North Surry track and field coach Travis Gammons. “He felt really good about his chances of winning another state championship.”
The 4A shot put was held immediately after the Eldridge Invitational. Chancellor Crawford of North Mecklenburg won it with a put of 58’4”, 10 inches less than Eldridge on the same day, venue and conditions.
“We weren’t expecting a win by that much, but we knew he had it in him,” said Gammons of Eldridge, who ended his prep career with the 2017 Midwest Regional title, the 2018 indoor and outdoor state titles, and a medal in the 2017 Powerade State Games of North Carolina.
The Central men had a few other entries in the state meet, including one other medalist. Junior Erick Ramirez-Ramos beat his previous season-best by 14 seconds and placed third in the 3200 meter run in a time of 9:47.82. Nolan McMillen, a sophomore, made the final of the 300 hurdles and ended up in 11th place, with 10 upperclassmen ahead of him.
Myia West of North Surry also earned a point in her final state championship meet. The senior, who was runner-up in the discus at regionals, placed eighth in the finals with a throw of 104 feet, five inches. West has already signed with Coker to compete collegiately in the field events.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.