GREENSBORO — It would have taken the proverbial “perfect storm” for the Mount Airy men to pull off a three-peat in the NCHSAA 1A track and field championships, but the storm came a little late on Sunday evening.
With just two events left to run, both on the 3A side of the competition, the state championships at the Irwin Belk Track at N.C. A&T State University entered a lengthy rain delay, just as the 1A men’s 4×400 meter relay wrapped up to complete the 1A portion of the competition.
The Granite Bears didn’t come to Greensboro with the same numbers that they did in the previous two seasons, when Mount Airy won the men’s title. This year’s competition was a free-for-all in which the eventual champion, Polk County, took first place in the team standings with 44 points, a fairly small total for a championship-winning team. Eleven teams were within 20 points of that total, with Mount Airy coming in eighth with 28 points.
The women’s part of the meet saw Murphy and Research Triangle Charter run off, literally as well as figuratively, from everyone else. Murphy trailed going into the 4×400, but a second-place finish in that event vaulted them from five points down to three ahead and made the Lady Bulldogs the state champions, 60-57. Below those two, seven schools finished with between 30 and 40 points, one of which was Mount Airy.
The Lady Bears carried just four athletes to the championship meet, but remained among the top 10 teams throughout. Representing Mount Airy were seniors Madeline Mayfield and Tatyana Long, junior Hanne Cooke and sophomore Kathlyn Mauck, and all four scored in the meet. With just those four, the Lady Bears’ 33 team points earned them eighth place as well.
“We only had four girls today, and at one point today we were in fourth place,” said Lady Bears head coach Clarence Cropps. “All four of them did well.”
What enabled Mount Airy’s women to stay among the top teams on the leaderboard the entire way was a display of toughness by Mauck, who was trying to win the third individual state championship of her career. Mauck won the state high jump title in the N.C. Athletic Association for Schools of Choice as a freshman, when she competed for Millennium Charter Academy. She took her second in the 2017-18 indoor season, winning the NCHSAA 1A title for the Lady Bears despite being seeded lower than about 20 other competitors. Prior to last week’s Midwest Regional, Mauck suffered a broken arm, competed anyway, and won the regional title. On Sunday, she finished in a three-way tie for first, jumping with her right arm in a sling, along with Tierra Benders of East Carteret and Lakayla Birst of North Rowan. All three maxed out at 5’2” and the competition went to a jump-off, where Benders came out on top and Mauck settled for silver.
“It was a tough loss, but Kathlyn was giving all her best, jumping with a broken arm,” said Cropps. “We’re really proud of her for that. It’s very hard to jump when you can’t use your arms.”
Mayfield competed for the first time that morning and wasn’t far behind Mauck and the others in the high jump, in a four-way tie for fourth at 4’10”. They all had a jump-off and Mayfield ended up in fifth, combining for 12 team points.
Also in the morning session was Long, who was completing her athletic career at MAHS by participating in the state finals of a fourth different sport. She was previously a member of the Lady Bears teams that reached the championship round in basketball (2017 and 2018), tennis (2016), and golf (2017). On Sunday, she tossed the shot put 32’5 1/2”, a half-inch better than her previous best, and finished eighth overall to score a point for her team. Not long after, she returned to the field and competed in the discus, where her season-best throw of 95 feet was good enough for another eighth-place finish.
East Surry’s Dylan Sawyers put the Cardinals on the board in the men’s version of the 1A discus, throwing a season-best 123’9” for sixth place and the Cardinals’ only points of the meet.
After that, it was well into the afternoon session before any of the local teams had another chance to compete. Mount Airy was one of 16 teams to run in two heats of the men’s 4×200, and the Bears’ team of Austin Tumbarello, Cameron Moore, Cole Shelton and Grayson Corbin won the first heat, but were seeded behind everyone in heat two. However, they did beat two of those teams and took seventh overall for two points.
Cooke hit the track for the first time in the next event, the 1600 meters, and finished first among the traditional school athletes in 5:34.73. Three runners representing charter schools finished ahead of her, but the fourth-place finish still netted her five points and a medal.
Mayfield finally got a chance to run soon after, in the 400. The senior raced to a silver in 59:30, trailing only Araybian Lilly of West Montgomery, who was the meet MVP. It was the first time in Mayfield’s career that she had run the 400 under one minute in competition.
“Madeline finally broke that one-minute barrier today,” said Cropps. “She was very strong today. She’s been flirting with breaking one minute for a long time, and she finally did it today.”
The guys in blue and white were also heard from in the 400. Tumbarello and Corbin were both entered and both delivered, with the former placing second in a season-best 49.54, trailing only senior Brody Smith of Mitchell. Corbin came in fifth in 50.79. Between them, a dozen points were added to the Bears’ ledger.
Cooke ran again in the 800 and finished 11th, just a few spots out of the points, and Mayfield did the same in the 200, placing ninth overall. But Tumbarello scored again in his crack at the 200, grabbing bronze in a time of 22.70 that was also a season best.
Cooke then ran in the 3200 and beat her seed with a 10th-place finish, having run 5600 meters (3.47 miles) in less than an hour under hot and muggy conditions.
The triple jump competition wasn’t held until the evening, and Mayfield completed her career shortly before the storm came, placing third overall at 34’7 1/2”, behind Breah Taylor of East Carteret and Zoe Byrd of Princeton. The team points moved the Lady Bears from 11th back into eighth. Corbin was also completing his career in the same event. He came in fourth overall in a season-best 42’5 1/2”.
At the same time the triple jump was going on, the Bears 4×400 team of Corbin, Jackson Tumbarello, Shelton and Austin Tumbarello competed in the 4×400 and placed sixth. Moments after the race was done, lightning was reported in the area and a lengthy delay followed, but the Bears’ meet, and the 2017-18 MAHS athletic season, was complete.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.