WINSTON-SALEM, NC – The Swain County women made it back-to-back state Indoor titles with a convincing 83.5-61 victory over second place Cummings. The men’s championship was a much tighter affair with East Burke edging Union Academy 48-43 to earn the Cavaliers’ first Indoor State Championship.
The Maroon Devil women racked up much of their points in the distance disciplines, earning 14 points in the 1000 Meters and getting a pair of individual event victories from Arizona Blankenship in the 1600 and 3200 Meters. Blankenship racked up gold in the 1600 Meters with a time of 5:12.72 and in the 3200 hitting the tape in 11:42.44. Amaya Hicks also won gold for Swain, taking the 1000 Meters in 3:10.84. Hicks and Blankenship paired up with Annie Lewis and Gracie Monteith in the 3200 Meter Relay to lift Swain to victory in 10:13.33.
Akala Garrett from Albemarle was selected as the 1A/2A Meet Most Outstanding Performer. She set a pair of 1A/2A State Meet Records as she won the 55 Meter Hurdles in 7.86 seconds and the 500 Meters in 1:15.86. Her 55 Meter Hurdles time nipped the previous mark of 7.99 seconds set by Alyssa Thompson Rowe from Lexington in 2020. The 500 Meter record she replaced was 1:16.79 set by Araybian Lilly from West Montgomery in 2017. Garrett also won the 300 Meters with a winning time of 40.44 seconds.
Another notable name from the women’s meet was Robbinsville’s Zoie Shuler. She pulled down a pair of first place finishes by winning the Long Jump and Triple Jump. She cleared 17’ 5” with her winning effort in the Long Jump and 39’ 9.5” in the Triple Jump.
East Burke won the men’s meet in large part due to the heroics of Kenneth Byrd who won a pair of events at the meet. Byrd was the winner of the 55 Meter Hurdles, crossing in a time of 7.71 seconds before earning the top spot in the High Jump with a clearance of 6’ 6”. Byrd was selected as the Most Outstanding Performance.
Four men’s meet 1A/2A records fell in the competition. NC School of Science & Math-Durham runner Andrew Parker won a pair of events in the meet, earning victory in the 3200 Meters with a time of 9:28.43. He also climbed to the top of the podium in the 1600 Meters, setting a new 1A/2A State Meet mark with his time of 4:19.23. His run eclipsed the old record of 4:21.11 set by North Lincoln’s Jason Thomson from 2019.
Jonathan Paylor from Cummings also set a new 1A/2A Meet Record in the 300 Meters, crossing the line in 35.13 seconds. His effort bested the old time of 35.18 set by Reidsville’s Elliott Graves in 2016.
There were two new 1A/2A Meet Records in the field events. Swain County’s Matthew Gray cleared 16’ 6” to win the Pole Vault and beat the previous 1A/2A Record of 16’ 00” set by Kenneth Byrd from East Burke a year ago. Northeastern’s Junion Payton Kimble also set a new top performance for 1A/2A in the Shot Put tossing 55’ 9” with his best throw of the day. His toss eclipsed the 55’ 6.5” performance of North Lincoln’s Jake Soorus in 2020.
The NCHSAA is committed to promoting good sportsmanship at all athletic events and has partnered with the North Carolina Farm Bureau to present the NC Farm Bureau Sportsmanship Awards to two athletes from each NCHSAA Championship Event. The 1A/2A Women’s Sportsmanship Award Winners were Amelia Rogers from Swain County and D’Anna Cotton from Cummings. The Sportsmanship Award Winners on the Men’s side were Avery Fraley from East Burke and Evan Mitchell from Union Academy.