The race heats up for the conference title

Published 10:04 pm Wednesday, April 25, 2007

By Staff
By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
YEATESVILLE — The battle for the Atlantic/Albemarle Conference track and field champions got under way on Tuesday and midway through the contest the Northside Panthers hold the lead in both the boys’ and womens’ events.
The conference meet takes place over two days and upon conclusion of the first six events, the Northside boys totaled 64 points by winning four events to take the lead.
The Panthers’ girls team won only two events but managed to rack up 70 points to hold on to first place.
In the boys competition, Williamston holds second place with 24 points and is followed by Camden (15), Perquimans (13) and Southside (9).
Holding the second place spot in the girls’ meet is Williamston with 57 points, while Roanoke’s 25 points put them in third. Trailing the Redskins are Camden with 19 points, Perquimans (4) and Southside (3).
The Panthers were led by T.J. Slade, who earned the conference championship in long jump as well as the triple jump. Slade flew for 20-feet-4-inches in the long jump to top the Panthers’ Anthony Martin, while his triple jump of 40-4.6 was enough to edge out teammate Toney Lacey who placed second.
Slade also placed second in the conference in the high jump, finishing behind Ashanti Thomas of Perquimans who cleared six feet.
While Slade’s performance was dynamic, Northside’s Ben Hopkins put on a performance that was truly inspirational.
Hopkins had learned the night before the conference meet that his step-brother Jonathan Kirk, who is currently serving as a Marine, was severely injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq.
Hopkins, who won the conference title in the shot put with a season best throw of 45-3.6, said he dedicated his performance to his brother.
Kirk, is a 25-year-old Northside graduate who has been in the Marines for roughly a year and a half, and has served in Iraq for about a month.
Hopkins said he would greatly appreciate it if Kirk was in everyone’s thoughts and prayers. Kirk, who is critically injured is currently in a hospital in Germany.
Northside coach Charlie Woolard said he was proud of the way Hopkins came out and performed under the circumstances.
The Panthers fourth conference title came in the 3200-meter relay which was powered by Clay Leary, Warren Hamilton, Chad Davenport and Louis Paul. The relay team’s time of 9:21.41 was good enough to top the second place Tigers.
Though the Seahawks struggled to accumulate points on the first day of competition, Southside’s Floyd Moore sure his school did not go home empty handed by winning the discus with a throw of 121-2.
Southside coach Katherine Bogart said she like the effort her team put out on Tuesday.
In the girls’ meet, Northside may have racked up the most points, but Williamston had left with the most conference champions.
The Tigers’ Lynn Davis won the discus with a throw of 84-11, Jaime Spruill’s triple jump of 31-4 was tops in the conference, while Michelle Bracey jumped 16-8 in the long jump to take first place.
Camden’s Casey Ferguson edged out the Panthers’ Suzanne Lee in the high jump, while Lee’s teammates captured the 3200-meter relay. Casey Lewis, Molly Hardison, Katie Bowen and Brooke Leigh teamed up to run a first place time of 12:05 to win the relay.
Perhaps the most surprising finish of the day was turned in by the Roanoke girls’ track and field team. According to coach Greg Exum, the Redskins have not fielded a track and field team in over 10 years, however, they currently sit in third place.
The Atlantic/Albemarle Conference competition will conclude today. The meet, which is being held at Northside High School starts at 4 p.m.