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Slade takes state title-young Panthers gain experience

Senior Kathleen Slade’s state championship in the high jump was the highlight of Friday’s 1A state track and field meet at Truist Stadium on the campus of North Carolina A&T State University.

An unseasonably cool temperature combined with low humidity and brilliant sunshine most of the day made for optimal competition conditions.

Slade teetered on the brink of elimination after missing her first two attempts at 4’8, then settled down to clinch a medal with a successful try at 4’11. She missed twice at 5 feet, but nailed the winning leap after a chat with her coach.

“He (Bob Girani) told me to relax, drive off my leg and push up,” Slade said. “He’s a great coach and a great person and there’s no way I would even be out here without him.”

Slade had always played softball in the spring, but thanks to COVID-19 that season ended before track did. Girani and classmate Caroline Boyd encouraged her to join the team and she ended up on the podium after only two months of work.

“It speaks to how athletic she is to pick it up that quickly,” Girani said. “It’s quite the miracle that she ended up a state champion and I’m very proud of her.”

Boyd finished 11th in the 1600 meters in 5:50.41 and was part of the 10th place 4 x 400 relay team (4:40.41) with freshmen Lauren Rouse, Anna Taylor and Kiele Scott, who also finished 15th in the 300 hurdles (59.71).

On the boys side, senior Zion Wilson was 10th in the shot put with a throw of 38’1.5 meters.

Sophomore Zane Brooks was 13th in the 110 hurdles (19.00) and 15th in the 300 hurdles (52.21).

Junior Keanu Dugin finished 10th in the 1600 meters (4:49.07) and was part of the 11th place 4 x 400 relay team (3:48.69) with Jordan Harding, Brent Holland and Jonathan Price.

Dugin teamed with Holland, Price and Mason Newman on the 13th place (9:16.38) 4 x 800 relay team.

“All except Kathleen, Caroline and Zion will return next year,” Girani said. “It was quite an achievement for the younger ones to get here and they learned what it takes to compete with the best in the state. It was a great experience and I’m proud of all of them.”