Expectations were high going into this year’s track and field season for the Providence Day boys team – especially considering they won last year’s N.C. Independent School Athletic Association Class 3A title without finishing first in any event. The pressure was on before the season even began and by the time the 2014 state meet rolled around, the Chargers knew they’d have to live up to their potential.
And, just like last season, they didn’t disappoint. The Chargers finished with 133 points, comfortably ahead of second-place Ravenscroft (103), Charlotte Latin (96.5), Cary Academy (68), Charlotte Christian (59) and Charlotte Country Day (40.5).
Even though the outcome was the same, coach Ben Hovis said the two seasons couldn’t have been more different.
“This year was the result of a lot of progression from last season,” he said. “One thing that we talked about on the team was that our motivation was different. Last year, we didn’t have any first-place finishers but we had a lot of strong performances. This year, we asked ourselves, ‘How many podiums can we get?’”
And the podium appearances weren’t lacking for the Chargers.
Nick Linder blazed the track in the 1600- and 3200-meter runs, placing first in both events. In the 1600, Linder ran an astounding 4 minutes, 20.65 seconds. In the 3200, he finished in 9:36.83 – four seconds ahead of the next runner. The 4×400 relay team stood atop the state championship podium after Danny Morrow, James Pierpoint, Jaylin Counts and Evan Gray ran in 3:26.46. Gray, Linder, Eli Barr and William Glenn claimed the 4×800 relay in 8:08.01, seven seconds ahead of the next closest team, while Isaac Johnson jumped six feet, two inches for a first-place high jump finish and Chaz Raye won the triple jump (44-06.50).
Hovis said that more than ever, his team came to compete and prove that despite not taking any first-place finishes last year, the win wasn’t a fluke.
“We had 16 different kids who scored,” he said. “Chaston Raye, that kid knows how to jump when it matters. You knew he was going to do something special. Nick Linder, we just knew he was going to have a huge meet. Isaac Johnson was incredible. The list goes on and on.
“We have kids on this year’s team that we knew would be valuable and they had the meets that we expected them to have but it was a total team effort.”
The Chargers’ progression is evidenced like no other in the shot put. Last year, they struggled to have one athlete finish in the top 10. This season, Chike Ekwonu finished fifth (46-07.50), Grant Williams finished sixth (45-02.00) and Eric Cal finished eighth (44-07.00). It’s a trend that Hovis said proves just how far the Chargers have come.
“I think that shows how this team is more polished,” Hovis said. “Last year was made up of a lot of guys getting better and carving themselves out as athletes. It was a lot about development. This season we saw that development pay off.”
In the 300 hurdles, Johnson finished in second place (39.54) with teammate Morrow closely behind in third (40.43). Gray placed third in the 400 (50.92) with Counts taking fifth (51.62). Linder, Gray and Barr all finished in the top eight in the 800 meter while Raye and Alex Cantrell took second and fourth in the long jump, proving that the Charger team came to dominate.
With two consecutive NCISAA Class 3A state titles now to his name, Hovis said there’s one thing that’s even more rewarding than the accolades, the trophies and the statewide notoriety.
“The competitiveness of the kids makes coaching worth it,” he said. “It requires a certain mentality to come to practice every day, work hard and then see that hard work pay off over time. They know how to perform when it matters most and they deserve the credit.”