The Lejeune High School track team stepped up to a whole new playing field when they competed in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 1A East Regional Track and Field meet at the Green Central High School track in Snow Hill, North Carolina, May 11 and 12.
A week later, both squads prepared themselves for state championships. The boys took 15th overall out of 82 teams and the girls took 29th overall out of 82 teams according to LHS girls track head coach Debra Bryant at NC A&T Irwin Belk Track in Greensboro, North Carolina, May 20.
“There is always a sense of relief and happy exhaustion when the season is done,” said Lejeune’s boys head coach Bronwyn Schwend. “Our athletes work very hard and the season is a long one. Our team always pushes to win regionals, and to me, the state meet is a reward for that. Coach Gardiner and I are very proud of them.”
Coaching also plays a huge role in how the teams do on the track.
“We are incredibly lucky to have the support and expertise of coach Ehrlich on pole vault and coach Washington on shot put and discus,” said Bronwyn. “These coaches come to practice for hours, several times per week, volunteering to impart their knowledge and wisdom with our athletes, and they’ve been working with our athletes for years.
The Lejeune boys took first place in the regional championship taking the title for the fourth consecutive year surpassing Southside High School and East Carteret High School. As a team, the boys came in first place in the 4 X 800-meter run at 8:52.16, forty-three seconds faster than Southside High School.
Anthony Schwend took first place in the pole vault at 10-00.00 with Michael Feeks and Kyle Baldwin following behind at 9-06.00 in second and third place.
“I have been in each meet every year that we have won regionals and it is nice because we were projected to win by a smaller margin of two points,” said Anthony. “It was a huge relief on the field when we heard second place Southside and first place Lejeune. Our guys started sprinting from the buses celebrating the first place finish.”
Schwend noted that the team has grown close during the season and that everyone helps each other on and off the track.
For Mahlik Francis in the regional meet, the competition was not going to get in his way during regionals. The senior standout took third place in the 100-meter dash finals at 11.30 and came in second place in the 400-meter dash finals at 51.30 trailing James Boyd from Northampton County High School.
In state championships, Francis took second place overall in the 100-meter dash finals at 11.26 and third place in the 400-meter dash at 50.59.
“It felt amazing to continue the streak of being number one at regionals and we take that very seriously here at Lejeune,” said Francis. “State championship is a whole new level of competition, but knowing we can do well in conference and regionals makes the whole team excited about our success on the track.”
Francis added that it is a bittersweet feeling ending his high school track career, but he is blessed to say he has had an amazing couple of years running track after wrapping up state championships.
Next year, Francis plans on attending North Carolina A&T University to pursue nursing.
“This is our last chapter meaning we have to do as best as we can,” said Francis. “Almost everyone met a personal record at regionals and we took that success into the state championships.”
The Devil Pups girls took second place in the regional championships with their young team stepping up to the challenge; a team made up of mostly freshman. The team took second place in the 4 x 800-relay finals at 11:24.48.
Bryant has watched her team grow since the start of the season. Some girls haven’t competed in a high school meet before, but they blossomed into competitors against tough rivals.
“I am very proud of our girls because they were up against tough competition at regionals,” said Bryant. “They outperformed themselves once again. We were down by one point to Southside in the 4 by 4. The best we could do is first place and the worst we could do is second place.”
Taylor Pound is a sophomore team captain and accomplished a lot in her second year making it to the state championships in three out of four events in the 1600, 3200 and 4 by 800 meter relay.
“It is a huge accomplishment to take second place in regionals,” said Pound. “We built a lot of memories together getting through the tough times while shining through the good times. We all rely on each other. We are a family.”
Maeve Cook joined the track team during her sophomore season. Cook in regionals took first place in the 100-meter hurdles at 17.66 and second place in the 300-meter hurdles at 51.53.
“It is pretty amazing that our team took second place in regionals,” said Cook. “The camaraderie we shared together after celebrating our success makes this is a great team to be around.”
After completing her last race in the state championships, Cook said she couldn’t have asked for a better group to experience her last state track meet with.
For more information on LHS athletics, visit www.dodea.edu/LejeuneHS/athletics.cfm.