Lejeune High School’s Kyle Baldwin earned silver in the pole vault by clearing 12 feet, six inches at the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s (NCHSAA) 1A State Championship on May 18 at NC A&T State University in Greensboro, NC. The boys’ team, who won the East Regional Championship on May 10, placed 16th at the state meet out of 53 1A schools that had athletes earn points.
“I couldn't hand pick a better group of kids to work with,” said boys track & field head coach Bronwyn Schwend. “I know how fortunate I am to work with them. Individually, and as a team, they had a tremendous season, but their accomplishments go far beyond what their stats show on the track.”
Schwend, though thrilled about the season’s results, knows that it is her athletes’ success in the classroom and their display of good sportsmanship that matter most.
“This season we had 30 athletes,” Schwend said. “Of those, seven achieved honor roll and nine made straight A’s. Most of these kids are in the Student Government Association, and they have contributed countless service hours to the community. At the state meet, the temperature rose into the 90s, and the meet officials asked for volunteers to pass out water to the two-milers while they ran. The entire Lejeune track team left the shade of the tents we brought and stood in the sun for an hour to pass out water to the runners. That makes me more proud than if they had won states.”
Other notable finishes from the LHS boys came from Dylan Presson, who took 7th in the pole vault, Karl Benson, who placed 8th in the 1600-meter run, Mason Nuckles, with an 8th place finish in the 300-meter hurdles and Nicholas Presley who finished 10th in the 3200-meter.
Nuckles, a senior who has spent all four years at Lejeune, says that his relationships with his teammates will be what he misses most.
“My teammates are what made it great,” Nuckles said. “Running with them and spending all this time with them is what really made it worthwhile … From freshman year to senior year I’ve always ran with people, and I [have seen] people go and I [have seen] people come in, and meeting those people has always been a great memory.”
LHS junior Georgia Lee had a couple of top-10 finishes with 7th in the mile in a time of six minutes, two seconds and a 9th place finish in the two-mile in 13:17. Lee, whose father is a chief warrant officer in the USMC, is in her first year at LHS, but says she has already noticed that Camp Lejeune is different from any other place she has been before.
“Here I’ve played more sports like tennis, soccer and track,” Lee said. “This is my first time at a school where I’ve played so many sports.” She also mentioned that she doesn’t have a particular favorite yet.
Other notable performances for the LHS girls came from underclassmen. Sophomore Emalee Reynolds placed 7th in the pole vault and freshman Anna Perdue took 7th in the discus. The girls’ team finished 32nd out of 50 schools who had athletes earn points.
Perdue, whose father is a Navy Chaplain, has been at Lejeune for four years now, and like Nuckles, she is enjoying the chance to be the welcoming friend instead of the new kid for a change.
“I don’t like being the new kid,” Perdue said about life as a military child who frequently relocates. “I’m really awkward so that’s why I like staying places. I’m more of that kind of person. When new people come in I can reach out, so that’s that kind of advantage, being here and helping the new kids.”
Perdue and the Devil Pups had a special visitor who gave them some extra inspiration at their last practice on May 15 in Olympic hopeful Kristen Hurley. Hurley, who was invited to practice by long-distance coach Amanda Tungett, won back-to-back Big South Conference titles in the pentathlon at Gardner-Webb University in 2012 and 2013. She was also a member of the US National bobsledding team before switching to the skeleton, a sport where the athlete lies down on a small sled and glides head-first down the track. Hurley’s advice was twofold: give it your all and separate who you are from what you do.
“(I told them) even if you don’t necessarily hit your goal or succeed you’re not going to regret giving it everything you had,” said Hurley. “If you realize that your purpose in life is bigger than what you are doing as an athlete, even though that’s an important part of it, you can be successful. You can have failure and you’re still going to know that you did everything you could as a person to be who you wanted to be.”
Nuckles, who will head to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina later this year for US Marine Corps recruit training, feels like spending all four years at LHS has callused his mind and shaped his life in a way that not many high schoolers experience.
“I’ve lived this life that I can say not a lot of people have lived,” Nuckles said. “It’s not a great experience, leaving people and saying goodbye, but living (this life) and actually thinking about the benefits you get from (the experience) is really what’s worthwhile.”
NCHSAA 1A State Championships (May 18, 2019, NC A&T State University, Greensboro, NC) Results:
LHS Boys: 16th out of 53
LHS Girls: 32nd out of 50
Kyle Baldwin (JR) - Silver, pole vault (12-06)
Dylan Presson (JR) - 7th place, pole vault (10-06)
Georgia Lee (JR) - 7th place, 1600-meter (6:02)
Emalee Reynolds (SO) - 7th place, pole vault (7-06)
Anna Perdue (FR) - 7th place, discus (92-04)
Karl Benson (SO) - 8th place, 1600-meter, (4:46)
Mason Nuckles (SR) - 8th place, 300-meter hurdles (43.94)
Georgia Lee (JR) - 9th place, 3200-meter (13:17)
Nicholas Presley (SO) - 10th place, 3200-meter (11:16)
K. Benson, D. Presson, K. Wisherd, X. Rice - 8th place, 4x400-meter relay (3:36)