CATAWBA — The Pisgah boys 4x200 relay team is going to state.
The team, composed of four sophomores — Levi Cagle, Devan Dodgin, Cain Early and Korey Griffith — ran a 1:37.71 at the Class 2A West Regional meet at Bandys High School in Catawba Saturday. That time was good enough for second place, about four-tenths of a second behind first place Hibriten.
Not bad for a group of underclassmen who “only ran together in a couple of meets [this season],” according to Pisgah track head coach Jessy Wilkins. The feat is doubly impressive because Griffith, Dodgin and Early also played baseball this spring.
“I’m just really proud of this group,” Wilkins said. “We knew they had potential, but they really put in the work during practice this past week, and it paid off.”
“They still have a lot to improve on,” he added. “But I’m proud of them.”
The foursome now heads to the Class 2A State Championships, which will be held at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro this weekend.
Numerous individuals and relay teams from Pisgah entered last weekend’s regional meet with aspirations of qualifying for state, but only the boys 4x200 relay team realized that dream.
Two of the runners — Cagle and Early — were on last season’s state qualifying 4x200 squad, which also featured Tanner Wike and Lee Ferguson. That crew placed 15th out of 16 teams at the 2018 Class 2A State Championships.
This year’s team has a reasonable chance to improve upon that finish, Wilkins said, and he also believes it has a shot to break the school record, which was set by last year’s squad.
Mostly, though, Wilkins just wants his athletes to enjoy themselves.
“I think they could pull it off,” Wilkins said. “But more than anything, I just want them to have fun and compete. The chance to run at state is such a cool experience — it feels like a college-level environment.”
Perhaps Pisgah’s second biggest highlight from the regional meet was delivered by the girls 4x200 relay team.
That squad, which consisted of Kendall Owen, Ashtyn Frady, Kirstin Thompson and Carter Gibson, achieved a personal best time and placed seventh overall. Owen, Frady and Thompson are freshmen, which makes Wilkins excited about what the future may hold.
“We’re looking forward to what they can do over the next few years,” he said.
In shot put, Kam Walker — who qualified for state last year — and his younger brother, Neyland, placed 10th and seventh, respectively, in what was a tough field. Said Wilkins: “In most regions, they would have qualified, but we’re in one of the toughest regions for shot put and discus.”
Hunter Green, meanwhile, competed in the boys pole vault, and Pisgah’s lone girls’ individual competitor was Gibson, in the high jump. The conditions were tough — wet and sloppy — for both events, Wilkins said, and neither athlete was at their best, but the coach commended their efforts.
Wilkins is in his first season as head coach after serving as an assistant under Ricky Brindley in 2018. When Brindley departed last May to become the football head coach at Smoky Mountain, Wilkins slid into the lead role.
Given the large contingent of underclassmen on the Pisgah boys and girls teams, Wilkins is hopeful for the future.
And this weekend, he’ll get a glimpse of how the brightest of those underclassmen stack up against some of the best runners in the state.
“We have a ton of young athletes,” he said. “We’re trying to form a base. We’ve struggled with numbers in the past, but our goal is to build a program that Pisgah can be proud of.”