By SHAUN SAVARESE Of The Record Staff
Until today, it remained unknown to many that the Fantastic Four reside right here among us.
Western Harnett harbors strength, unmatched endurance resides at Harnett Central and Hobbton High School holds raw speed and the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Four athletes, from those three area schools, won track and field state championships Sunday.
The NCHSAA 1A and 3A Track and Field Championships were postponed from Friday to Sunday due to expected rain. The event began 11 a.m. Sunday at N.C. A& T Irwin Belk Track in Greensboro.
Western Harnett senior Asher Prince won both the shot put and the discus field events.
Prince threw the shot put 5309.25, more than 2 feet farther than the second-place competitor. He threw the discus 17507.00, a personal record for him, topping his previous best — of 170-0 at Union Pines on March 9 — by more than 5 feet.
“It feels a little surreal, but I did do it,” Prince said. “It feels good. All of the hard work finally shows.”
According to NCMileSplit, an online data base of track and field results, Prince is now ranked 16th in the state in the discus throw, for all throws recorded in the last 18 years. Western Harnett alumni Mateius Brown is ranked fifth, with his 184-6 throw, in 2014.
Joshua Faison, Smithfield-Selma senior, threw his discus 170-01.00 on Sunday, making this year’s field events one of the most competitive and exciting in recent memory.
“I don’t think there’s been a state championship where there’s been two 170s,” Prince said. “It kind of pushed me over the edge. It was good competition.” Prince threw 173 feet in the preliminary round, also a personal record and also far enough for a 23rd ranking all time in the state.
Prince said he stepped up on the big stage, simply for fear of losing. “I just didn’t want to lose. I’ve been undefeated all season and I didn’t want to lose it,” he said.
Prince will join the UNC Charlotte 49ers track and field in the fall, with plans to redshirt in his freshman year. His college head coach Bob Oleson was at A& T Sunday and told him his performance was “clutch.”
“I was excited. I felt accomplished,” Prince said. “I just want to thank my athletic director, my family and everybody that supported me throughout.”
Harnett Central senior and N.C. State commit Laderique McNeill won the 3A Boys 1600m run, with a time of 4:14.14.
McNeill finished more than two seconds ahead of the second- place finisher, and bested his fastest-recorded time by nearly eight seconds.
(He ran a 4:22.12 at the NCHSAA 3A Mideast Regional on May 12.)
In the 1A event, one runner rose above them all.
Josh Polk, a senior at Hobbton High School, was named the meet’s Most Outstanding Performer.
Polk set fire to the field with his speed, running a 10.92 100m dash and a 21.94 in the 200m dash.
Polk’s 100m time was over a half second quicker than the nearest competition, but not his fastest time. As a sophomore at the 1A Mideast Regional, Pole ran a 10.70 on May 14, 2016.
His 200m time was not a personal record. He was twotenths- of-a-second faster in June of 2016, at the NC Runners Elite Tune Up and Border Clash.
The 200m time was fast enough for Polk’s second state championship, however, as he ran it .36 second ahead of second place.
Not unlike superman, Polk’s teammate, Hobbton junior Lakelyn Bass, has the ability to spring upwards from the earth and leap over any obstacle before her.
Bass has consistently pole vaulted 11-0 at four separate meets this year, even vaulting 11-6 at the Carolina 1A conference championship on May 1. Sunday’s 11-foot is a full 5 feet better than Bass’ first attempt as a freshman on March 12, 2016.
Former Campbell University distance runner, seven-year U.S. Army soldier and first-year Hobbton High School head varsity track and field coach Charles Robertson said his program was established before he took over.
The Wildcats had 40 track participants this spring; 11 qualified for Sunday’s state meet.
Robertson accredited longtime track coach Jeff Klaves for turning around the Sampson County program.
Though Robertson is now the only coach on staff, he said mentoring under Klaves, coupled with his athletes’ leadership abilities made up for any seasonal shortcomings.
“They are a bunch of talented, hardworking kids,” he said, praising their hard work, effort and determination.
Exemplifying those traits is Bass, who turned a 6-foot vault her freshman year into being tied for the eighth best pole vault height in state this season. She practiced with Pole Vault Carolina in Durham twice a week and has improved her vault by 3 feet in under a year.
The former level nine gymnast said practice is the key, as she continues to work, honing her technique and fundamentals.
“It’s very exciting,” Bass said of winning a state championship. “I want to thank my coaches, coach Jose (San Miguel), coach Klaves, my mom, my family and God.”