Published: Mar 28, 2012 09:21 AM
Modified: Mar 28, 2012 09:23 AM
DURHAM - After nearly two hours of rain, organizers called off Saturday’s inaugural attempt at the Bull City Relays.
When the news was announced over the public address system, an audible cheer arose from the bedraggled athletes huddled under tents around the track at Jordan High School.
While their counterparts headed for the buses, a group of Carrboro distance runners stayed behind, taking advantage of the empty track and an opportunity to improve.
This attitude may be why Carrboro, a 2A school, appeared to stack up well against the invitational’s 4A teams in the few events the rain permitted. Among the participants were powerhouses Green Hope, Panther Creek, and the host school, Jordan.
Though marred by heavy rains, Saturday’s meet represented an unusual meeting between Jordan and Carrboro. Both are successful track clubs, but the similarities end there.
Carrboro’s official preseason starts in February. Jordan not only competes in, but excels in the N.C. High School’s winter indoor competition. Carrboro relies on its depth to score points in relay and distance events where its individual talent isn’t enough. Led by a small group of elite athletes, the Jordan Falcons make sure their numbers count.
Senior Alexis Perry herself is one of those elite athletes. At this year’s indoor state meet, she placed first in both the 55-meter hurdles and the high jump and third in the long jump. She said the program will have to deal with having younger distance runners and fewer sprinters this year. Matthew Foster, a hurdler, was the only sprinter the boys team qualified for Indoor States.
“We had an even smaller team at indoor,” said Perry, who won the 100-meter hurdles on Saturday. “We brought five girls and ended up placing 4th (at states).”
Jordan’s continued success might be due in part to its consistent leadership. John Grey, the meet’s organizer, has been a coach at the school for 44 years, and founded the school’s cross country and girls track programs in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
In contrast, Carrboro’s track legacy is only five years in the making, but growing fast. Altogether, the Jaguars have won seven individual state titles and 16 regional ones since 2009 and are still on the rise. For the first time, Carrboro has strong throwers in Scott Peretin and Damien Currie.
But because Carrboro doesn’t train as a team for the indoor season, the Jaguars have to train especially effectively in season.
“Our distance runners don’t mind putting in extra miles on Saturdays,” Carrboro head coach Melvin Griffin said. “That’s what we’ve done in the past to not catch up, but to get in shape as we prepare for conference.”
Strong distance running has also carried the Jaguars to multiple titles in both fall and spring. Carrboro’s deep pool of distance talent was one of the few groups that had a chance to shine on Saturday. The Jaguar boys and girls fielded two winning teams each in the 4x1600-meter relay.
Jordan distance and cross country coach Michael Mulligan said that despite the frustrating conditions, he was impressed with what he saw out of his competition on Saturday.
“Watching some of the other teams host meets, you don’t know what goes into it until you try to run it yourself,” Mulligan said. “There are some things you can’t control, and obviously weather’s one of them.”
Heading for the parking lot, Mulligan looked over the fence at the Carrboro 4x800-meter team racing themselves on the soaked track. “What I do like is that you’ve still got some kids that want to run.”