Baseball, Tennis, Track & Field

Preview: Chatham schools gear up for final postseason push of 2020-21 season

BY VICTOR HENSLEY, News + Record Staff
Posted 6/15/21

SILER CITY — For the five high schools across Chatham County, postseason play for a variety of sports is taking off this week with playoffs in baseball and regionals in track & field, …

The News + Record is worth reading!

We’re all about Chatham County, and we welcome you to our site. You can view up to 1 stories each month, then registration is required.

Please sign in below if you have an account. If not, please register here to get an account and an additional 3 stories each month. It’s easy and takes just a minute.

Our staff works hard to bring good journalism, writing and story-telling to Chatham County. HELP US! You can get the News + Record mailed to you weekly by subscribing here.

Please log in to continue

Log in
Baseball, Tennis, Track & Field

Preview: Chatham schools gear up for final postseason push of 2020-21 season

Thanks for reading Chatham County’s leading news source! Making high quality community journalism isn’t free — please consider supporting our journalism by subscribing to the News + Record today.

Unlimited Digital Access: $3.99/month

Print + Digital: $5.99/month

Posted

SILER CITY — For the five high schools across Chatham County, postseason play for a variety of sports is taking off this week with playoffs in baseball and regionals in track & field, women’s tennis and wrestling.

To gear up for all of the action, the News + Record is providing you with a guide to the postseason, breaking down each team’s regional info, key athletes and upcoming contests from the field to the court.

Baseball Playoffs

Chatham Charter

Region: 1A West

Seed: 14

Record: 10-2 overall (6-2 in Central Tar Heel 1A, runner-up)

First-round opponent: at (3) Uwharrie Charter Academy (10-1 overall, 7-0 in Yadkin Valley 1A, conference champion) on Tuesday, June 15, at 6 p.m.

Potential second-round opponent: (6) Starmount (12-2) or (11) Murphy (12-2) on Thursday, June 17

Chatham Charter is on a roll this season.

The Knights have lost just two games all year — both to Central Tar Heel conference champion Cornerstone Charter Academy — and scored 110 runs compared to the 38 they’ve allowed in 12 games. Their offense is impressive, as illustrated by their four wins by double-digit runs, but what holds them together is their defense. Most notably, their pitching.

Senior Trevor Golden has undeniably been one of the conference’s best hitters and pitchers this season. He’s been so good on both sides of the ball, in fact, that his head coach, Bill Slaughter, deemed him “the best player in the league” earlier this spring. Golden leads the Knights in all major batting statistics out of players who have played more than six games (batting average, .561; hits, 23; extra-base hits, 13; RBI, 20) and is also the team’s most dominant pitcher and a strikeout machine. In 39.1 innings pitched, he’s allowed just seven earned runs (1.25 ERA) on 18 hits and has struck out 87 batters, highlighted by a 19-strikeout performance against Southern Wake on May 14.

The Knights have also been helped tremendously by speedy freshman lead-off hitter Aidan Allred, who has been the second-most productive hitter behind Golden, along with senior catcher Jacob Brannon, one of the team’s most efficient players at the plate.

Chatham Charter’s offense will likely be put to the test against third-seeded Uwharrie Charter with North Carolina Wesleyan commit Hunter Hill on the mound, but if the Knights’ season up to this point is any indication, they’re up for the challenge.

Track & Field Regionals

Chatham Central

Region: 1A Midwest

Regional Host/Date: Davie County High School on Friday, June 18

No. of individual/team qualifiers: 10

Qualifiers:

  • Grace Jones, Senior: girls shot put (28-11.00), girls discus (70-06)
  • Sophie Phillips, Senior: girls high jump (5-00.00), girls triple jump (27-07.00)
  • Kailey Green, Sophomore: girls high jump (4-08.00)
  • Madison Gaines, Senior: girls high jump (4-06.00), girls 100 meter hurdles (19.02)
  • Malachi Moore, Junior: boys long jump (19-05.00)
  • Carleigh Gentry, Junior: girls triple jump (30-05.00)
  • Samantha Scott,  Sophomore: girls 1,600-meter run (7:13.00)
  • Girls 4x100 Meter Relay: Kailey Green, Jayley Martin, Samantha Scott, Mary Grace Murchison (56.22)
  • Girls 4x200 Meter Relay: Kailey Green, Jayley Martin, Samantha Scott, Mary Grace Murchison (1:59.24)
  • Girls 4x400 Meter Relay: Chloe Fuquay, Madison Gaines, Sadie Gaines, Caroline Alston (5:02.76)

You’d be hard-pressed to find a single team more competitive in open field events than Chatham Central — at least in Chatham County. Bears’ head coach Sherman Howze said it best when speaking with the News + Record on Tuesday: “We usually clean up in field events.”

At the 1A Midwest regionals this weekend, the Bears are set to be well-represented in the field, with six athletes partaking in six different field events, headlined by senior Sophie Phillips, who is the top seed in the region — and ranked top 10 in the state amongst all classifications — in the girls high jump (5-00). Chatham Central also has Carleigh Gentry in the girls triple jump, who, along with Phillips, is a heavy contender for the Bears to make it to states next weekend.

Chatham Central’s biggest hole has been in running events this season, specifically distance runs, but Samantha Scott still managed to qualify for the girls 1,600-meter run this weekend. The Bears also have three girls relay teams running in the 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400, and, according to Howze, the 4x100 is the relay event most likely to result in a qualification for states. But even if things don’t go as planned on the track this weekend, the Bears’ performances in the women’s field events are sure to make up for it.

Chatham Charter

Region: 1A Mideast

Regional Host/Date: Franklinton High School on Saturday, June 19

No. of individual/team participants: 5

Participants:

  • Brandon McKoy, Junior: boys 1,600-meter run (4:51.00), boys 3,200-meter run (10:32.40)
  • Tamaya Walden, Sophomore: girls 100-meter dash (13.24), girls 200-meter dash (24.94), girls 400-meter dash (1:02.93)
  • MacKenzie Brooks, Junior: girls shot put (23-3)
  • Brooke Garner, Junior: girls 100-meter hurdles (21.10), girls 300-meter hurdles (57.12), girls high jump (5-0), girls triple jump (33-1.5)
  • Meredith Reese, Freshman: girls long jump (10-11)

For a small team that has only been around for three seasons and has a makeshift coaching staff made up of almost entirely volunteer parents, Chatham Charter is packing a punch at this year’s track & field regionals.

The Knights have five individuals participating in 11 total events, including two of its most dominant runners — Tamaya Walden and Brandon McKoy — that have actively left their competition in the dust for most of the season.

Brooke Garner qualified for four events alone and has claimed the top seed in two field events: high jump and triple jump. Since the equipment needed to set up a high jump pit is fairly costly — and with the program being so new — Chatham Charter hasn’t been able to set up a pit at its facility, meaning that Garner has had to resort to only practicing before track meets at other schools. And despite the limited amount of practice, she’s unequivocally the best high jumper in the region and has a good shot of making it to the state championship meet on Friday, June 25, as do many of the Knights’ other qualifiers.

Woods Charter

Region: 1A Mideast

Regional Host/Date: Franklinton High School on Saturday, June 19

No. of individual/team participants: 8

Participants:

  • Kyle Howarth, Senior: boys 100-meter dash (11.65), boys 200-meter dash (23.60), boys long jump (19-11.5)
  • Frank Wagoner, Senior: boys 3,200-meter run (11:28.80)
  • Tobin Berrier, Senior: boys 400-meter dash (1:03.27), boys triple jump (31-3.5)
  • Jay Charbonneau, Senior: boys 400-meter dash (52.77), boys long jump (20-0)
  • Peter Ising, Junior: boys discus (92-8)
  • Ellie Poitras, Freshman: girls 1,600-meter run (5:45.05), girls 3,200-meter run (12:42.63), girls 800-meter run (2:41.16), girls long jump (11-11)
  • Ember Penney, Senior: girls 3,200-meter run (13:44.00), girls 300-meter hurdles (1:10.35)
  • Sophia Miller, Junior: girls discus (64-11)

Woods Charter’s men’s and women’s teams are led by the opposite ends of the age spectrum.

For the men, seniors Jay Charbonneau and Kyle Howarth are the primary runners to look out for in the 1A Mideast regionals this weekend as Howarth is qualified in three different events — two running, one jumping — and is poised to be one of the most athletic runners in Franklinton, while Charbonneau is looking to get back to the state championship meet after making it there in 2018-19 for the 400-meter dash.

“(Charbonneau’s) one of those that has been working every single year because he does cross country, then track season starts and he’s just been a leader since day one,” Rahul Dudhat, Woods Charter’s co-track & field coach, said. “He’s been our captain, he’s just an all-around amazing athlete and his sportsmanship is unmatched.”

As for the women, the Wolves are spearheaded by freshman Ellie Poitras, who’s participating in four events and has a great shot of making it to states as a freshman — a feat she already accomplished in cross country earlier this year, when she placed fourth at the NCHSAA 1A Cross Country State Championships. Her success in cross country has translated well to her longer-distance runs in track, setting her up for a possible return to states if she has a strong performance this weekend.

Jordan-Matthews

Region: 2A Mideast

Regional Host/Date: Franklinton High School on Saturday, June 19

No. of individual/team participants: 16

Participants:

  • Xavier Woods, Senior: boys 100-meter dash (11.37)
  • Jacquez Thompson, Senior: boys 200-meter dash (22.84), boys long jump (20-4.75)
  • Shane Conroy, Senior: boys 3,200-meter run (12:19.40)
  • Calvin Schwartz, Junior: boys 300-meter hurdles (44.24)
  • Aiden Harrison, Sophomore: boys 800-meter run (2:20.31)
  • Eral Jones, Senior: boys high jump (6-4)
  • Jayden Davis, Senior: boys long jump (19-10.75), boys triple jump (37-8.25)
  • Geneva Woolford, Junior: girls 100-meter hurdles (20.74)
  • Anna Vicente, Freshman: girls 400-meter dash (1:15.87)
  • Logan Gunter, Freshman: girls long jump (13-9.5)
  • Boys 4x100 Meter Relay: Jacquez Thompson, Eral Jones, Xavier Woods, Jayden Davis (44.48)
  • Boys 4x200 Meter Relay: Jacquez Thompson, Eral Jones, Xavier Woods, Jayden Davis (1:33.31)
  • Boys 4x400 Meter Relay: Eral Jones, Calvin Schwartz, Carlos Rojas, Jair Ruiz (3:43.81)
  • Boys 4x800 Meter Relay: Aiden Harrison, Carlos Rojas, Jair Ruiz, Joaquin Escquivel (9:37.69)
  • Girls 4x100 Meter Relay: Lia Carter, Jamiyah Williams, Anna Vicente and Samantha Ritch (56.30)
  • Girls 4x200 Meter Relay: Lia Carter, DeMaya Williams, Anna Vicente and Samantha Ritch (2:00.34)

As far as Chatham teams go, it’s hard to argue against the idea that Jordan-Matthews has been the best track & field program this year, as illustrated by the Jets’ 16 individual/relay team qualifiers for the 2A Mideast regionals on Saturday.

The Jets, according to head coach Lamont Piggie, not only have plenty of opportunities to have their athletes make it to the state championship meet next week, but have a legitimate shot at their men’s team qualifying for states by finishing in the top four at regionals. Then, J-M would be competing for a team state title in addition to however many individual state titles.

Part of Piggie’s confidence comes from the number of men’s events the Jets will be participating in on Saturday — 14 in total — along with just how great his men’s relay teams have been, namely the 4x100 and 4x200. The Jets have a strong group of seniors that includes Jacquez Thompson, Eral Jones, Jayden Davis and Xavier Woods, all of which have acted as some of the most impressive athletes in the PAC-7 conference this season and give J-M a great chance of being well-represented at states.

“I’m feeling great about everything,” Piggie told the News + Record on Monday. “This week, we’re just brushing up on the little things, techniques and tightening up loose ends. There’s no need to try and reinvent the wheel.”

Northwood

Region: 3A Mideast

Regional Host/Date: Southern Lee High School on Friday, June 18, and Saturday, June 19

No. of individual/team participants: 7

Participants:

  • Bentley Brooks, Junior: girls discus (96-03)
  • Reese Cantrell, Senior: girls 200-meter dash (26.84)
  • Caroline Murrell, Junior: girls 3,200-meter run (11:06.00)
  • Davis Neff, Senior: boys discus (108-00)
  • Jacob McCall, Senior: boys pole vault (11-00.00)
  • Elijah Miller, Senior: boys 100-meter dash (11.34)
  • Boys 4x400 Meter Relay: Christian Glick, Elijah Miller, Matthew Broome and Malachi Levy (3:39.90)

In a non-pandemic-altered season, track & field regionals would typically take place in May, but this year, with the NCHSAA fitting nearly all high school sports into the second semester of the school year, regionals and states are being held in mid-to-late June, with many students having graduated and others officially on summer break. Northwood has felt the effects of the change.

“It’s really affected it in a negative manner because those athletes could move on to the state meet, but they’ll be going on to their colleges or working or going on senior trips,” Cameron Isenhour, Northwood’s track & field coach, told the News + Record. “And I have a lot of good seniors that could have been used at regionals, but instead they’ll have to do other things.”

Regardless of who isn’t able to make it to regionals for Northwood this weekend, the Chargers still have a strong lineup making the trip to Sanford.

Northwood is led by top-seeded distance runner Caroline Murrell, who is the no. 1 seed in the girls 3,200-meter run and is primed for a trip to states based on the way she’s run this season. The Chargers also have two field athletes, Bentley Brooks and Jacob McCall, who are seeded in the top three in the girls discus and boys pole vault, respectively, all of which will lead the charge for a Northwood team bound to make noise this weekend.

Women’s Tennis

Chatham Central

Region: 1A West

Regional Host/Date: Elkin Municipal Park, Elkin, Friday, June 18, and Saturday, June 19

No. of qualifying individuals/duos: 2

Participants:

  • Sophie Phillips & Mary Grace Murchison, Senior Duo
  • Ellie Phillips & Livvy Brooks, Sophomore Duo

Chatham Central’s had a few great doubles duos in both men’s and women’s tennis in recent years and this season is no different. The Bears enter regionals with two strong duos that are bound to be tough outs in the 1A West.

The senior duo of Sophie Phillips and Mary Grace Murchison — the Yadkin Valley Conference runner-up — has been playing together for three seasons, building chemistry and learning how to complement each other to the best of their ability. They never argue and they rarely have miscommunications, meaning whoever faces them at regionals will likely have to play at a much higher level to knock them out.

Then there’s the up-and-coming sophomore tandem of Ellie Phillips (Sophie’s sister) and Livvy Brooks, who finished third in the Yadkin Valley Conference tournament this season and have slowly gotten into a groove with one another, culminating in an undefeated regular-season record (5-0) from the no. 2 doubles spot (1-2 from the no. 1 spot). While Phillips/Brooks has a chance to turn some heads at regionals this weekend, with them being sophomores, it’s only the appetizer for what is shaping up to be a powerful duo throughout their high school careers.

Chatham Charter

Region: 1A East

Regional Host/Date: Riverbirch Tennis Center, Greenville, Friday, June 18 and Saturday, June 19

No. of qualifying individuals/duos: 2

Participants:

  • Emery Eldridge, Junior
  • Elphie Spillman, Freshman

While Chatham Charter’s top two players work well together in doubles — their 3-6 record is not indicative of how good they actually are — they thrive even more in singles play, where they’re able to show off a little bit of their versatility as athletes.

Emery Eldridge is entering her third regionals as a singles player with hopes that she can build off of her previous performances and string together a nice couple of matches on Friday to qualify for states for the first time in her career. Her biggest strength is her aggressiveness at the net and, while she has some inconsistencies, when she’s on her game, head coach Kelly Eldridge said she’s “a killer.”

Elphie Spillman is a freshman that’s posted a 4-6 record at the no. 1 spot this season and was the runner-up in the Central Tar Heel Conference tournament, an impressive feat for someone who’s played just 10 regular-season singles matches as a varsity athlete. While her ability to get to the ball from seemingly any part of the court and her consistency will help her tremendously at regionals, Kelly Eldridge mentioned that she’s just excited for Spillman to get to see high-level competition this early in her career.

Jordan-Matthews

Region: 2A Mideast

Regional Host/Date: East Chapel Hill/Cedar Falls Park, Chapel Hill, Friday, June 18, and Saturday, June 19

No. of qualifying individuals/duos: 1

Participants:

  • Maggie Thornton, Sophomore

The Jets’ lone regional qualifier comes in the form of sophomore Maggie Thornton, a young multi-sport athlete who is in the middle of her first-ever season of competitive tennis. And she’s shattering expectations.

“She was actually playing soccer, so she’s late coming out,” Nia Marsh-Pope, J-M’s head tennis coach, said. “But she’s been playing tennis for several years with her parents and friends. She’s just a natural on the court. … I love to watch her play.”

Thornton’s speed and agility in soccer have clearly translated well from the pitch to the court, with her endurance — and desire to never quit — allowing her to participate in long rallies and attempt major comebacks. In a match against Providence Grove on May 10, Thornton was down either 7-4 or 6-4 in the set, according to Marsh-Pope, and she ended up going on a run and winning the match, 11-9.

Marsh-Pope said she’s confident Thornton will make it out of the first round this weekend and if she were to somehow to make it past the second, third or fourth rounds, she would be “tremendously proud” of what she’s accomplished as a sophomore. The future is bright in Siler City.

Northwood

Region: 3A Mideast

Regional Host/Date: Burlington Tennis Center, Burlington, Friday, June 18, and Saturday, June 19

No. of qualifying individuals/duos: 3

Participants:

  • Evelyn Lippers, Junior
  • Julia Earnshaw, Junior
  • Courtney Fisher & Suzanne Earnshaw, Senior Duo

Northwood is the school with the most tennis regional qualifiers in Chatham, boasting two competitive singles players in Evelyn Lippers and Julia Earnshaw, along with the hard-to-beat doubles duo of seniors Courtney Fisher and Suzanne Earnshaw.

Lippers, the team’s no. 1 singles player, enters regionals with a 3-3 record on the season, two losses of which came against undefeated East Chapel Hill freshman Clara Mast. According to Northwood’s head coach, Abbie McGee, Lippers is “a fighter” and has a great shot of making it to states if she plays to her potential.

Julia Earnshaw, who’s earned a 5-2 record at the no. 4 singles spot this season, is also projected to do some damage at regionals, receiving high praise from her coach.

“If Julia plays like I’ve seen her play, with the confidence of a lion about to take down her prey,” McGee wrote in a text message to the News + Record, “then she’ll make some noise at regionals.”

Courtney Fisher & Suzanne Earnshaw struggled this season in their three matches at the no. 1 doubles slot, going 0-3, but were unbeaten (2-0) in the no. 2 spot. According to McGee, if they’re on their “A” game, like they were in the couple of matches they won — and in the Big Eight Conference tournament — they have a shot to make a deep run at regionals this weekend.

Editor’s note: With wrestling regionals taking place on Tuesday morning, they aren’t included in the Chatham postseason preview. 

Reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at vhensley@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment