Across the long indoor track season, different meets serve different purposes. Some are tune-ups. Some are low stakes. But every meet serves as an opportunity for athletes to continue growing.
This was exactly the goal of the East Chapel Hill Polar Bear No. 3, at which Northwood and Seaforth both participated this past Saturday. While neither the Chargers nor the Hawks were at full strength, both saw their athletes take home at least one first-place finish in an event.
Northwood, which competes at the 3A level, has aspirations of winning a state championship, especially on the boys side.
The Chargers are known for their prowess in the distance events. Northwood’s 4x800 team of Noah Nielson, Jackson Adams, Trey Hudson and Christian Glick ran the second-best time of any 3A team this season at 8:19.95. Nielson also has the third-fastest 1,000-meter time in 3A this season (2:38.34), while Glick is fifth in the 3,200-meter race at 9:40.36.
But without those four runners Saturday, the Chargers still managed to finish second in the boys competition. This was thanks in part to a huge day from senior Jack Nicholson, who took first place in the triple jump with a distance of 39-01.00 and second in the long jump with a distance of 18-07.00.
“In the jumping events, Jack really shines for us,” said Northwood coach Cameron Isenhour. “He was our MVP last year, and he’s trying to help us out at the state meet this year.”
Northwood sophomore Luke Waldstein also won an individual event, taking the boys high jump with a height of 5-06.00. The Chargers hope both Waldstein and Nicholson can aid them when they finally compete at the state championships next month.
For Seaforth boys coach Tommy Johnson, the entire indoor season has acted as a teaching opportunity. Only competing for the second season as a program after opening in 2021, the Hawks are underclassmen heavy and are still trying to find their sea legs in the greater North Carolina track landscape.
That said, Seaforth doesn’t lack talent. That much was clear Saturday, as sophomore Will Cuicchi won the 1,000-meter race in a time of 2:48.06. Cuicchi was also part of the Hawks’ 4x800 relay team that placed third in a time of 9:17.64.
Fellow sophomore Jack Anstrom, the reigning 2A cross country champion, was also present at Saturday’s meet, but not in his usual capacity. After competing with the 4x800 relay team, Anstrom took some time to do a tempo run. The sophomore is expected to challenge for a state championship in the 3,200-meter race after finishing third in last year’s 1A/2A state championship meet.
“I think what was really exciting about the meet on Saturday was, after doing the time trials just over a month ago, a lot of our new athletes, a lot of our 9th graders, were a handful of seconds faster in their sprints and sometimes full minutes faster in their distance events,” Johnson said. “It’s cool for them to see how fitness begins to build.”
From here, both Seaforth and Northwood have a handful of events remaining before the state championships, which take place Feb. 11 in Winston-Salem.
Both teams will be in action again this upcoming weekend. Seaforth will compete at the Mid-Carolina Conference championships against local programs Chatham Central and Jordan-Matthews, while Northwood will split its time between the East Chapel Hill Polar Bear No. 4 and the Fast Track HS Invitational in Winston-Salem.
“Everybody has a lot of confidence,” Johnson said. “Now, the focus is how far beyond qualifying marks can we get for some of them that have already qualified for regionals.”
Sports Editor Jeremy Vernon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @jbo_vernon.