Led by spectacular individual performances from Tyrese Kelly, Daniel Taylor and Alex Worley the first-year Sandhills Community College men's and women's track and field teams made their presence felt in a big way at the NJCAA Division III Championships that concluded on Saturday in Utica, N.Y.
Kelly was the only three-event winner of the men's meet, taking the high jump, long jump and triple jump. Taylor set a meet record in the 10,000 meter run and also won the 5,000 while Worley came from behind in the 10th and final event to win the decathlon.
All four of the Lady Flyers that participated contributed to their team total. Emily Doorey finished third in the heptathlon and fourth in the discus.
After running in second place for most of the first two days, the men finished in a tie for fifth with Harper College (IL). The Lady Flyers came in ninth in the field of 23 teams. Rowan College of Gloucester (NJ) won the men's championship and Kingsborough (NY) was the women's champion.
Kelly, Taylor and Worley earned first team All-American honors and Doorey earned honorable mention recognition.
"They represented Sandhills Community College and North Carolina like the true champions they are," Coach Jef Moody said of the seven men and four women that qualified for the national meet. "They really became the darlings of the meet.
"Almost all of the scoring came from athletes that went to high school in Moore and Hoke counties. This capped a storybook season."
Beginning on Thursday at host Mohawk Valley Community College, the first points for the Flyers came with Kelly's win in the triple jump followed by a fifth place finish by Sara Lindell in the women's 3,000 meter steeplechase.
The seven events of the heptathlon and 10 events of the decathlon concluded on Friday. Doorey's best results in the heptathlon were a first in the shot put and a third in the high jump. About an hour and half after the final event she took fourth place in the discus.
Worley remained in contention in the decathlon by winning the 400 meter run, the shot put and discus, but entering the 10th and final event, the 1,500 meter run, he trailed Roland Gamez of Bergen CC (NJ) by 153 points.
Not only did he surpass Gamez, but he shifted into another gear down the stretch to win a tight race and the title by a final margin of 76 points.
"When I coached Alex at Pinecrest he was frustrated he could only compete in four events," Moody recalled. "He is a flat out warrior. I consider Alex the best athlete in Division III."
Within a two hour period on Friday afternoon, Kelly won both the long jump and the high jump.
"You should have seen the poise he showed all the way through," said his coach who has known him since his early youth.
Taylor finished second by 1.1 seconds and the Flyers finished in third place at the NJCAA Division III Cross Country Championships last November.
"It was a great experience and better than anything I thought I'd ever achieve," he said at the time. "But I always want to win. I'll use that to motivate me not to let that happen again."
The leading qualifier in both of his events he won the 10,000 meter run on Friday by 78 seconds in a meet record time of 32:05.89.
"Daniel had a plan and he ran it to the hilt," Moody said. "I've never seen anyone lap the field at a national championship."
On Saturday Taylor won the 5,000 by a comfortable margin. Also for the Flyer men, Andrew Bowen was fifth in the 10,000 and Isaiah McGilvary just missed adding points with his ninth place finish in the 3,000 meter steeplechase. Lawrence McGilvary competed in the 400 meter run and Daniel Hagan in the 800.
The Lady Flyers picked up points in both hurdles events with Anjel Rowe finishing fourth in the 100 meters and eighth in the 400, and Claudette Smith taking seventh in the 400.
The traveling party that included co-drivers Ricky Hill and Tim Nocton, and Moody's wife, Nadine, arrived back home at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday. A Department Chair/Associate Professor in Physical Education, Nocton has worked with the athletes since last fall as the strength and conditioning coach.
He and Moody were coaching colleagues at Pinecrest years ago.
"I can't say how proud I am of these kids and how hard they've worked to get there," Nocton said on Monday. "Every one of them grew so much in a year of training. As each one kept exceeding expectations they fed off each other. It literally is a Cinderella story."
Doorey, Kelly, Isaiah McGilvary, Rowe and Worley are Pinecrest graduates. Lindell and Taylor prepped at Union Pines High School. Bowen, Hoke County, Lawrence McGilvary, Seventy-First, Daniel Hagan, South View and Smith, Grace Christian are the other school connections.
Moody's running and coaching career is full highlights, but he finds the satisfaction of being a part of the Flyers' achievements in New York hard to top.
"I put this in front of winning the team championship at Pembroke 40 years ago," he said. "We will try to get more kids out and see what we can do next year."
Team Totals (partial) - Men : 1. Gloucester (NJ) 134.5, 2. Suffolk (NY) 122, 3. Kingsborough (NY) 75, 4. Triton (IL) 65, 5-tie Sandhills 64, Harper (IL); 64. Women: 1. Kingsborough (NY) 155, 9. Sandhills 23. Individual results – Sandhills Men: 10,000m 1. Taylor 32:05.89, 5. Bowen 34:30.55, 5,000m 1. Taylor 15:25.57, 3,000m Steeple chase 9. I. McGilvary 10:46.9, High jump 1. Kelly 1.98m, Long jump 1. Kelly 7.18m, Triple jump 1. Kelly 14.9m, Decathlon 1. Worley 5,474 points; Sandhills Women: 100 hurdles 4. Rowe 17.61, 400 hurdles 7. C. Smith 1:17.02, 8. Rowe 1:17.59, 3,000 Steeple chase 5, Lindell 14:33.8, Discus – 4. Doorey 31.50m, Heptathlon 3. Doorey 2,389 points.