After a stellar performance on Friday, local athletes weren’t quite finished excelling at the NCHSAA state track championships.
Action resumed at the Ike Belk Track at N.C. A&T University in Greensboro on Saturday, with the 2A and 4A schools contesting their championships on a morning and afternoon with threatening skies and intermittent rain. During the course of the afternoon, Surry Central’s Daniel Alvarez-Orlachia earned his second state championship of the 2015-16 school year, and a second Golden Eagle athlete, pole vaulter Tyler Fitzgerald, missed a title on a tiebreaker.
In the boys’ 800, Alvarez-Orlachia came in as one of the favorites, thanks to his victory in the 1000 meters during the winter indoor season. However, the Surry Central junior was not the top seed in the event. Jalen Drayton, a senior representing Durham School of the Arts, had run 1:59.43 during his victory at the regionals and was the No. 1 seed in the finals. Alvarez-Orlachia, at 2:00.16, was next.
As it turned out, the finals of the 800 was easily the fastest race run in the 2A ranks all season. All of the top-five finishers broke the two-minute mark.
The race covered two laps around the track, and three runners were under a minute at the halfway point. On the bell lap, Drayton ran the final 400 meters in a blistering 57.821 seconds, but Alvarez-Orlachia stayed with him, and the two crossed the finish line side by side, with the Surry Central runner making it to the finish 0.57 seconds in front, 1:57.507 to 1:57.564.
“Daniel got out smart and under control, and he did a good job not getting stuck in the pack,” said Golden Eagle track coach Jason Bryant. “He came to the front on the straightaway at the end of the first lap, passed a couple of kids, and got to the front, where he was able to run on the inside rail.
“He’d opened up a gap of six to eight yards coming off the turn into the final 100. (Drayton) had to use some of his final sprint just to catch Daniel. He caught him 30 yards from the finish, but Daniel kicked in and got back in front with 10 yards to go.”
Alvarez-Orlachia was also entered in the 1600 meters at the finals, but with Surry Central not in the running for the team championship, the decision was made not to contest that race.
“Our training had focused on the 800 this season,” said Bryant. “The 1600 was run before the 800, and if we’d run the 1600 and then run the 800, he probably wouldn’t have won the 800. I’d rather leave with a win than a couple of thirds.”
His third event of the meet was the 4×400 relay, in which he ran the anchor leg for teammates Na’Shon Smith, Arturo Lopez and Luis Salazar. In that race, the Eagles fought for a points-paying finish in the top eight, but ultimately came up just short, in ninth at a time of 3:32.24 that essentially matched their season-best coming into the event. Had the Golden Eagles run a quarter of a second faster, they would have finished in the points.
Nevertheless, moments later, Fitzgerald nearly gave Central its second individual state champion.
The junior entered the meet as co-second seed with Troy Lieberman of Polk County, both with a vault of 13 feet at regionals. Bunker Hill’s Jon Ramsey was the top seed at 13’6”. In the finals, Lieberman was off form and placed just sixth, but Ramsey and Fitzgerald stepped up their games and both of them vaulted 14 feet before the day was over. The showdown ended with the two tied. Under the rules, whichever competitor had fewer misses at the final height is the winner, and Fitzgerald had more misses at 14 feet.
“Tyler was leading up to 14 feet,” said Bryant. “He’d had fewer misses up to that height. Most years, you win if you clear 14 feet.”
Both Alvarez-Orlachia and Fitzgerald still earned “National Elite” honors for their performances, the standard being 1:58.00 for the 800 meters and 14 feet for the pole vault.
Their performances earned the Golden Eagles 18 team points. They finished tied for 13th with Monroe High School. North Brunswick won the state championship with 71 points.
Two North Surry athletes also qualified for the finals on Saturday.
Sophomore Myia West of North Surry earned a spot in the finals of the girls’ discus and placed 12th overall with a throw of 91 feet, three inches.
Eli Riggs, a freshman, also made the finals for the Greyhounds. He qualified in the 3200-meter run and placed 15th overall, but shaved six seconds off his previous season best of 10:46.66. His time on Saturday was a much improved 10:40.68.