Country Day scraps way to first boys track title in 15 years
by Aaron Garcia
As the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Class 3A track and field meet drew to a close on May 19, Charlotte Country Day coach Al Pearman wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when the final standings were announced. Pearman said he knew his Buccaneer boys had a chance to be crowned champs, but he hadn’t had the chance to track the team’s points while also serving as one of the meet’s officials.
Which made the announcement that the Charlotte Country Day boys team had won the title for the first time since 1997 even sweeter.
“It was a great end to a great season,” said Pearman as tears welled in his eyes. “The kids worked hard all year, and it’s just nice to see that. It’s nice to see their hard work pay off in this kind of way.”
Charlotte Country Day managed 96 points, ahead of runner-up North Raleigh Christian (87) and third-place Charlotte Latin (81). Bucs senior Marcel Souffrant kicked off the competition with a gold medal by putting the shot 48 feet, 2.5 inches. Braden Franz added a fourth-place finish in the high jump (6 feet), and Jackson Goode scored a sixth-place effort in the triple jump (40-10). Akinimo Eyo, States Lee, William Roberts and Byron Smith teamed to take gold in the 4×100-meter relay in 43.86 seconds. Roberts and Smith then joined Court Haworth and Goode to notch a silver in the 4×200 (1 minute, 32.77 seconds). Rob Saunders added a runner-up finish in the 800 (1:58.27).
Then, Lee and Royce Turnbull took over. Turnbull (11.17 seconds) edged Lee (11.30) for silver in the 100 before Providence Day’s Bryon Fields (49.33) eked out a win in the 400 over Lee (49.66).
Trailing by just two points headed into the second-to-last event, the 200, Souffrant said the team knew its fate rested on Lee and Turnbull’s shoulders.
“We knew it would be close at the end, and we knew we’d get some much-needed points if we could get two of the first three or four spots,” said Souffrant. “(If that happened), we knew we’d be in good shape.”
Lee (22.77 seconds) and Turnbull (23.07) didn’t disappoint, taking first and third, respectively, which gave the Bucs enough points to clinch the title.
Pearman said he approached Turnbull, who had suffered a pair of hamstring pulls this season, in the hours before the meet about his availability.
Pearman said the junior quickly made his intentions clear.
“He said, ‘Coach, this is the state championship – you can count on me. (The injury) doesn’t matter. I’ll be right there doing the best I can,’” said Pearman. “I believed he was going to be fine. I did not think he was 100 percent, but he seemed strong enough to handle it.”
Turnbull said he was just glad “to be able to help my team out as much as possible” and acknowledged that the title came as a bit of a surprise for the Bucs.
“I had no visions of us doing as well as we did or everyone coming together in one day, but they did and we pulled it through,” said Turnbull.
Added Lee, who will run at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology next year: “I’ve done this for four years, and to see it all come together and finally win a state championship – because I’d never done that before – was just awesome.”
For Pearman, the title is indicative of the drive for improvement his team exhibited as the season wore on, especially during the late-season conference meets.
“That gave me an idea that this group may be special, and they proved that, as the year went on, just how special they were,” Pearman said. “I’m proud of them.”