Carol Lawrence had a plan coming into this season. She knew that after her Providence Day girls track and field team won the first N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Class 3A title in Chargers’ history a season ago, teams would be gunning to knock them down.
So Lawrence started making the Chargers stronger, working from their weakest point out.
The Chargers scored 29 combined points last year in the six field events – the shot put, discus, triple jump, long jump, high jump and pole vault. This season, in the same six events, the team scored 48 points, a significant jump in just one season and one that covered the way for an unforeseen injury to standout distance runner Emma Brown, forcing her out of the state meet.
With an improved field event, the Chargers coasted to their second consecutive state title, scoring 142.5 points – 45.5 more than runner-up Raleigh Ravenscroft, who hosted the event.
“I was proud of the team and I think we had a lot more youngsters step up and we had a lot more field events this season,” Lawrence said. “This one was a little more challenging, especially when Emma got hurt. When that happened I said, ‘OK, girls, who is going to step up and get those extra 20 points?’ And the throwers stepped up.”
Junior Ciera Cockrell was one of the biggest contributors, placing second in both the long jump (17 feet, 7.25 inches) and the triple jump (34-02.5) in her first season on the team.
Senior Jonah Edwards had a big day, winning the 400-meter dash (57.98 seconds) and teaming with Anna Cockrell, Gracie Whelan and Courtney Joyner to win the 4×400 relay (4 minutes, 1.35 seconds) – finishing nearly eight seconds ahead of the pack – and combining with Joyner, Elizabeth Marks and Jessica Jant to place second in the 4×200 (1:48.87).
But the Chargers’ biggest star was Anna Cockrell, a sophomore sprinter and hurdler who rewrote her own entries into the NCISAA record book from last season’s state meet. Anna Cockrell won the 100-meter dash (her first time breaking 12 seconds, 11.97), the 100 hurdles (a new private-school state meet record, 13.73 seconds) and took the 300 hurdles (a new private-school state record, 42.68 seconds) while combining to win the 4×400 relay.
“This time she was different, now breaking 12 seconds in the 100, she’s more respected as a sprinter and that just makes her hurdles’ times more successful,” Lawrence said. “Anna had a great meet, but even if we didn’t have Anna’s (combined 40) points, we still would have won.
“At the beginning of the season I took Anna, Emma and Jonah out of the equation. Those are our top three scorers and I took them out of the equation as sort of a what if, and then I started building the team up from the weakest link and that worked like a charm.”
Lawrence said Whelan, who was fourth in the 300 hurdles (47.11) and a member of the state championship 4×400 relay, spearheads a very promising freshmen class. And with Anna Cockrell leading the sophomore class that also features Valerie Evivie, a discus thrower who set a personal best by more than 12 feet (96-07) and was seventh in the shot put (31-04), the future is bright for the Chargers who have suddenly become the team to beat in private school track and field.
“We’ve got three young freshmen who placed in states, most of the throwers are sophomores and we have Anna for another two years.” Lawrence said. “That’s a pretty good mix.”