Vance High track and field coach Derrick Eure had spent the last $190 in his bank account to get his 4-by-200-meter relay team to the Virginia Tech High School Invitational in Blacksburg. The team had no intention of letting him down.The starters gun sounded. Daquan Gladden-Clark took off for the first 200 meters, handing off to Oquan Bratton, who had the Cougars in the lead by the time he finished his portion of the event. Next up was Milik Massey, and Donnavan Spencer anchored the final 200 meters. In the moments after Spencer crossed the finish line, the four Cougars as well as their alternate, Robert Lowery gathered in anticipation of the results. They announced (the teams) that had qualified for nationals, said Eure. And for that one night, (my athletes) put it together and kept their story going.It was then that a different race began for the Cougars. Most people who live around Vance dont know anything about Eure, or his up-and-coming track team. Thats frustrating to him and his team because theyve already accomplished so much. And far too few seem aware that Eures team is trying to raise $2,000 to send its 4-by-200 relay team the fastest in North Carolina to this years Indoor National Championship in New York City on March 14.Vance is a Title I school, which means at least 75 percent of the students including most of the track and field team receive free or reduced-price lunch because of low household income. Schools with established athletic programs often have solid alumni support that is able to finance a trip like the one Eude hopes to take. But because Vance came into existence in 1998, thats not its situation. Eure is a relentlessly optimistic 24-year-old history teacher and first-year head coach of the team. He grew up in the same neighborhood as his mentor, Mallard Creek coach Londell McClary; ran for the UNC Charlotte 49ers; and spends his time and money trying to improve the lives of his student-athletes.You wouldnt get me if you looked at my bank statement, said Eure. His motto is: Humility with dignity. Humbleness with pride, a phrase his father taught him at an early age.I measure my life on what you do for others, he said. For the month of February, I cant tell you how many Top Ramen (noodles) Ive had. Im getting creative with it. But its about putting the kids first because someone did that for me, and Im trying to pass it on.The Cougars track and field team trained and ran outside for most of the indoor season. More than half the meets were canceled because of bad weather. They share jerseys. And the team has an athlete Imante Eichelberger who participates in the pole vault without the safety of a landing mat. Imante must be one of the bravest kids Ive ever met, said Eure. Hes clearing 10 feet after training in a sandpit. Coaches from other schools have just marveled at him.The Cougars posted their national qualifying time in the 4-by-200 (1:31.00) without having run the race in competition before and on a track that was both shorter and differently shaped from the one theyd practiced on. Im not complaining about the money of my own Ive put up, said Eure when asked about using his money to bring five students to the Virginia meet. Im just happy to keep this thing afloat. As a teacher, Ive learned to get by on what I have. Ive been eating the school lunch. Ive never once had any second thoughts, Eure said. For these kids to have a chance to live out their dream means so much more to me. After the Virginia Tech meet, Bratton the teams lone senior collected money from his squad to buy their coach dinner, telling Eure, Were all broke, but youre still going to eat, coach. Bratton has a quiet determination. Hes drawn interest from his coachs alma mater, as well as Fayetteville State University. After my portion of the 4-by-200 we were, like, totally back in first, he remembered. Basically, I got the baton, and I just saw that we needed to catch up, and I ran for my team because of all the hard work that weve put in. Someone has to see that, he added. They cant ignore us anymore. Were trying as hard as anyone.Bratton ran his leg of the relay in 22.10 seconds, a personal record. I will get faster, and people will see, the 5-foot-9, 145-pound team captain said. I hope people are looking forward to seeing us strive among the high, because were going to. Coach Eure is one of the best coaches Ive ever had, and I know hes going to help us, and we will shock many. Eure has been able to set up a free viewing of the Empire State Building, as well as a trip to Ellis Island for his team. They just need to get to New York City first. On Feb. 28, Eure led his team to downtown Charlotte, where theyd planned to host a carwash. The high that day was 49 degrees.Man, it was good until that water started spraying, and then it was so cold, said Eure. Those people were too kind, because some cars left looking the same because my kids couldnt feel their hands. As of March 1, the Cougars had raised $580 toward their goal. Theyve been meeting each day after practice to come up with the days fundraising plan. People will see, said Bratton, sounding determined. We deserve to show our talents.
Friday, Mar. 07, 2014
Vance track is racing to nationals, no matter what
The Vance track and field team hopes to travel to the New Balance Indoor National Championships March 14-16 in New York City. The team needs to raise $2,000 for the trip and is asking the community for support them.
To help sponsor the team, contact head coach Derrick Eure at firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-777-9907.
Six track and field athletes to watch
• Quashawn Cunningham, Mallard Creek, senior – 5-foot-11, 160 pounds. Cunningham, committed to N.C. State University, became the Mavericks’ first male 4A indoor track state champion, winning in the 55-meter dash (6.36 second).
• Donnavan Spencer, Vance, sophomore – 5-foot-10, 170 pounds. Besides running on the Cougars’ top-ranked 4-by-200-meter relay team, Spencer has also taken on the challenge of hurdles this season. Only a month into practicing, Spencer ran a 58.7-second 400-meter hurdle trial March 2. .
• O’Quan Bratton, Vance, senior – 5-foot-9, 145 pounds. Bratton is the Cougars’ jack-of-all-trades. He runs on the 4-by-200-meter relay team, participates in the long jump and also plays on the Vance football team.
• Gabrielle Cunningham, Mallard Creek, junior – 5-foot-6. Cunningham has committed to NCSU. She finished third in the state in the indoor 55-meter hurdles (14th best time in the nation) and fourth in the 55-meter dash.
• Alycia Spring, Mallard Creek, sophomore – 5-foot-11. Spring became the second Mavericks girl to take home a 4A indoor state title this past season, claiming the girls’ shotput championship.
• Ashley Wingo, Mallard Creek, sophomore – 5-foot-7. Wingo also qualified for nationals in the shotput with her fifth-place showing in the event during the 4A indoor state championship.
Seth Lakso is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Seth? Email him at email@example.com.
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