Cental Cabarrus senior is ‘an inspiration’ to teammates
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Tuesday, Mar. 11, 2014

Cental Cabarrus senior is ‘an inspiration’ to teammates

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- JOE HABINA
Central Cabarrus senior sprinter Jada Wallace finished second in the 100 meters at regionals last year. Last season, though, Wallace’s 100-meter experience was limited to only a few regular-season meets before regionals.
  • Five track and field athletes to watch

    Boys

    •  Cameron Butler, Robinson, Sr. – High jump, 6-foot-1. Competed in track and field for the first time last year and finished second in the state in the high jump. The all-conference jumper leaped 6 feet, 4 inches at the state meet.

    •  McCann Sheridan, Robinson, Sr. – Long distance, 5-foot-10. A long list of accomplishments include a fifth-place finish in the 1,600 meters at this year’s 4A indoor state meet. In outdoor, he was regional champ in the 800 and 1,600 meters last year.

    •  Gil Gilreath, Northwest Cabarrus, Sr. – Long distance, 5-foot-10. The Cabarrus County cross-country champ placed third at the 3A state indoor meet in the 1,600 meters. Also won the SPC 1,600 meters title last spring.

    Girls

    •  Elizabeth Olesen, Hickory Ridge, Jr. – High jump, 6-foot-3. She won the indoor 3A state high jump title just last month by leaping a personal best 5 feet, 8 inches. Olesen was runner-up at the 3A outdoor meets in 2012 and 2013.

    •  Jada Wallace, Central Cabarrus, Sr. – 100 and 200 meters, 5-foot-9. The South Piedmont 3A Conference’s 200-meter champ finished in second place in the 100 meters at regionals. She advanced to the state meet, where she placed 11th.

    •  Brittany Stanley, Mount Pleasant, Soph. – Long distance, 5-foot-2. At last month’s 1A/2A indoor state meet, Stanley finished second in the 1,000 meters and 1,600 meters. She was also the 2A state runner-up in cross-country last fall.

When Jada Wallace qualified for the outdoor track and field 3A state championship meet last year, an argument could be made that she was the most surprising 100-meter runner there.

Wallace, now a Central Cabarrus senior, is unquestionably fast. She specializes in sprints and dabbles in the long jump.

But last year, Wallace’s 100-meter experience was limited to a few regular-season meets. That didn’t stop her coach from entering her in the event at the 3A Midwest regional meet, though.

Accepting the challenge, Wallace raced to a second-place finish and advanced to states. This year, she has goals of repeating as a South Piedmont 3A champion and finishing near the top of the regional and state rankings.

Second-year girls coach Kortney Kavanagh said Wallace has helped breathe life into a Central Cabarrus program that has been void of state-level competitors for many years.

“Now that we have kids getting to that level, it’s a little more noticeable at school,” said Kavanagh. “She does bring a lot of motivation to the track and makes others work harder. She is definitely an inspiration to (her teammates).”

As the 2013 outdoor season approached, Wallace was a virtual unknown in the track-and-field community. Her family had moved to Concord from Charlotte before the school year.

Wallace first tried track and field as a 6-year-old, but she didn’t like it. At her mother’s encouragement, though, Wallace came back for a second season and eventually fell in love with the coaching staff of the Charlotte Flights youth track-and-field program.

Wallace continued running with the Flights through ninth grade. She attended Eastway Middle School in Charlotte and began her high school years at Charlotte Garinger.

According to Wallace, her Garinger coaches placed her in events in which she could score more team points instead of directing her toward events in which she could stand out individually.

In Wallace’s first year at Central, Kavanagh saw a certain potential in her, primarily in the 200- and 400- meter races. She ran the 100 meters in only a few meets, but she still registered a regional qualifying time.

Central’s coaching staff also tried her in the long jump. As the season progressed, though, it became a noble – but futile – experiment.

At the South Piedmont Conference meet, Wallace didn’t even run in the 100 meters. But she won the conference championship in the 200 meters.

Wallace qualified for regionals in the 200 meters, and Kavanagh entered her name in the 100-meter race just so she could compete in a second event.

“I said, ‘I’ve been working on my 200 (meters) for the longest time,’ ” said Wallace. “So my 100 (meter) time should be OK. I didn’t think too much about it.”

Besides her second-place finish in the 100 meters, Wallace finished fifth in the 200 meters, missing the state meet by 0.20 second. Her 4-by-100-meter relay team, which included Breanna Jones, Azalea Morrisette and Summer Vanover, also placed fifth.

At the state meet, Wallace ran into some stiff competition, placing 11th in the 100-meter preliminary race and failing to advance to the finals.

Wallace is not the only Central Cabarrus athlete among her four siblings. Her sister, Mahaley Holit, was a standout basketball player for the varsity Vikings as a freshman this past season.

Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at joehabina@yahoo.com.

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