Sarah Billiard, Covenant Day Track: A little more than a month ago, Covenant Day senior Sarah Billiard had never competed in a track meet in her life.
Billiard not only missed the first month of the outdoor track season recovering from a concussion she suffered in club volleyball, but also had only a week of formal practice in the high jump before her first meet April 6 at Cannon School.
But despite her lack of experience, Billiard jumped 5-feet in her first meet ever, which was equal to the same height the NCISAA 3A state champion cleared the previous outdoor season.
Billiard didn’t stop there as she jumped 5-4 the next week at another Cannon School meet.
Then, Billiard jumped what is still a personal-best 5-6 at Charlotte Country Day on April 26.
Fast forward to May 13, Billiard won a CISAA conference, high jump championship at Charlotte Country Day, jumping 5-4.
While Billiard will still be better known as a three-time, all-state volleyball player and two-time, all-state basketball player at Covenant Day, she is enjoying every moment of her final high school season on the track.
“I’m definitely surprised at what I’ve been able to do in the high jump, because I didn’t know what to expect after I pretty much got talked into doing track,” Billiard said. “I have a great coach in Josh Nguyen, who has taught me everything I know, because I didn’t know anything. …
“I want to break my personal record every single week. That is my goal. That is a lot of motivation in itself.”
“It does surprise me that Sarah is doing so well in the high jump, having never tried this, because I know a lot of girls work so hard at this event,” said Jennifer Billiard, Sarah’s mom. “But it doesn’t surprise me that Sarah is working hard at something new and giving it her best shot.”
Billiard hopes to cap her final high school season with a state championship in the high jump May 19-20 at Winthrop University.
She will go in as the favorite, as Billiard has the best jump in the NCISAA this outdoor season and tied for the 5th-best jump in the state regardless of classification.
Billiard played in the NCISAA 3A volleyball state championship three straight years, with Covenant Day coming up just one win short each time, twice to Charlotte Country Day (2014, 2015) and once to North Raleigh Christian (2016).
In her final track meet in her final high school season, she has a chance to that elusive state championship in the high jump. Billiard’s Covenant Day basketball, volleyball and track teammate, sophomore Taylor Weber is also amongst the state’s top contenders in the high jump.
While Billiard will continue her volleyball career at the University of Virginia this summer, she hopes to finish her Covenant Day career on top.
“It would be awesome to finish with a state championship (in high jump), because that’s was the goal in volleyball and we were so close (three times),” Billiard said. “To win a (state) championship in track in my last season would be really cool.”
Gracie Whelan and Emerson Porter, Providence Day Track: The Providence Day senior duo of Gracie Whelan and Emerson Porter led the Charger girls’ to their fifth straight, CISAA conference championship.
Whelan, a Brown University signee, won the 200 and 400-meter dashes, while helping the 4 X 100 and 4 X 200-meter relays in meet record to conference crowns.
Porter, a University of North Carolina signee, won the 100 and 300-meter hurdles, the pole vault (in conference record 11-6) and helped the 4 X 200 relay to a CISAA title.
The Providence Day girls’ track team will go for their 5th straight, NCISAA 3A state championship May 19-20 at Winthrop University.
DeMarkes Stradford, Charlotte Latin Track: The Charlotte Latin junior ran personal bests to win the CISAA conference titles in both the 100 and 200-meter dashes.
Stradford won the 100 in 10.67 seconds, the states’ sixth fastest time this outdoor season, and won the 200 in 21.74 seconds, tied for the states’ third-fastest time this season.
Stradford will look to add a state championship to his 2017 resume May 19-20 at Winthrop University.
Stradford is also an all-state running back for Charlotte Latin, where he rushed for 1,488 yards and 18 touchdowns last year.
Robert Fuller, Charlotte Latin Track: The Charlotte Latin senior also won two CISAA conference titles May 13, at Charlotte Country Day.
Fuller won the shot put and discus, CISAA conference championships.
Fuller threw a 45-10.5 in the shot put and a personal-best 132-07.5 in the discus.
Fuller now looks to sweep the same two events at the NCISAA 3A state meet May 19-20 at Winthrop University.
Mariah Howlett, Lake Norman Charter Track: Lake Norman junior, Mariah Howlett, helped lead the Knights to their first 2A West Regional championship (boys or girls) in school history.
Howlett set meet records in both the 1600 (5:04.59) and the 3200-meter run (11:05.38).
Howlett already has the top time in the state this outdoor season in the 3200 (10:37.39) and the No. 5 time in the state in the 1600 (5:03.80).
Lake Norman Charter now goes to the 2A state championships May 19 at North Carolina A&T University.
Myers Park Tennis Team: The Myers Park tennis team beat defending 4A state champion Greensboro Page on May 9 to advance to the third round of the state playoffs, where they will host Lake Norman on May 15.
Page had eliminated the Myers Park from the playoffs each of the last two seasons.
But this time, Myers Park showed their depth as they were led by No. 4 Sam Dean, No. 5 Charlie Reiney and No. 6 Charlie Fox, who all won in both singles’ and doubles’ play.
The Mustangs have now won 153 of the 163 matches played this season.
Myers Park sophomore, No. 1 Mark Dillion Jr. also made it to the 4A state singles’ semifinals May 13 before falling to Clayton’s Banks Evans.
Charlotte Country Day Tennis Team: The Charlotte Country Day tennis team also remained unbeaten at 17-0 with a 5-0 win over Ravenscroft to advance to the NCISAA 3A state semifinals, where they host Greensboro Day on May 16.
The Bucs were led by junior Luke McClelland and seniors Maylin Van Cleeff and Vaed Khurjekar, who all won two matches against Ravenscroft without losing a game.
Charlotte Country Day, who has won 146 matches while losing only nine this season, hope to get the opportunity to win their first state title since 2011 on May 20 at Campbell University.
The Bucs were state runner-up in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
Max Vicario, Pine Lake Prep Tennis: Pine Lake Prep junior continued his undefeated season winning the 1A state singles’ championship for the second time in three years, beating Raleigh Charter’s Chinna Baskaran, 6-2, 6-1, in the finals.
Vicario, who won the 1A state singles’ title as a freshman in 2015, is 19-0 in singles’ play this season and has yet to drop a set. His closest matches came in a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Lincoln Charter’s Parker Powell.
Vicario also led Pine Lake Prep (8-3) to a second round, 1A state dual playoff win over Lincoln Charter, 5-2, on May 9.
The Pride travel to Elkin on May 15 with a berth in the 1A state semifinals on the line.
Michael Sanders, Cannon School Golf: The Cannon School junior shot a 4-under par, 68, to win the CISAA conference championships at Carolina Golf Club on May 9.
Sanders, a Louisiana State University (LSU) commit who is the defending NCISAA 3A state champion, also was named CISAA conference player of the year this week.
Sanders led the Cougars to another CISAA conference title, as his team made 21 birdies combined in route to tying a conference record with a six-under team score of 278.
Cannon School’s Lansdon Robbins (69), Michael Childress (70) and Tim Bunten (71) also shot under par in the same event.
The Cannon School boys’ will go for their third straight NCISAA on May 15-16 at the Country Club of Whispering Pines (Pines’ course) in Pinehurst.
Lincoln Charter Golf Team: The Lincoln Charter golf team finished off a historic season with a 1A state championship, beating the field by 13 shots at the Country Club of Whispering Pines on May 8-9.
Senior Justin Morgan led the way with two-day total of 149 (74-75), to finish tied for 3rd-place, while junior William Crook (74-79-153) finished ninth, and senior Harrison Hall, finished tied for 12th (78-78-156).
Morgan, Crook, Hall and senior Dylan Land were all-conference performers.
Lincoln Charter has won the last three, South Piedmont 1A conference titles, two of the last three 1A West Regional titles and now add a state championship to their resume.
Eagles’ golf coach Jamie Seitz, also won his second state championship ring in the last two months, after helping the Lincoln Charter basketball team to 1A state title in March as an assistant coach.
Lake Norman Charter Golf Team: The Lake Norman golf team finished off their best season in school history as the 2A state runner-up at Beacon Ridge Golf and Country Club on May 9.
The Knights, who shot a team score of 645, were led by senior, Jacob Rowland, who tied for 12th (80-76-156) and sophomores, Jace Arko, who tied for 20th (81-78-159) and classmate, Ian Johnson, who tied for 22nd (80-80-160).
Knights’ seniors, Matt Miller (170) and Cameron Callahan (177) also contributed.
Lake Norman Charter won its first 2A West Regional and Big South conference titles earlier this season.
Zach Iverson, Providence Day Baseball: The Providence Day senior continued his torrid pace at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a home run, RBI and two runs scored in the Chargers’ 6-5 win over Christ School in the second round of the NCISAA 3A state playoffs May 13.
Iverson also got the win on the mound in the same game, tossing two innings in relief.
Iverson is amongst the states’ in multiple categories, including his .526 batting average, six home runs, 48 RBI, while also boasting a 1.08 earned-run average (ERA) on the mound.
Iverson’s play helped Providence Day advance to the NCISAA 3A state semifinals May 16, at Charlotte Christian, where a berth in the state championship is at stake for the schools less than a mile apart.
Jonathan Jagielski, Charlotte Christian Baseball: The Charlotte Christian junior had his biggest game at the plate this season, going 2-for-3 with a double, a home run and six RBI to lead the Knights to a 9-1 victory over SouthLake Christian on May 12.
Jagielski is 7-1 on the mound with 1.71 ERA this season, while hitting .391 at the plate.
The Knights (29-3) host rival Providence Day in the NCISAA 3A state semifinals May 16.
Jonathon Perez, Lake Norman Baseball: The Lake Norman junior had another big week helping the Wildcats to two one-run victories in the first two rounds of the 4A state playoffs.
Perez went 1-for-3 at the plate and also tossed 5.2 scoreless innings with seven strikeouts on the mound in a 1-0 win over Davie County on May 10.
The next day, Perez went 2-for-3 at the plate with a RBI and two runs scored in Lake Norman’s 4-3 second round win over Ronald Reagan.
Perez is 8-0 on the mound, and batting .273 this season.
The Wildcats (24-3) now host archrival, Mooresville on May 16 in the third round of the playoffs.
Julianna Roupas Providence Day Softball: The Providence Day senior tossed a no-hitter, striking out nine of the 13 batters she faced in the Chargers’ 15-0 first round victory over Cary Academy on May 12.
Roupas, an Appalachian State University signee, also got the victory on the mound in a 5-4 win over rival, Charlotte Christian on May 8.
Roupas also hit .750 at the plate for the week with five RBI and three runs scored.
Roupas is hitting .533 for the season, while she is 11-9 with 2.39 ERA on the mound.
Providence Day (11-9) now travels to Hickory Grove in the second round of the NCISAA 3A state playoffs.
Ashlynn Serepca, Hough Girls’ Soccer: The Hough, all-American forward owns the school record for assists in a single season with 33 this year.
Serepca had a goal and three assists in both of Hough’s (19-1-2) playoffs win this week over Southeast Guilford on May 9 and Mooresville on May 11.
The 2016 N.C. Gatorade player of the year, who is in the U18 U.S. National team pool, has 24 goals and 33 assists this season and 81 goals and 65 assists in her Hough High career to date.
Helen Summerell, West Iredell Girls’ Soccer: The West Iredell sophomore forward scored all three goals to set two school records in a 5-3 loss to Forestview in the first round of the 3A state playoffs May 10.
Summerell’s three scores gave her 32 goals for the season, a new, Warrior single-season school record.
Summerell also already owns the West Iredell girls’ soccer school record for goals in a career with 50 scores in her first two high school seasons.
Hayden Pacheco, Queens Grant Girls’ Soccer: The Queens Grant sophomore midfielder scored two goals and had two assists in the Stallions’ 4-1 first round playoff win at Murphy High on May 10, which Coach Eli Pacheco called “the biggest win in school history.”
Queens Grant (9-11) was the No. 21 seed and knocked No. 10 Murphy on the road, before falling to Gray Stone Day in the second round May 12.
Hayden Pacheco had eight goals and 22 assists this season.
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
HELP US FIND THE ATHLETES
This season’s finest highlights high school athletes with outstanding performances. Information published today includes statistics through May 14. In most cases, the athletes featured will come from sports that don’t get a lot of recognition. However, the goal is to recognize excellence. If you want to suggest someone to be included in This Season’s Finest column, send email to Jay Edwards at email@example.com. Please include the athletes’ name, school, class and applicable game performance statistics. Coaches must be willing to verify information.
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