Cabarrus athletes win state track and field titles

Tori Elliott hadn't thought much about the long jump going into May 13's 3A track and field state championships in Greensboro.

Despite participating in her third state meet, she was also nervous.

"I thought I had the stomach flu," said Elliott. "I felt really sick."

Aside from that and having had focused on preparing for her sprinting events, Elliott claimed the long jump state title with a personal-best jump of 17 feet, 10 inches.

"I was very happy," the 17-year-old said. "I didn't see it coming, but through all the work that I've done, looking back, I knew I should have been there anyway."

Elliott also finished second in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and anchored the Chargers' state runner-up 4x100 relay team, which was also made up of Kelsea Pappy, Dominica Norris and Ariel Esperencilla.

Elliot was named the girls' most valuable track and field athlete at the meet.

"I didn't even know they had a girls' MVP award," the junior said. "I was really excited to get that honor."

Cox Mill girls' track coach Sara Beth Hitt said she credits the hard work Elliott has put in with her personal track coach, former Jamaican track athlete Evert Palmer, on her performance this season.

"She's very committed," said Hitt.

"She has a good work ethic. She's one of those kids that when she wants to get something, she goes and she gets it."

Running year-round, Elliott has focused this past year on improving her technique. During the summer, she practiced four times a week and also worked out with Palmer often during the high school season.

Jay M. Robinson's Braedon Koerwitz also put in the work to claim a state title.

The Bulldog senior won the 1,600-meter championship with a personal-record time of 4:18.80 - nearly 7 seconds ahead of his closest competitor.

Robinson boys' track coach Ricky Hedden was glad to see Koerwitz's work pay off.

"Running comes natural to him, but he had the discipline to go out and put in those hours, those miles, that some runners don't go above and beyond practice to do," said Hedden.

"Honestly, I am surprised that it took him this long to win a state title."

Winning a state title had been Koerwitz's focus all season, wanting to get one - whether on the cross country course or on the track - before his high school career came to an end.

"It was a major relief - like a giant weight was lifted off my shoulders," the 17-year-old said about the 1,600 meter title.

"Coming down with 100 meters to go I pretty much knew I had it in the bag and I just kept smiling. ... I just thought 'it's over, I finally did it.'"

Koerwitz, who along with Sherridan McCann, Jackson Deese and Jordan Larson placed in sixth place in the 4x800 relay, also finished sixth in the 3,200-meter run.

Hedden said he credits Robinson's cross country and long-distance coach Justin Gutierrez for putting Koerwitz on a regiment that allowed him to get faster.

Behind Koerwitz and Neshawn Dingle's second-place finish in the boys' shot put, the Bulldogs finished in seventh place at the state meet.

On the girls' side, Cox Mill finished tied for third place at the event.

In addition to Elliot, senior Ameenah Bey Shaw also helped the team, finishing as the girls' triple jump state runner-up.

From the 25 girls on the Charger team, six of them qualified for the championships.

"The whole school is just proud of this group," said Hitt.

Mount Pleasant's boys' 4x100 relay team, which was made up of seniors Jake Heintz, Hunter Furr and Dakota Penley as well as sophomore Chris Lau, also won another state title for Cabarrus County. The Tigers ran a 42.54 to claim their championship.

Northwest Cabarrus' Jill Moore was also big winner, claiming the 100-, 200-, 400- and 800-meter wheelchair titles.

Elliott has big goals, having another year of high school ahead of her. She hopes to win state titles in all three of her events and earn a college scholarship.

Koerwitz, who will run cross country and track at North Carolina next year, has mixed emotions about the end of his high school career.

"It's hard to believe that it's over," said Koerwitz. "I had my four years, so I guess it's time to move on."