University City

Charlotte 49ers track and field team stocked with homegrown talent

Charlotte 49ers track and field coach Bob Olesen has been at the recruiting game long enough that he knows what to expect when he pursues a Charlotte-area athlete.

“You recruit a kid from around here, you get one of two responses,” said Olesen. “It’s either ‘I want to go away from home,’ or ‘That’s nice, I’d like to stay.’ ”

Of course, Olesen prefers that latter response. But the reality is that sometimes it’s not easy to convince a high school athlete to stay close to home to compete in college.

Recruiting locally has always been of high interest to Olesen and the 49ers. This year’s list of athletes who qualified to compete at the NCAA East Preliminary meet indicates that some of Charlotte’s fastest and fittest are homegrown.

Among the 14 men’s preliminary qualifiers are Charlotte natives Anthony Bynum (redshirt sophomore, Hopewell), John Osborne (redshirt senior, Victory Christian), and Kerrick Williams (redshirt senior, West Mecklenburg).

All three women’s qualifiers – Alvonna Blakney (sophomore, West Mecklenburg), Joann Blakney (junior, West Mecklenburg), and T’Sheila Mungo (junior, Independence) – competed at Charlotte high schools.

The men’s 4x100-meter relay team of Bynum, Osborne, Khyran Shank, and LeRoy Rouse and high jumper Trey McRae did well enough at the preliminaries May 30-June 1 in Jacksonville, Fla., to qualify for the NCAA National Championships on June 11-14 in Eugene, Ore.

“There’s probably more Charlotte talent on this year’s team than what I can remember,” said Olesen, who has been UNCC’s head track and field coach since 2002.

The Blakneys are sisters to men’s qualifier Kerrick Williams. They never planned on all being Charlotte 49ers together. It just kind of ended up that way.

Although she’s the youngest of the siblings, Alvonna was technically the first of the three to be a 49er. She signed her national letter-of-intent in February of her senior year of high school.

Kerrick and Joann were student-athletes at N.C. Central at the time. They were not happy at the Durham university and both decided to transfer to Charlotte prior to the 2011-12 school year. Kerrick graduated with a degree in Public Health and Sociology last month.

“I love my college I graduated from,” said Kerrick. “Most of the really good people on the team are local talent. Anthony Bynum is going to regionals. He trained with Joann and Alvonna in high school. They put Charlotte on the map. I put my city on my chest when I put on my uniform. I was born and raised here.”

Kerrick qualified for the NCAA preliminaries in the discus. Alvonna qualified in the 100-meter hurdles while Joann advanced to compete in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. Bynum qualified in the 200 meters and the 4x100- and 4x200-meter relays.

Like Kerrick Williams and Joann Blakney, Bynum spent some time away from his home city before transferring to UNC Charlotte. He spent a year at Mississippi State prior to enrolling at Charlotte in the fall of 2012.

Bynum was a local USA Track & Field prodigy while growing up in Charlotte. The same goes for junior T’Sheila Mungo, who competed for the Charlotte Flights.

At Independence, Mungo set the Mecklenburg County record in the 400 meters. When she was being recruited, Charlotte was at the top of her list of schools to attend.

“I take a lot of pride in that,” said Mungo. “I love where I’m from. I love representing Charlotte. I know a lot of younger kids don’t want to stay in the city where they’re from. Whenever we do win (a race) or set a school record, they talk about me or Dominique Weathers (Vance) being from Charlotte.”

Mungo competed at the NCAA prelims in the 400 meters. Victory Christian’s Osborne was a member Charlotte’s 4x100-relay team.

The current recruiting season is not over, but Olesen has already announced two Charlotte-area recruits from the class of 2014: Will Adams, a hurdler from Mallard Creek, and Emily Bey, a pole vaulter from Mount Pleasant, have already committed to the 49ers.