Matthew Barrera likes his growing confidence as a miler.
The Butler High senior won the boys’ 1600 at the Queen City Relays Saturday with a daring last-lap pass to take the race in 4 minutes, 30.53 seconds. Barrera edged Vance’s Marquise McGee (4:30.73) and Myers Park’s Joe Harbacevich (4:30.91) for his second victory in as many weeks and his biggest in two varsity seasons.
“Last year I came to track and won a few medals – second- and third-places,” Barrera said. “Last week at Marvin Ridge I won at a mile, and this week I won as well. It’s a real big confidence boost that I can compete with the top people here.”
Barrera gambled he could challenge for the lead on the final lap, overtaking McGee on the second turn while Harbacevich pulled into second. Barrera maintained his position as McGee battled Harbacevich for second at the finish line.
“This is only my second year of running, so I’m not very good at pacing,” Barrera said. “Usually, I sit behind the lead runner and it takes a lot out of you to lead, so by the time they’re at their physical peak, I’m ready to bounce. The guy from Myers Park was running with me and he kicked it, and by the time we came out of the 200 curve, I was in a full sprint.”
Mallard Creek senior Gabrielle Cunningham earned her first outdoors win in the girls’ 100 at 12.29 seconds, .13 ahead of teammate Genaya Johnson. SunSara Williams of Independence was third at 12.48. Cunningham, who has committed to N.C. State, overcame a 2.5-mph crosswind by concentrating on technique over the final 50 meters.
“I wanted to make sure I got out and finished the race, so I was really working on my finish because that’s been the weakest point,” she said. “The extra training and working on my knee lift carried me to the finish.”
Cunningham, who ran in the New Balance Nationals indoor meet earlier this month, looked comfortable in her second outdoor final. She seized the lead within 25 meters and pulled away from Johnson and Williams by paying attention to the goal ahead.
“I was just thinking don’t think about anything around me; just think about finishing the race and focus on what I was doing.”
The Providence girls’ 4x800 relay team of Kayla Glova, Lindsey Lanier, Sarah Parrish and Grace Sullivan set a meet record of 9:31.97, shattering Green Hope’s 9:35.74. Lake Norman was second at 9:42.32 and Myers Park third at 9:51.42.