Forest Hills High School opened in 1960, and for the past 58 years the Yellow Jackets have been chasing their first track and field championship.
The wait ended May 19 at N.C. A&T University in Greensboro.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Yellow Jacket coach Harold Crowder. “That has always been in our dreams, but it turned out for the best this time. Going into it, we felt like we had a chance. I’ve been numbers crunching leading up to it and we felt like we had a shot at it. I told them that if they did their part, everything else would work out.”
The Yellow Jackets, who had finished second in the NCHSAA 2A finals each of the past two seasons, certainly responded.
Led by seniors Scott McClendon and Jaleel McLaughlin, who combined to tally 44.5 points between them, the Yellow Jackets scored 57 points to knock off runner-up Croatan by just four points.
“Those guys are top of the class,” Crowder said. “They come to practice every day and work their tails off. If I had to bet my life I’d bet it with them two because I know they’re going to get the job done. They are great kids. They are very unselfish and they’re going to do what you ask them to do and they’re going to do it to their fullest abilities. I’m going to hate to see those guys go. They are the heart and soul of our team and I can’t say enough about those two.”
McClendon was sensational, claiming MVP honors by winning the long jump (22 feet, 5.0 inches) and the triple jump (45-4.25). McClendon also placed sixth in the 200-meter run (22.51 seconds).
McClendon is currently weighing his opportunities, but Crowder believes he has a great shot of competing at the next level.
McLaughlin, who has signed to play football at Notre Dame College in Ohio, was second in the 400 (48.11) and placed third in the 200 (22.09).
And both weren’t finished yet.
McClendon and McLaughlin teamed with Quentin Huntley and Jadus Davis to win the 4×100 (42.20) and McLaughlin, Davis, Huntley and Keeshawn Tyson combined to bring home the gold in the 4×200 (1 minute, 28.29 seconds).
“We had three guys — Davis, Jaleel and Scott — back from the 4×100 team that won it last year, so they were very confident and they worked real hard in practice,” Crowder said. “(Tyson, Huntley and Davis) played an important role on those relay teams. We went in ranked No. 2 in the 4×200, but I felt like those guys had a chance to get their time down because we’d been working on running the turns and things like that.
“We were probably as excited as they were as coaches when we saw we won it, but the kids put in the work and got it done.”
Gatewood leads Yellow Jacket girls
The Forest Hills girls team used strong performances from Trinity Gatewood to tie for 16th place in the state with 12 points.
Gatewood finished sixth in the 100 hurdles (16.39) and seventh in the 300 hurdles (48.43).
Forest Hills’ 4×100 relay team of Tiana Sloan, Kiya Means, Jordyn Earl and Destiny Benson finished third with a run of 49.80 seconds.
The 4×200 relay team of Sloan, Ilajah Thomas, Gatewood and Kimore’ Ingram was eighth (1:48.45).