WAXHAW – Cuthbertson’s depth and strength throughout many events has the girls indoor track and field team looking for their fourth straight title Feb. 14 when North Carolina’s best convene at the JDL Fasttrack in Winston-Salem.
Coach Dustin Allen has built the boys and girls programs into title contenders. Allen has a simple approach to how he put together such a giant in a county that has won nearly every indoor state title – boys and girls combined – since 3A was split into its own classification in 2013.
“One thing for me is we don’t cut,” Allen said. “We could have 400 kids come out, but we’re going to let them try something. On Saturdays, I come here from 9 to 12 and if people want to come and try field events, we teach them and see what we got and go from there.”
This outdoor season alone, 278 kids signed up, 245 showed up and Allen has run nearly 220 in a meet.
But it’s not just a strength in numbers thing. These girls are good.
Take the 1,600, for example, where, according to Athletic.net, Gabriella Castro and Madeline Hill are within the top 10 in the state, but Leah Helms and freshmen Alyssa Preisano, Marissa Bosland and Lillian Nasta are all within the top 25 times throughout all classifications. Among just 3A runners they’ll be competing with at the state meet, it’s even more impressive.
The same goes for the 3,200 where the three freshmen and Hill are within the top 25 with Preisano, Nasta and Hill even cracking the top 10 in the state regardless of class.
And that’s how it is across the board as the Cavs are deep and dominant everywhere.
“It’s crazy,” Allen said. “Right now, we have seven of the top 13 in the 300; six of the top 14 in the 500 are ours; one of the top eight in the 55; three in the top eight in the 1,000; the top two in the mile; three of the top eight and five of the top 15 in the 1,600; two of the top four and, I think, four of the top eight in the 3,200. In the high jump, we have two of the top eight; pole vault we have two of the top four and three of the top nine. We aren’t very good at shot put, but Jade (McLain) has a chance to be the top three or four in long jump and we have three of the top 12 and Jade has a chance to be in that, too.”
If it sounds hard to keep up with, it is. But it’s been worth it, especially for senior UNC Wilmington commit Mackenzie Townsend, who competes in the 300, 4×200 and 4×400 relays, and fellow senior and Wake Forest recruit Castro, who stars in the 1,000, 1,600 and 3,200.
“Gabby and I are the only seniors that are still left from when we won states our freshman year,” Townsend said. “It’s kind of crazy that we started the journey. All four years of high school we were able to finish off competing and doing as great as we’ve done as a team.”
The Cavs have stars at every turn including state champion pole vaulter Lanie Baumgardner; McLain. who stars in the triple jump, long jump and 4×200 relay; Carrie Wooten, a 55-meter hurdler; and Caroline Smith, who stars in the high jump.
That depth is what’s helping the Cavs continue to dominate and add to their three titles.
Allen said he keeps a championship ring in his desk drawer in case he finds a kid he thinks would be a good fit for the team.
“We’ve built something that other people want to be a part of, and it’s not just one thing,” Allen said. “It’s not just the cross country kids who want to run distance. It’s football players that want to run and get better, it’s soccer girls who come out, know it’s fun and know they can compete. We get so many different athletes from other sports that we’re able to push people into certain things that fit their strengths.”
Allen’s plan is working like a well-oiled machine. As the Cavs prepare for the shot at another title, Castro and the seniors hope to go out on top one more time.
“It’s really great to see how the team has progressed since our freshman season and it is really fun to be a part of that,” she said. “Especially so since we won states our freshman year and we’re continuing to improve.”