Laney takes long road to victory


Hoggard’s Katie Dubrouillet (right) hands off the baton to her team’s 4x400 anchor Amanda Gregory at the Mideastern Conference track and field championships Wednesday at Hoggard. (Photo by Jeff Janowski)


Kerry Leonard and a group of fleet-footed underclassmen upended the Mideastern Conference’s balance of power and took home Laney’s first-ever girls track conference title on Wednesday.

Leonard, a junior, won the 800 meter run, the 1600-meter run and the 3200-meter run to lead the Bucs with 30 points individually, and Laney beat second-place Ashley by 32 points, 164.33 to 132.5.

“It’s kind of unbelievable,” Leonard said. “Everyone was saying, ‘Yeah, we won,’ and I’m thinking, ‘No way.’ ”

Laney’s win was unexpected after the Buccaneers finished fourth in the conference last year and third at this year’s New Hanover County Championships. But Laney’s group of underclassmen powered the Bucs past Hoggard and Ashley, the two teams that were neck and neck for the county title.

“We thought we were going to do it last year, and then we didn’t have a good meet at conference,” Laney coach Sam Bobbitt said. “This year we’ve got a lot of freshmen and sophomores making an impact. They work hard. They just don’t know that much, so we’re trying to teach them.”

Freshmen, sophomores and juniors accounted for all but 17.5 of Laney’s points on Wednesday night, and Laney coach Sam Bobbitt credited those younger runners with pushing the Bucs from fourth to first.

“Obviously you have to give credit to the coaches,” Leonard said. “But there are a lot of new freshmen that came in, and that really helped the team grow. The upperclassmen didn’t want the freshmen to beat them. So that pushed everyone.”

No one pushed further than Leonard – literally. The junior ran 31/2 miles to sweep the distance events. She won the 800 by 9 seconds, the 1600 by 15 seconds and the 3200 by 21 seconds, despite pleas from her coaches to take it easy to save strength.

“I was supposed to go like 5:30 in the mile,” Leonard said of her 5:16 1600 race. “But (Ashley’s Julia Bourdeau) was right behind me the first two laps, so I just went. … I felt dead before the two-mile.”

Ashley’s girls took second place, led by sophomore Jamie Durham, who won three events and took second in a fourth. Durham was named the conference’s female athlete of the year after the meet.

On the boys side, Ashley extended its streak of conference titles to four in a row by holding off second-place New Hanover for a 40-point win. The Screaming Eagles outscored New Hanover by 23 points in the distance events and by 10 in the relay events to win.

“You see the progression. You see it start and how hard they work and the ups and downs,” Ashley coach Ryan Hauck said. “Now, their confidence level is so high. The seniors have never lost.”

Hauck said he was particularly pleased with Ashley’s hurdle runners, who outscored New Hanover 17 to 9 in two events.

“Two of my kids that scored have only been hurdling for two weeks,” Hauck said. “They were kids that weren’t scoring in the 400. So hurdles have really come on strong.”

Jacen Murphy led the charge for New Hanover, winning the 200 dash, the 400 dash and the triple jump to claim most outstanding athlete honors for the MIdeastern Conference boys.