West Stanly long-distance runner wins 1,600-meter 2A title

Published 9:04 am Monday, May 23, 2022

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One of West Stanly’s most accomplished distance runners added another item to her resume at Friday’s 2A state track meet.

Natalie Almond, a senior who is the second-fastest runner in the history of West Stanly’s cross-country program, took first place in the 1,600-meter run with a time of 5:19.27, 10 seconds ahead of Lincolnton’s Katherine Hopkins.

“I was ranked No. 1 so I knew there would be a lot of pressure on me. I was just going to try and take it at a good pace, but I knew that last lap I was going to have to go the fastest and have a strong kick at the end to pull up the win,” Almond said.

Almond said she trailed the first two laps.

“I wanted to get out strong, but I didn’t want to get out too fast and not be able to finish strong.”

At the 800-meter mark, or halfway, Almond said she decided to “take the lead and just try to finish it out.”

When she crossed the line, Almond said she thought about the six years of hard work that went into her running career.

“It meant all of my hard work and training for pretty much every single run I’ve every done led up to that moment, and it all finally paid off,” Almond said.

She credited her brother, Noah, who was a senior long-distance runner when she was a freshman, as a driving force in her career, along with track coach Robert Murray, as well as her teammates and coaches at West.

Winning the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 runs at the 2A Midwest Regionals, she said, gave her momentum heading into the state meet.

Almond was also third in the 3,200-meter run (11:56.00) and fourth in the 800-meter run (2:23.36).

“It’s been amazing to watch Natalie continue to get better over the last four years. It shows our younger athletes that hard work pays off,” West head coach Wes Herlocker said.

In other results, Colts senior Onii Bivens placed third in the long jump (17-7.25), fifth in the 200-meter dash (26.02 seconds). Nariah Furr took ninth in the triple jump (33-4.5).

The West Stanly team of Savanah Hendzel, Holly Hatch, Caroline White and Makalyn Morton took ninth in the 4×800-meter relay (11:12.50).

On the men’s side, Gavin Hudson took second place in the discus throw with a distance of 136-9. James Shue placed fourth in the 3,200 meter run (10:23.23) while teammate Carson Wells placed ninth in the same event in 10:44.66. Owen Grismer was ninth in the shotput in 41-0.75,

The men’s 4×800-meter relay team of Blayne Morton, Stephen Martin, Nathan Marks and Elijah Morton placed 10th in 9:01.18.

One other Stanly school was represented at the 2A state track meet. North Stanly’s Paris Bennett finished 10th in the shot put with a distance of 32-3.75.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio has served as the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press for more than 16 years and has written numerous news and feature storeis as well. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also won an award from Boone Newspapers, and has won four North Carolina Press Association awards.

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