Durham Striders lightning bolt Cha’mia Rothwell said she was “just trying to stay humble,” but others marveled at her double win in the 37th annual Russell E. Blunt East Coast Invitational Track Meet on Sunday.
Rothwell won the 100-meter hurdles and 100-meter dash in the girls 15-16 age group, and the host Durham Striders claimed the men’s, women’s and overall team titles at the three-day event in Durham County Memorial Stadium.
The Striders left this morning to compete in the USATF Junior Olympic Championships in Houston, Texas.
“It’s nice winning the meet that you host,” Rothwell said.
But she had to outrun some fierce competitors in Faith Ross of the Western Branch Track Club of Chesapeake, Va., who was named most valuable performer in the 15-16 girls group after setting a Blunt Invitational 400-meter hurdle record on Friday, and her Striders teammate, Kayla Moore, who took silver just behind Rothwell in the 100 hurdles.
“I just think to myself when I’m in the blocks, ‘Just get out and maintain,’” Rothwell said. “I just focused on my race. I don’t pay attention to what others are doing.”
Rothwell said she “actually got off a little slow,” in the 100 hurdles, “but as I was going through the hurdles I picked it up, so it wasn’t that bad towards the end.”
“This is only my first year running with Cha’mia in the hurdles. I was used to coming in first,” Moore said. “I’m fine with coming in second to my teammate because we train together.”
And Moore had her own goal medal to treasure, having won the long jump in her age division to help prepare her for the Junior Olympics nationals at Houston.
“It’s going to be a long ride, and it’s not a vacation” at nationals, Moore said. She and Rothwell said they need to filter out the distractions and focus on their training.
Tiny Teri Pridgen of the Charlotte Panthers Track Club was among an elite handful of triple event winners, setting an 800-meter record of 2:47.06 in the 8-and-under girls’ division, and also winning the 400-meter and 200-meter races. She was named the event’s most valuable performer for 8 and under girls.
“I love setting records. I set a record at regionals, I think. I’m not sure. I set a record somewhere else, too,” the rising third-grader said.
Teri said she was deliberately trying to break the 800-meter record of 2:57.12 set in 2011 by Jada Dowd of the Lewisvile, N.C., Lights Out Track Club, and had just the strategy to do it:
“When I went to the 100-meter mark on my last lap I knew I had to speed up to get that record. I wanted under 2:50, and that’s what I got,” she said.
Winning the 400 was harder, she said.
“There was some good competition. Yeah, it was hard, but it was worth it,” she said.
“Teri is one of our stellar athletes,” said Reginald Smith, her coach. “Even at 8 years old, she’s one of the leaders of the team. She comes in, she works hard, and all we tell her is give it your best, and she gives it to us every meet and every practice.”
Her sister, Chandra Pridgen, is a long jumper on the Charlotte Panthers team in the 11-12 age group. Their father was an assistant coach on the team but died two years ago.
“They’re still performing well, even though it was an adjustment,” Smith said. “Their mother keeps them active, so it’s good for them. And we wrap our arms around them, the coaches and the team, the other parents.”
An animated Steven Dunbar of the Virginia Beach Lion’s Den Track Club won the 17-18 boys high jump at 2.14 meters but fouled out in three attempts at a U.S. national high school record of 2.28 meters.
The Blunt Invitational record is 2.18 meters, shared by Jesse Williams, a Raleigh athlete who went on to become an NCAA champion and World Championships titlist, and Keith Moffatt, who later was an NCAA Division II champion and member of the USA Team in the World Championships.
Dunbar, who clapped his hands over his head and got an enthusiastic crowd to pick up the beat, will compete at North Carolina and major in pharmaceutical studies.
“If I have the crowd into it, everybody’s watching, it just gets me more pumped up to do my jump,” Dunbar said.
Dunbar came to Durham concentrating on achieving a personal record in the long jump, which he also won with a personal best leap of 7.29 meters.
NOTES — Most valuable performers were named for boys and girls in each age division. For the girls, they were: 8 and under, Teri Pridgen, Charlotte Panthers, 200-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter champ; 9-10, Brianna Green, Hopkins, S.C., Carolina Rockets, 1st in the 100-meter and 200-meter, long jump; 11-12, Selah Tuzo, Bermuda Pacers 800-meter, 1,500-meter winner; 13-14, Sakari Famous, Bermuda Pacers, high jump winner (meet and Bermuda national record); 15-16, Faith Ross, Chesapeake, Va., Western Branch, winner 400-meter dash, 400-meter hurdles (meet record); 17-18, Jza-Quashia Chavis, Durham Striders, shot put (second-best ever meet distance) and javelin (fourth-best ever meet distance) winner. The boys’ MVPs were: 8 and under, Benjamin Black, Charlotte Heat, 100-meter, 200-meter, 400-meter champ; 9-10, Kahzi Sealey, Bermuda Pacers, 800-meter, 1,500-meter champ; 11-12, Bryce Felder, Charlotte Panthers, shot put, discus, javelin winner; 13-14, Aaron Jacobs, Bermuda Pacers, 400-meter, 800-meter, 1,500-meter champ; 15-16, Michaiah Robinson, The (Bermuda) Flyers, 400-meter, 800-meter champ; 17-18, Gregory Chiles, Western Branch, 100- and 200-meter dash, 400-meter hurdles.