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interested in signing her to run track for their respective
programs. July 1 was the first day in which the NCAA
allows college coaches to have direct contact with
recruits. The schools which contacted McNeill include:
UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. State, Hampton, Howard,Tulane,
South Carolina, Florida, Florida State, Miami (Ha.) and
"I wasn't pleased with my performance at the Trials,"
said McNeill, who is the Class 4-A state outdoor champ in
the 400. "But then I was reminded that so many other ath
letes never get the opportunity of compete at that level.
So, I'm thankful to have made it as far as I did. When I
heard from all the colleges that day, it really lifted me up."
McNeill, a rising senior with a 4.4 weighted grade
point average, figures to be a highly sought-after recruit
for the upcoming school year. In the most recent national
rankings on the milesplit.com website (the week of July
6), she's No. 14.
Six runners who are ranked ahead of McNeill are
graduating seniors. Unless there are drastic changes in the
rankings, McNeill is most likely to enter the 2016 outdoor
season as eighth in the country.
McNeill can still move up in the rankings for this
season. To do so, she must surpass her personal best of
53.40 seconds at the USATF Junior Olympic track nation
als at Jacksonville, Ha. later this month (July 27-Aug. 2).
It will be her final competition of the summer track sea
"McKinley has come such a long way," said Jarrell
Elliott, an assistant who coaches and trains Parkland's
quarter-milers. "I'm happy that she's put it all together.
There's no doubt that she's reaping the rewards from all
the work that she's put in."
By any standard of measurement, this has been a
quantum leap kind of season for McNeill. In the span of
one year, she improved her personal best time by nearly
three seconds (2.68 to be exact), which is huge for the
Even more remarkable is how McNeill continued to
take giant strides late in the outdoor season. At the state
outdoor championships in May, she ran a career best of
A month^later, she lowered her previous best by near
ly a full second to post a fifth-place finish at the New
Balance Outdoor Nationals. Even though her 53.40 is her
fastest time to date, there was a feeling that she might
have run faster. At the New Balance meet, she won deci
sively in a relatively slow heat and was never seriously
"One of the biggest changes with McKinley is her
confidence level," said Elliott. "During the season she
realized that she could run with the best in the state. But
now she has a whole new mindset. She believes she's
among the best in the nation.
A lot of that has to do with
her learning to trust in her
Entering the outdoor
season of 2015, McNeill
had a tendency to hold back
during the first half of the
400. She was reluctant to go
out fast, fearing that she
wouldn't have enough
reserves to finish strong. As
the season progressed,
McNeill discovered that
because of her training, she
could get off to a fast start
and not have to worry about
fading badly coming down
"For the longest time, 1
had it in my head that I
couldn't finish," said
McNeill. "This all started
when I ran an 800-meter
race when I was 11 years
old. 1 started out fast for the
first 300. But the rest of the
way I had nothing left, so 1
believed that it was best for
me to always start off slow
and finish with a kick. It took a while for me to see that I
can run fast from the start and still have something left at
Start fast-finish fast was the race strategy McNeill
used to eventually defeat her nemesis, Layla White of
Cary. In several face-offs over the past two seasons,
McNeill had never beaten White.
In February, everything seemed to be in place for vic
tory when McNeill and White lined up for the 500-meter
run at the Class 4-A state indoor championships. At the
time, McNeill had the No. 2 time in the nation (1 minute,
14.04 seconds). In a tight race that went from wire-to
wire, White survived to win her third straight 500 indoor
title. McNeill ran well, but had to settle for being the state
Three months later, these two engage in another
fiercely contested battle at the state outdoor champi
onships in the 400. This time, McNeill shifted into over
drive over the final 80 meters and won comfortably over
White, who entered the race as the defending outdoor
champ. This was a signature moment for McNeill.
"All I remember is how hard I worked in those
weeks leading up to the state meet," McNeill recalled.
"The rivalry with Layla is a friendly one, but she was
always the one who won. I reached a point where I got
tired of losing to her. I wanted it so badly that I could taste
Photo by Craig T. Greenlee
Mckinley McNeill of Parkland hopes to improve her national ranking when she
competes in the USATF Junior Olympic nationals later this month in
Aside from this year's state outdoor championships,
McNeill's most memorable moment came at the New
Balance outdoor nationals in the Swedish Relay. Running
the 400 anchor leg, McNeill blazed the final lap with a
personal best split of 53.1. When McNeill got the baton,
Parkland was fifth. McNeill ran down four runners as the
Mustangs ended up second in their heat and third overall.
The bronze medal finish was considered a some
what of a surprise. That's because Parkland had two new
runners who had never run on the "A" team prior to the
"This past season was bittersweet for me," said
McNeill. "Six seniors have graduated and we were all like
sisters to each other. But I'm excited about next year and
1 like the group that we have coming back. Yes, there's
some work for us to do, but 1 have no doubts that we're
going to be fine."
Looking ahead to McNeill's senior season, Elliott
believes she has a reasonable shot at breaking the state
record of 52.8 seconds. But he's also quick to acknowl
edge that so much depends on her mental outlook.
"The big key is whether or not she stays hungry," he
said. "I'm happy to say that 1 see no evidence of
McKinley becoming complacent. She should be the best
at the 400 and 500 in North Carolina. As long as she keeps
doing what she's doing, the sky's the limit."
Hamlin towards it. There are folks
from page B1 who say ti?at we won't be suc
cessful. But 1 say give me a
couple of years and we'll see
As a former Camels assistant coach (2005-2011),
Hamlin is acutely aware of all the challenges. But he also
has a fierce determination to do all he can to help Atkins
football ascend to heights that it's never reached before.
Hamlin assumed command of the program in
February. Since then, he's been asked the same question
IPWB iMlipl UU-tuions
"The most honest answer is that they gave me an
opportunity," said Hamlin, who spent the last four seasons
as an assistant varsity coach and head junior varsity coach
at Reynolds. "One of the reasons that I even applied for
the position is because of the growth I've seen. At one
time, Atkins had about 400 students, now that number is
up to around 600.
"Academically, the school is outstanding, which
, means that I don't have a lot of problems with eligibility.
Since I've been here before, I know what the potential is.
It's going to be a challenge to see if I'm that guy who can
! provide that spark to get Atkins on the right track."
Hamlin believes that one of the biggest challenges he
faces is getting Atkins supporters to understand that high
quality academic schools are more than capable of pro
ducing top-flight football programs.
Atkins is the only high school in the county's STEM
program (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
1 STEM schools offer curriculum to help students prepare
for careers in those highly specialized fields. Hamlin feels
there's a misguided perception among supporters in the
Atkins community that a STEM school cannot field a
- good football team.
"It's like there's a stigma that smart kids can't be good
athletes," he said. "I spoke with the head coach at the
Duke [David Cutcliffe] at a clinic about this. People
believe Duke can't win at football because of its academic
standards. That's one of the biggest challenges we face at
"Our young men are working very hard and they want
to be coached, they want to be taught. Being good in the
classroom helps with their understanding on the football
field. For our players, it's a matter of them getting past that
stigma in their own minds."
During spring practice, Hamlin refused to make any
assumptions about any of his players. The coaching staff
placed heavy emphasis on mastering the basics and devel
oping strong woik habits. In essence, Hamlin implement
ed a "Football 101" kind of approach, which ran the gamut
from getting into the proper stance to executing the right
techniques for blocking, tackling and catching the foot
According to Hamlin, 34 players came out for spring
ball, which is considered to be a reasonable turnout for a
Class 1-A school such as Atkins.
"For where we are right now as a program, I was
pleased with our spring numbers," he said. "We started at
the bottom, just like we would if we were at the Pop
Warner level. We sent the message early-on that hard work
is what produces good results.
"The team motto for this year is: 'Earn it.' It won't
matter what they did last year. It won't matter how good
they think they are. Whatever they get, they're going to
have to earn it each week. I believe we can win four games
this season. But the main thing I want to accomplish is for
them to leam how to compete in every game."
NC- IVf SEN
The Center for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education (CMSTE)
NC Mathematics and Science Education Network (NC-MSEN)
2015 Lego Robotics Camp
Join us to build Lego Robots, complete with motors and sensors! Then write
programs and watch it CHOMP, SPIN, ROAR, KICK, LIFT and more! 11
For Middle and High School Students (grades 8*-lC*)
When: July 20-24, 2015; 800a.m -5.00p m
Where: Winston-Salem State University
Cost: $150.00 (lunch will be provided each day)
Deadline for enrolment: July 15,2015
For further information about the program please refer to the website:
www.wssu edu/ncmscn and sefect robotics camp or cad 336-7SO-2996/2995