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High School Sports

Family ties make track and field competition complicated for athletes, coaches

Fayetteville Academy’s Kalil Dennison says 'state championships mean a lot to me'


Track and field is unique among the world of high school sports for the multiple moving parts it involves. There are a variety of events that require different skill sets and different types of athletes.

Add to that the possibility of family ties among coaches and team members, and the equation gets more complicated.

None was more challenging than the one Frank Bailey of Fayetteville Christian had to face at last weekend’s N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Division III track meet at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory.

Bailey coaches sprints, jumps and throws for the school, and his twin daughters Juliana and Isabella, and son, Evan, are members of the team.

Shortly before the state meet, Bailey found himself having to make key adjustments to his lineup.

Evan scheduled to run the first leg of the 4x100 meter relay, while teammate Ben Wallace was set to run the second leg.

Evan tweaked a hamstring, while Wallace fell in a freak accident and broke his collarbone.

Wallace was definitely out, but Bailey held off on replacing his son until 30 minutes before the actual race when a final test of Evan’s hamstring proved he couldn’t run.

Bailey substituted Alex Kardouni for Evan and Kaleo Arnold for Ben.

Demaree Clark and Tristan Kasper ran the other two legs.

“We felt we could pull it off,” Bailey said. “They definitely believed they could do it, even the two substitutes we put in.”

They did, with a time of 44.82. They also took the 4x400, with Arnold again replacing Wallace. Kardouni, Kasper and Clark normally run the event.

Bailey also thought his girls had a shot at the 4x200 relay but was concerned that Tyler Clyburn might be running for Northside Christian. Clyburn dominated the meet, winning the 100, 200 and 400 meter runs along with the high jump.

The high jump proved to be the key for Fayetteville Christian. Once Bailey arrived at the meet and learned Clyburn was competing, it meant the meet schedule would not allow her to run in the 4x200.

“That stretched our odds even more,” he said.

Bailey’s team of Isabella Bailey, Dezzy Clark, Isabelle Kayser and Victoria Harrison won with a 1:50.36.

Fayetteville Christian also took multiple individual titles. Winners included Clark in the boys high jump, Isabella Bailey in the girls triple jump, Dezariyah Clark in the girls long jump and Juliana Bailey in the discus.

Bailey praised the way head track coach Tom Macagg has continued to grow the track program that was founded 24 years ago by Tom Hess, who won 15 conference titles and two state championships.

“We’re building something we can continue to have even with a small group of kids,” he said.

Earl’s Pearls

  • Fayetteville Academy’s Kalil Dennison came into his final state track meet with three previous wins, one in the 100 meters as a sophomore and two more in the 4x100 and 4x200 meter relays as a junior.

His father and head coach Kevin Dennison said the expectation for this season was high, wins in the 100 and 200 meters, and that is exactly what he did in the NCISAA Division meet.

“I never had to say this is the weekend you go work out or you need to work on this or that,” Kevin said. “He’s really shown me he accepted and understood the responsibility. It’s on him to pick what he wants. I’m there to guide and support him.”

In addition to his dad’s guidance, Kalil said he also drew inspiration from a book titled “Daily Motivation” by Nido Qubein, president of High Point University.

The motivational words in the book inspired him, even on the day of the track meet.

Kalil said he was nervous during the preliminaries last Friday but recorded his best time of the season in the 200. 

That night, he read the book and listened to music, arriving at the track on Saturday before anyone else and practicing before anyone arrived.

“I knew from that moment I had it,” he said.

He took the 100 in a time of 11.06 and the 200 with 22.63.

“Deep down, those two state championships mean a lot to me,” Kalil said. “It was my last year, and I wanted to do something great.”

Kalil has already committed to run for Queens University in Charlotte.

“Queens was a different feel,” he said. “It feels like home.”

  • In addition to the winners from Fayetteville Christian and Fayetteville Academy, Trinity Christian had an individual champion in the NCISAA Division III meet. Jamiyah Johnson of Trinity won the girls shot put with a throw of 28-9.5 feet.

Follow Earl Vaughan Jr. on Twitter @EarlVaughanJr

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Cumberland County, high school, sports, Fayetteville Christian Academy