Listed in chronological order by year of high school graduation.
Harry Williamson, High Point High, 1931. -- 1936 Berlin Olympics (6th in 800).|
Won 1930 NCHSAA Mile, 4:41.0 and anchored winning Mile Relay in '31.
Floyd "Chunk" Simmons, Charlotte Central HS, 1942. -- 1948 London and 1952 Helsinki Olympics (2 Bronze medals in Decathlon).|
NCHSAA State Champion, High Hurdles 1941, 1942.
Jim Beatty, Charlotte Central HS, 1953. -- 1960 Rome Olympics (5000m, 9th in Heat).|
1985 photo of Beatty
Won NCHSAA Mile in '52 (4:40.5) and '53 (4:31.9). At UNC he won the ACC Indoor Mile and 2-Mile double three consecutive years, and won the ACC Outdoor Mile twice. He won the ACC Cross Country Championship three times.
After UNC, Beatty in 1962 became the first man to ever run the Mile indoors in under 4:00. Later that year he broke the World Record in the outdoor 2-Mile, and set American Records in the 1500, Mile, 3000, 3-Mile, and 5000.
At the 1960 Rome Olympics there were 4 heats in the 5000m with the top 3 advancing to the Final. A foot injury hampered Beatty during his heat and he finished 9th in 14:44.40.
Kathy McMillan, Hoke County HS, 1976. -- 1976 Montreal Olympics (Silver Medal, Long Jump, 21-10 1/4). Also on 1980 team.|
4-Time NCHSAA LJ Champion (Meet Record 21-7), 3-Time State 220y Champion, twice 100y Champion.
Won 1976 Olympic Trials (22-3w) 6/19, just days after her high school graduation.
At the Montreal Olympics, on her 5th jump McMillan was in 6th place. The 5-7 126-lb 18-year old sped down the runway and uncorked a 21-10 1/4 to surge into 2nd and win the Silver Medal. (I was there, watching in disbelief.)
Photo page - NCPrepTrack.
Joan Nesbit, East Mecklenburg HS, 1980 --
1996 Atlanta Olympics (10,000m, 13th in semi).|
Nesbit won the 1980 NCHSAA All-Classification 1600 in 5:05.7.
While at UNC she became the first Tar Heel woman to earn All-America honors in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. At one point she held school records in the 1,500, 3,000, 5,000, and 10,000. Nesbit was 1st in the 1984 ACC 10,000 and 3,000, and 4th in that year's NCAA 10,000.
Nesbit placed 6th at the 1995 World Cross Country Championships.
At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, 35 runners competed in the womens' 10,000-meter qualifying round with 20 advancing to the Final. Nesbit ran 32:33.48 and was the fastest non-qualifier.
Abraham Morlu, Watauga HS, 1999 --
2000 Sydney Olympics. (4x100 for Liberia; 39.77 in 1st Round, did not advance).|
Morlu was 6th in the 300m at the 1999 NCHSAA Indoor Championships (36.63). Later in 1999 he placed 4th in the 400m at the NCHSAA Outdoor 4-A meet (50.11). Morlu, as a junior (1998) qualified for the state meet in the pole vault, clearing 11-0.
Morlu also competed in the 4x100 for Liberia at the 2001 (Edmonton) and 2003 (Paris) World Championships.
Morlu's best 100m time is 10.27 (-1.0), at Cottbus 8/8/09.
John Tillman, Monroe Parkwood HS, 1983 --
1992 Barcelona Olympics (Triple Jump; 25th in Qual. Round).|
Tillman was 1983 NCHSAA Triple Jump champion (All-Classification) with a performance of 50-8. Although he competed before the NCHSAA began State Indoor Championships, he recorded an indoor jump of 48-2 1/2 in 1983 -- a performance that still ranked 22nd on the NC All-Time Indoor List after 2016. ...And he is 11th on the NC All-Time TJ List.
While competing for Tennessee, Tillman was NCAA All-American in 1985, 1986, and 1987. Tillman was Penn Relays champion in 1986 and 1987. He was 8th in the 1988 Olympic Trials.
Melissa Morrison, Kannapolis A.L. Brown HS, 1989. --
2000 Sydney and
2004 Athens Olympics (2 Bronze Medals, 100m Hurdles).|
Morrison won 3 consecutive NCHSAA State 4-A state championships in the 100-meter hurdles (1987-1989). She also won the state championship in the triple jump (39-11.75) her senior year.
At the 2004 Athens Olympics Morrison ran 12.76 in the 1st Round, 12.53 (equaling her personal best) in the Semi, and 12.56 to win her 2nd bronze.
Duane Ross, North Gaston HS, 1991. --
2004 Athens Olympics (110m Hurdles, 5th in Semi-Final).|
Ross won the 1990 NCHSAA 3-A 110m Hurdles. He was 2nd in the 60-yard Hurdles in the 1991 NCHSAA Indoor (All-Classification) Championships.
At the Athens Olympics Ross ran a 13.39 in the 1st Round (=7th overall). He ran 13.50 for 16th in the 2nd Round. His 13.30 in the Semi-Final was not fast enough to advance.
Blake Phillips Russell, Forsyth Country Day, 1993. --
2008 Beijing Olympics (Marathon, 27th).|
At the 2004 Olympic Marathon Trials Russell led the first part of the race but ended up 4th -- missing an Olympic Team spot by one place.
She ran a personal-best 31:35.25 10,000 to take second at the 2005 USA Outdoor Championships.
Russell was the 2006 USATF National Cross Country Champion (8K.) She was ranked for 2006 by Track & Field News #1 in the US at 3000m and #4 at 5000m.
She placed 11th at the 2006 World Cross Country Championships and was the top U.S. finisher.
In 2008 Russell was 3rd at the Olympic Marathon Trial and 5th in the 10,000 at the Olympic T&F Trials.
Brenda Taylor, Watauga HS, 1997. --
2004 Athens Olympics (7th in 400m Hurdles).|
Taylor won the NCHSAA 4-A 100m Hurdles and 300m Hurdles in '95, '96, and '97. Her best high school times were 14.23, 42.14 and 60.05 (400m Hurdles). She won the 55m Hurdles, and anchored Watauga's winning 4x400 in the '97 NCHSAA Indoor meet. Altogether, Taylor won nine NCHSAA state individual and relay state track championships while at Watauga.
Taylor was the 2001 NCAA 400m hurdles champion while at Harvard.
She also represented the U.S. at the 2001 (Edmonton) World Championships in the 400m Hurdles, and and won a bronze medal in 2003 at the World Indoor Track and Field Championships in Birmingham, England on the U.S. 4x400 relay.
Crystal Cox, Fayetteville Pine Forest HS, 1997. --
2004 Athens Olympics (Gold in 4x400; Relay later DQ'd ..drug violation).|
Cox won the NCHSAA 4-A 200 and 400 as a sophomore, the 100 and 200 as a junior (setting a meet record in the 200). She won the 100 and 200 her senior year. Cox won the State Indoor 300 three years in a row, the 500 and ran a leg on the winning 4x400 as a sophomore. Her fastest high school times were 23.61 (FAT) and 55.60.
Leigh Smith, Raleigh Leesville Rd and Cardinal Gibbons HS, 2000. --
2008 Beijing Olympics (Javelin; 18th in Qualifying Round).|
4th in the Penn Relays High School Javelin in 1999. Won it his senior year (213-8). Won the Javelin at the 1999 National Scholastic Outdoor Championships and at the 1999 USA Track and Field Youth Nationals. Smith was 2nd in the 2000 NCISAA Discus (141-9).
Smith placed 3rd at the 2004 Olympic Trials, but failed to reach the Olympic "A" qualifying standard. Four years later he made the team for Beijing.
Jesse Williams, Raleigh Broughton HS, 2002. --
2008 Beijing Olympics (tied for 19th, qualifying; High Jump).
2012 London Olympics (tied for 9th place; High Jump Final).|
Williams won the NCHSAA 4-A High Jump as a sophomore (6-8), junior (7-0), and senior (7-2). He won the State Indoor title (7-0) as a senior. His high school best was 7-3. Williams was also 5th in the NCHSAA state wrestling championships as a senior.
Williams won two Indoor and two Outdoor NCAA titles.
At the 2011 USATF Nationals, the 6-0 Williams cleared a PR 7-9 1/4 -- the highest jump by an American in 15 years. Also in 2011 he won at the IAAF World Championships, becoming the first American high jump world champion in 20 years.
Hector Cotto, Cary Green Hope HS, 2002. --
2008 Beijing Olympics (110mH for Puerto Rico; 27th in Quarter-Finals).|
Cotto ran 8.38 for the 60m Hurdles in the 2002 Nike Indoor Nationals. He also had a 7.46 in the 55m Hurdles. Cotto was 5th (15.01) in the 110m Hurdles at the '02 NCHSAA 4-A State Meet. He won the 110m HH (14.8), 300H (40.5), LJ (20-4) and placed 3rd in the 200 (22.9) at the '02 Tri-Seven Conference meet.
At the Beijing Olympics in the 110m Hurdles Cotto ran 13.72 and was 28th in the 1st Round, and 27th (13.73) in the Quarter-Finals.
Travis Padgett, Shelby Crest HS, 2005. --
2008 Beijing Olympics (4x100, DNF).|
Padgett was NCHSAA 3-A 100 champion in '02 as a freshman and anchored Crest's winning 4x200 in '05. He was 2nd in the 100 in '05.
As a 5-7 175 lb. college freshman he sped to a Clemson school record and ACC record of 10.00 (1.0 legal wind).
At the Beijing Olympics in the 4x100 Padgett ran 2nd on a team with Rodney Martin, Darvis Patton, and Tyson Gay but the US team did not finish.
Brent LaRue, East Forsyth HS, 2005. --
Olympics (400m Hurdles for Slovenia; 3rd in Semi).|
LaRue was '05 NCHSAA 4-A Champion in the 300m Hurdles (37.14 -- #9 as of Aug. 2012 on NC All-Time List). At the same meet he placed 3rd in the 110mHH (14.78 +0.0). He later ran the 400m Hurdles that year in 52.57 (#6 NC All-Time). At the NCHSAA Indoor in '05 LaRue ran on East's championship 4x400 team (3:28.76), was 4th in the 55m Hurdles (7.62), 8th in the 300 (36.21), and was also 12th in the HJ (6-0). As a junior LaRue was 5th in the HJ (6-2) at the '04 NCHSAA 4-A and 8th in the 300H (40.94).
As a freshman at Wake Forest LaRue ran on their ACC Indoor Champion 4x400 (3:10.99) and placed in the Heptathlon (5138 pts). The 4x400 later won at the ACC Outdoor (3:08.36) and he was 3rd in the Decathlon (7066). Wake's 4x400 qualified for the 2006 NCAA with a school record (3:05.48). LaRue won the Heptathlon with a new Meet Record (5617) at the 2007 ACC Indoor and also placed 4th in the 4x400. He placed in the 2009 NCAA Indoor, earning All-American status. More on LaRue's career at Wake.
At the London Olympics LaRue ran a personal best (49.38) and placed 4th in the 3rd of six 1st-Round Heats in the 400H. He placed 3rd (49.45) in the third of three Semi-Final races, missing out on the Final.
Wayne Davis II, Southeast Raleigh HS, 2009. --
Olympics (110m Hurdles for Trinidad; 6th in Semi).|
Davis set a National Sophomore Record (13.65) winning the 110m Hurdles at the 2007 Nike Outdoor Nationals. At the 2007 World Youth Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic Davis set the a World Youth record in the 36" 110 hurdles of 13.18.
Davis as a junior tied the National High School Record for the 60m Hurdles with a 7.62 at the 2008 Nike Indoor Nationals. Enroute he broke the National Record for 55m Hurdles with a 7.06.
College: Texas A&M.
Manteo Mitchell, Shelby Crest HS, 2005. -- 2012 London
Olympics (Silver Medal, 4x400).|
Mitchell was 4th in the 400 (49.76) as a junior in the 2004 NCHSAA 3-A Outdoor. Crest's 4x100 won (42.42) in 2004 and the 4x400 was DQ'ed. Mitchell was 5th in the 200 (22.50 -0.5, 22.49 -1.0 prelim) in the 2005 NCHSAA 3-A Outdoor. He also ran on Crest's 4x200 (1st-place, 1:27.72) and 4x100 (2nd-place, 42.77). Mitchell had high school bests of 21.4 (hand) and 49.54.
In that Qualifying Race for the 4x400 Final, Michell's fibula bone just above his ankle snapped. Despite running the last 200m on a broken leg, he pulled out a 46.16 leadoff leg, helping the U.S. team to a 2:58.87 - the 2nd fastest time in qualifying. (Photos, Video.) The U.S. 4x400 later placed 2nd in the Final, resulting in a Silver Medal for Mitchell.
College: Western Carolina University.
Profiles: USATF.org IAAF.org Wikipedia Sports-Reference.com WCU Citizen-Times.com Story Mitchell ready for Olympic run ShelbyStar.com article June '11 story FloTrack.org interview 2012 Olympics stories: Citizen-Times.com ShelbyStar.com USAToday.com SI.com Citizen-Times.com.
Ronnie Ash, Knightdale HS, 2007. -- 2016 Rio de Janeiro
Olympics (DQ, 110m Hurdles Final).|
In the 2007 NCHSAA 4-A Meet Ash led off Knightdale's 4th-place 4x100 (42.48). He did not qualify in any other events, having placed 6th in his Regional in the 110H (14.56). His best 110H for '07 was 14.44 in his conference meet.
Tavis Bailey, Kannapolis A.L. Brown HS, 2010. -- 2016 Rio de Janeiro
Olympics (26th, Discus Throw).|
Bailey was 14th as a sophomore (121-0) in the 2008 NCHSAA 3-A Discus Throw, with 3 other sophomores placing ahead of him. He was 2nd the following year, throwing 157-10. As a senior in the 2010 State 3-A Championships, Bailey placed 2nd in the Shot Put (52-3.25) and set new State Meet 3-A and All-Classification Records in the Discus with a 185-1, breaking the old All-Classification Record of 182-0 by Ben Huff of Providence set in 1993. Bailey also placed 5th in the Shot put (47-6.5) at the 2010 NCHSAA Indoor Championships.
College: University of Tennessee.
Dimensions: 6-3, 300 lbs.
Burkheart Ellis Jr, Knightdale HS, 2011. -- 2016 Rio de Janeiro
Olympics (=56th place, 200 meters for Barbados).|
Ellis ran on Knightdale's 2010 NCHSAA 4-A 4x100 Championship Relay (42.24) and on their 5th place 4x200 (1:28.72). The following year he led off their winning 4x200 (1:26.05) team, won the 400 (48.05), and ran a 48.3 split on their winning 4x400 (3:15.41) to lead Knightdale to the boys team title.
Earlier in 2011 Ellis anchored Knightdale's winning 4x400 (3:21.58) in the NCHSAA 4-A Indoor meet (the year it was held outdoors). He anchored Knightdale's 4x400 to a 3:19.22 at The Armory in New York - a time that still ranks #3 on NC's All-Time Indoor List.
At the 2011 New Balance Outdoor Nationals Ellis led off Knightdale's 4x200 that ran 1:25.04 (#3 NC All-Time), and also ran 2nd leg on Knightdale's 40.93 4x100 - the only NC team to have ever run under 41:00.
College: St. Augustine's.
Notable near misses and close calls:
Greg Artis, Wilson Fike HS, 1977. 5th at 1980 Olympic Trials in the Long Jump.|
Jim Cooper, South Mecklenburg HS, 1977. 5th at the 1988 Trials in the Steeplechase (8:26.08).|
Cooper was 3rd in the 1976 NCHSAA State Cross Country (all-classification).
After competing for UNC-Chapel Hill, he was ranked #4 in the US for the Steeplechase in 1985, 3rd in 1986, 4th in 1987, 6th in 1988, 9th in 1990, and 6th in 1991 [source].
Julie Shea and Mary Shea, Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons HS, 1977 & 1979.|
Julia Lucas, Charlotte Myers Park HS, 2002. 4th at the 2012 Trials in the
5000 (15:19.83) -- outleaned on the line and missed out by .04 seconds.|
Story/Video - LetsRun.com Story - RegisterGuard.com Story - GoPack.com
NCHSAA 4-A titles... Outdoors: One at 800 (2:15.28), Two at 1600, Two at 3200 (10:46.22). Indoors: One at 1000, Cross-Country: none.
Ryan Hill, Hickory HS, 2008. 5th at the 2012 Trials in the 5000 (13:27.49).|
6th in 2016 Trials in the 5000m (13:38.36).
Hill won 3 NCHSAA 3-A cross country titles, 3 at 3200 and one at 1600. He won the 2006 Foot Locker South Regional (14:46 at McAlpine) as a junior and placed 2nd (14:56) the following year. Hill placed 11th at the Foot Locker Nationals his senior year.
Johnny Dutch, Clayton HS, 2007 5th at the 2016 Trials in the
400H. (Led until the final hurdle.)|
Craig Engels, Winston-Salem Reagan HS, 2012. 4th at the 2016 Trials in the
Engels was the MVP at the 2012 NCHSAA 4-A Indoor Championships, winning the 1600 (4:19.46) and 1000 (2:29.60) and placing 6th in the 3200 (9:44.19). He won NCHSAA 4-A outdoor titles in 2012 in the 4x800 (7:50.60), 1600 (4:18.24), and 800 (1:54.43). Engels picked up one state title as a junior - the 1000 in 2:34.09. He had high school bests of 1:49.89 (800), 4:02.55 (1600), and 8:55.51 (3200).
Former NC high school track & field notables who
competed in the Olympics in another sport:
Bobby Jones, South Mecklenburg HS, 1970. --
1972 Munich Olympics (Silver Medal, Basketball).|
Jones was NCHSAA 3-A/4-A High Jump Champion his sophomore and senior years. He was 2nd his junior year to Greensboro Smith's Robert McAdoo.
At UNC Jones earned All-American honors in 1974, and he averaged 13.7 points and 8.9 rebounds per game during his career at UNC. He led the ACC in in field-goal percentage three years in a row. Jones was also a high jumper on the Tar Heels' track team.
He played on the U.S. basketball team that played in the highly controversial gold medal game against the Soviet Union in the Munich Olympics.
The 6-9 small forward and NCAA All-American was the 5th pick in the 1974 NBA draft, and went on to a 12-year pro career, including an NBA Championship (1983) with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Randy Jones, Kernersville Glenn HS, 1987. --
2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics (Silver Medal, 4-man Bobsled).|
Jones won NCHSAA 4-A championships in the 100 ('87), 200 ('86 & '87), and 4x200 ('86). He led Glenn to a one-point state championship win over Durham Hillside in 1986.
At Duke he set school records in kick returns and also on the track.
After graduation, the Duke track coach convinced Jones to try out for the US Bobsled Team.
At the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics he was on the US 4-man team that won a Silver Medal -- the first US bobsled medal since 1956.
After retiring from competition, he now works with the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Main sources used in researching this list:
Last updated August 17, 2016.
If you know of a former North Carolina high school track and field or cross country athlete that
was left off the list, email NCPrepTrack at: E-mail information
Or if you find a good story or article on one of the above, email it (or the link) and share it with us.
Also, if anyone can work up a similar list of those competing in
IAAF World Championships (Track and/or Cross Country),
... or Indoor Track (e.g., Lee McRae), you are welcome to contribute one.
NC runners who later became Sub-4:00 Milers