Signing day takeaways in North Carolina

UNC-Charlotte continues to recruit top in-state talent

UNC-Charlotte’s men have kept themselves in the national spotlight. They are currently ranked #30 in the USTFCCCA Coaches Poll and peaked at #27 earlier this season. They lost the Conference USA Championship by 1 point to Middle Tennessee State. They were led by #TeamNC alumni Paul Arredondo (Cape Fear ’16) and Nickolas Scudder (Millbrook ’19). The duo went 1-2 in their conference championship. Scudder returns in 2023 alongside seventh-place finishers Hunter White (North Henderson ’19), Avery Cannon (Watagua ’20), Daniel Vo (Green Hope ’18), Aaron Rovnak (Franklin Academy ’21), Jacob Gallant (Mount Tabor)’ 20) and Keaton Anderson (Hickory Ridge ’18).

Leading this incoming class are Stephen Fernetti (North Lincoln) and Andrew Burrell (Mount Tabor).

Fernetti finished second at the NCHSAA 3A XC State Meet and is the reigning NCHSAA 3A Indoor 3,200m state champion. More of a middle-distance focused athlete, Burrell was third at the NCHSAA 4A Outdoor State Meet in the 800m in 2022.

They are joined by two-time NISAA 2A State Champion Cruz Hesling (Westchester Country Day) and Alex Fernandez (Green Level).

The women get some big talent too: Anna Wells (Ardrey Kell), Lily Rogers (Middle Creek) and Keely Bradle (Providence).

In fact, many of the best choose to stay close to home

Rocky Hansen (Christ School) burst into the national spotlight last spring and burst out further this fall. He ran a state record of 14:20.90. at the ASICS Invitational in Georgia and set an NCISAA state meet record in 14:44.90. He also set the state record in the mile, running 4:00.76 in May. Next fall he travels to Wake Forest to join the currently No. 7 Demon Deacons. Wake Forest dominated the 2022 ACC Championship, winning Syracuse and UNC 44-86-87.

Joining Hansen in Wake Forest is Cuthbertson’s Alyssa Preisano. A two-time singles champion at the track, Preisano has helped give Cuthbertson a cross-country state title every year she has been there.

UNC-Chapel Hill grabs some top athletes. You get the Cuthbertson duo Killian Fahy and Reece Morgan. Fahy won the 2022 NCHSAA 4A 400m title in 47.23 and aims to repeat it in 2023. He was also second in the 300m indoor in 2022.

The biggest name to go to Chapel Hill might be Jacob Laney (Porter Ridge). Laney was outside for most of the cross-country season, but he won the 3,200m at the NCHSAA 4A State Championship during the outdoor season. Indoors, he won the 1,600 m and 3,200 m titles.

Athens Drive’s Krister Sjoblad also remains close to home. He remains in Raleigh to join NC State’s wolf pack. Joining him in NC State is NCISAA DI 400m Champion Quentin Clarke (Cannon School).

Some found homes more than 600 miles away… in all directions

While some have found home in North Carolina, some of the state’s elite move over 600 miles away to pursue their athletic and academic careers.

Leading the way is Akala Garrett, who is studying at the University of Texas nearly 1,200 miles from her high school.

Garrett is the reigning 100mH and 300mH state champion and won gold at the U20 IAAF World Championships in the 400mH. She is NC #2 all-time in the 100mH, 300mH and 400mH.

A pair of high-profile distance runners who have been competing since middle school will team up 600 miles away in Mississippi at Ole Miss. Zack Gilbertson and Caden Townshend, who went 1-2 at the NCHSAA 4A state meeting, will team up in the SEC for the next four years. In fact, we’ve seen how many distance runners from North Carolina have been selected for the SEC in the last few classes.

While Garrett, Gilbertson and Townshend head southwest. Another trio makes their way north to school.

Lily Nasta, a two-time All-State cross-country runner, will be driving almost exactly 600 miles north to the University of Toledo in northernmost Ohio.

Olivia Bufalini will join the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) ACC Panthers.

Arran Swift (Cary Academy) goes to Illinois at the University of Chicago.

Where is Shawnti Jackson going?

The biggest unanswered question is where the national 60m indoor record holder will be headed next fall. Shawnti Jackson (Wakefield) narrowed it down to their top 6: Florida, Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, USC and Texas Tech.

Jackson won gold at the U20 World Championships in the 4×400 meter dash and bronze in the 100 meter dash. She is also the defending indoor 55m, 100m, 200m and 400m NCHSAA 4A state champion.

Will Akala Garrett’s presence in Texas persuade Jackson to join the Longhorns?