North Stokes Justin Kenard signed a letter of intent to be part of Western Carolina’s track and field program on Thursday, June 4.
“When I was younger and played sports I was always the fast one. I was running around and never got tired. When I finally started track it made sense,” Kenard said.
During his time at North the standout athlete won back-to-back state titles in the 800 meter run and was part of the boys’ state championship team to win two years in a row.
The athlete said he’ll miss his coaches and teammates but is looking forward to being a part of Western’s program.
“I like the coach, he’s been there for 30 years or so,” Kenard said.
He also hopes to jump in and contribute quickly and is anxious to start the rigorous training.
Kenard’s grandmother, Frankie said the past four years have gone by fast and she’s enjoyed watching her grandson excel in the sport he loves.
“It hit me this year that he had an opportunity for a scholarship. I knew he had a passion for this. It’s been awesome watching him do what he loves.”
She believes his work ethic in track has helped him become stronger and also helped him stay focused.
“I’m very proud of all that he’s done. He’s worked hard and now he’s achieved what he set out to do,” she said.
Kenard’s had the opportunity to work with coaches Mike Williams, Rodney King, and Jimmy Dillard while being a part of the Vikings program.
King said the athlete’s dedication has paid off and he’ll be difficult to replace.
Dillard said he saw potential in Kenard his sophomore year and knew he could be successful if he put the work in.
“And he did,” Dillard said.
“Jimmy (Dillard) really worked with Kenard and helped him improve and stay injury free. It has a lot to do with his training because to be able to perform at that high of a level for the time he did isn’t easy,” Williams added. “For the past 10 ten years Jimmy’s had a good run with the 800 crew. He’s been able to train that half-miler and that’s vital in a high school program.”
The coaches’ say it isn’t just the points and speed they’ll miss from Kenard, although each agree it will take three to four athletes to bring in what Kenard pulled in at each meet.
“He set the standard for others. He’s developed a presence on the team that gives everyone the confidence to go after it,” Williams said.
King added, “He wouldn’t run slower to stay with others, he made sure they ran to him.”
Amanda Dodson can be reached at (336) 813-2426 or on Twitter at AmandaTDodson.