The most complete season from an Orange runner in over 25 years is now complete.
At least it is to many outside observers. For junior Gabriel Schmid, there’s still unfinished business for his senior season.
For now, Schmid has become the first Orange High runner to win at state title at the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3A State Outdoor Track and Field Championships in 25 years.
On Friday afternoon, Schmid finished first in the 3,200 meters, capturing the state title with a time of 9:14.94 at the Irwin Belk Track and North Carolina A&T University. He beat runner-up Eli Julian of East Rowan to the finish line by just over five seconds. Julian came in at 9:20.39. Harper Clark of West Johnston finished third at 9:34.07.
Schmid becomes the first runner to win a state championship in outdoor track and field for Orange since 1998. Bradsher Wilkins was named the Most Outstanding Performer at the 1998 state championships after he captured two state championships in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters.
That’s precisely why Schmid feels like Friday was triumphant and incomplete all at once. Schmid finished second in the 1,600 meters, which is basically one mile, behind Clark of West Johnston. Schmid led for most of the race until the final mile. He crossed the finish line at 4:20.05, just behind Clark’s time of 4:18.36.
Schmid’s time in the 3,200 meters was 20 seconds faster than his race last year in the state championships.
Winning the 3,200 meters has been elusive for Orange runners over the last few years. Last year, Schmid finished second in the 3,200 meters, coming up behind Austin Brotemarkle of Forestview. In 2021, Spencer Hampton led most of the way in the 3,200 meters before he was passed on the final lap by Walter Williams’ Ryan Motondo, who finished three seconds ahead of Hampton.
“I think Spenser was here today,” Schmid said afterwards.
In November, Schmid won the 3A Cross Country individual state championship at the Ivey Redmon Sports Complex in Kernersville. Last week, Schmid won the Mideast Regional championship in the 3,200 meters at Franklinton High School.
On Friday, Schmid had to deal with the elements. A torrential storm left behind plenty of water for athletes in all competitions to deal with. The rain had just stopped by the time Schmid started to run the 1,600 meter final.
“The track was just flooded with water,” Schmid said. “There were puddles everywhere.”
Schmid’s cross country championship was in November. His first state track and field championship was in May. Yet both races were run in warmer climates, something that Schmid actually preferred.
“I was heat training over the past two weeks,” Schmid said. “I was running in the hottest part of the day. In a way, I was prepared for the heat. But at the same time, I hadn’t run in the rain, which no one really likes to do. So I don’t think anyone was really prepared for that. I was prepared for the worst and I think I prepared the best I could.”
Last year, Schmid only qualified for one event in the state championships. Looking to become an elite runner, he spent the summer in grueling training throughout the southeast. He attended the Brevard Summer Distance training camp where he ran through the craggy terrain in a mountainous region. He also ventured to West Virginia for a Ragnar relay race.
“That 3.200 race last year was very much a strategy race,” Schmid said. “It is very much who is the tougher runner based on who can survive in that heat. So looking to this year, I qualified for two events. I placed second in the mile. I won the 3,200 meters by six seconds. I feel like I’ve come very far.”
From the very first week of the high school sports season last summer, Schmid has established dominance. At the Early Bird Cross Country Challenge on August 20 at WakeMed Soccer Complex in Cary, Schmid finished first among 178 competitors. He went on to win the Central Carolina Conference championship and the Mideast Regional Championship before earning the state title in Kernersville.
Schmid is just the third Orange High runner in school history to win an outdoor state track & field state championship. In addition to Wilkins, Alvis Whitted won the 100 and 200 meter dash in the 1993 state championships. Following a run in the U.S. Olympic Trails and a successful career at N.C. State, Whitted went on to a nine-year career in the NFL. He is the only Orange Panther to play in a Super Bowl. Whitted suited up for the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Whitted recently became the wide receivers coach for the Utah Utes after a lengthy stint at the University of Wisconsin.
Yet Schmid is still aiming for more. He wants to break the 3A State Record for the 3,200 meters, which is 9:11, a record that has stood since 2010.
“There’s higher expectations,” Schmid said. “But to put it into words and to put it into the track is a whole other thing.”
That’s why he’s headed to California to run in another event next week. For Schmid, there truly is no finish line.
Also in the state outdoor championships, Ja’Ki McDaniels of Orange finished 13th in the long jump at 19-feet, 4.25 inches. Orange senior Isaiah Seymour came in 14th in the triple jump at 39-feet, 1.50 inches.
In women’s track and field, Orange junior Grace Pell finished ninth in the high jump with a leap of four-feet, ten-inches. Iyauna Justice finished 13th in the shot put at 31-feet, eight inches.
Cedar Ridge sophomore Naomi Dyreng, who won three regional championships at Franklinton High, came in seventh in the 1,600 meters at 5:24.62. Cedar Ridge sophomore Abigail Klaitman came in 13th in the same race, crossing the finish line at 5;52.63.
Dyreng also ran in the 3,200 meters. She finished eighth at 11:48.81. Klaitman finished 13th in the 3,200 at 12:24.81.
Cedar Ridge junior Typhany Cheek finished 14th in the long jump with a leap of 15-feet.