Parkwood Track Teams Competing At High Level

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At A Glance

Parkwood High

Coach: John Tillman and Matt Riggins

Between The Lines: Tillman is in his first year as head track coach after being a volunteer coach in 2016. … Parkwood hosted a track meet for the first time in 10 years earlier this spring. … Parkwood will host the conference track meet on May 4.

Parkwood High track is riding high as both the boys and girls track teams are having a solid season in the school’s final year as a Class 2A school. Parkwood will move up to Class 3A next year and coach John Tillman is optimistic that the Rebels can compete with the likes of Weddington, Marvin Ridge and Cuthbertson.

“It’s been really exciting and I am thrilled with the way the kids have embraced our program,” Tillman said. “Last outdoor season, we finished near the bottom of our conference. It’s been a lot of hard work, but it has been a lot of fun. I am excited about the rest of the season.”

Distance runner Phillip Abernathy is having a stellar spring as the senior leads the Rocky River Conference in the 800 and 1600-meter runs. Abernathy has clocked a 2:04.48 in the 800 and a 4:38.17 in the 1600, which is almost 20 seconds faster than the next closest time.

“Phil is one of the few seniors that we have,” Tillman said. “He is very reliable.”

Freshman Mason Piddock gives the Rebels points in the 3200 with a second-best time of 11:47.81

Kenan Waltower leads at talented group of sprinters as the junior has the second best time in the conference in 100-meter dash (11.25) and is sixth in the 200-meter dash. Zach Barksdale and Travon Morrow are tied for fourth in the conference in the 100′.

“Kenan has been out best sprinter this outdoor season,” Tillman said. “He helps our relay teams, too.”

Caleb Lee is third in the conference in the 200 while Barksdale is next in fourth. Lee also leads the conference in the high jump with a best leap of 6-0.

The Parkwood girls 4×200 relay team of Kennedie Gaither, Netanya Linares, Trista Taylor and Brianna Nachtigal won the Class 2A State Championship at the indoor event in February and they hold the fastest outdoor times in both the 4×200 and 4×100 relays this spring.

The Parkwood foursome has clocked a 49.38 in the 4×100 and a 1:44.42 in the 4×200. The 4×800 relay team of Blakely Boryczewski, Andrea Jauch, Haley Brock, and Anna Bristle have the top time in the conference with 10:51.34.

Taylor, Gaither and Nijhe Akerele hold the top three spots in the 100-meter dash, respectively. Gaither is tops in the 200 while Taylor is second in the event.

“Trista Taylor has had some PRs in the 100 this year,,” Tillman said. “We have some really good sprinters. We believe we can compete with anyone.”

Linares is running the hurdles for the first time and she leads the conference with a 15.51. Linares also is tops in the pole vault with a top vault of 9-6.

“I introduced hurdles to her and we worked on it for three out four months,” Tillman said. “She has one of best times in the state in outdoors. She also long jumps, so she has a lot going for her.”

Junior Anna Bristle leads the conference in the 1600 and 3200-meter runs and her 3200 time of 11:13.27 is over a minute better than second-place Lefler McManus of West Stanly.

“Anna Bristle is incredible,” Tillman said. “She is mentally tough. She is really an asset to the team and she is a leader, too.”

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Paul Nielsen
Nielsen was a sports writer for what is now the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for nearly 32 years before moving to North Carolina in February 2016. At the Democrat-Gazette, Nielsen's primary responsibility was beat coverage for Rogers High School. Rogers is a Class 7A school located in Northwest Arkansas.
Nielsen, a University of Arkansas graduate, covered the Northwest Arkansas Naturals Minor League Baseball team from 2008-2015. The Naturals are the Double-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.
Nielsen has experience covering University of Arkansas athletics, including NCAA Tournament basketball games and several football bowl games. He also covered amateur and professional golf tournaments in Northwest Arkansas.
Nielsen lives in Matthews with his wife, Susan. He can be reached at