NC Athletes In London
6:05 pm
Fri August 24, 2012

NC Athletes In London

As of this afternoon, the U.S. is second in the Olympic medals ranking, right behind China. But how is North Carolina doing in the Olympics?

WFAE's Kalie McMonagle joined Mark Rumsey in the studio with the answer.

RUMSEY: Kalie, Charlotte is home to a professional swimming team - SwimMAC - and I know several of those swimmers are in London. How have they done?

MCMONAGLE: Ricky Berens is probably the best known local swimmer. He started swimming at the Olde Georgetown pool here in Charlotte with his mom as coach. Now he's competing in his second Olympics. In Beijing four years ago, he was on the U.S. freestyle relay team that won gold.

This week in London, Berens and another North Carolina swimmer - Cullen Jones - won a silver medal in the 4 by 100 meter freestyle.

Cullen Jones - who attended North Carolina State University, by the way - went on to place fifth in the 50 meter freestyle yesterday - not quite enough for a medal, but impressive anyway.

As for Ricky Berens - just after winning that silver for the relay, he announced he's retiring. Says he's had enough of swimming competition.

RUMSEY: What about female swimmers from North Carolina? Any luck for them in London?

MCMONAGLE: Well, they've had some disappointments. Three-time Olympian Kara Lynn Joyce failed to even qualify for the 50 meter freestyle semifinals today. And yesterday, Micah Lawrence finished 6th in the 200 meter breaststroke.

RUMSEY: Now, Charlotte's got some paddlers in London too, right? They train at the White Water Center and the Olympic Trials for kayaking and canoeing were held there this year.

MCMONAGLE: Yeah, we've got three athletes in that category out of North Carolina, but none of them were able to make it the semifinals.

Casey Eichfeld of Charlotte, competed in the men's canoe singles, but only placed 14th in the first round. Eric Hurd's a North Carolina kayaker - he placed 12th in the first round of kayaking doubles - not enough to advance.

And then there's kayaker Caroline Queen who moved to North Carolina to attend Davidson College and train at the Whitewater Center. She was the youngest woman to make the U.S. National Team.

Unfortunately, she didn't make it into the kayaking semifinals. When I spoke to her today from London, she said the course was totally different from anything she'd every competed on.

"The drops are very one after another. A lot of courses tend to have one steep drop and then kind of a flat, then a drop and flat. This course is almost at a constant decent. Which is both really challenging and really fun," Queen says.

She'll compete in the U.S. National Championships in September, but isn't sure if she'll be aiming for another Olympics.

RUMSEY: Well, we seem to attract athletes in water sports here in Charlotte. Any local athletes competing on the ground in London?

MCMONAGLE: A couple of recent graduates from Johnson C. Smith University are quite the buzz right now.

Leford Green and Shermain Williams are both in London competing in the 400 meter hurdles for Jamaica.

They came to Charlotte to run for JCSU after their high school coach from Jamaica became the school's head track and field coach. His name is Lennox Graham and when I spoke with him earlier this week, he said he was pleased - but not surprised - that two of his star runners followed him here to Charlotte.

"They both wanted to come with me. Leford started with me as 400 meter runner running at :48 seconds. Within a year and a half he was running :45. So he did not want to go anywhere else, he just wanted to continue working at his craft with me," Graham says.

That runner he mentioned - Leford Green - qualified for the 400 meter hurdles today and will compete in the semifinals tomorrow. Shermain Williams will face her first heat on Monday.

And Lennox Graham, their coach, says he'll be eagerly watching it all from his home here.

RUMSEY: Very interesting. Thanks for the roundup Kalie.

MCMONAGLE: You're welcome.

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