KINSTON, N.C. (WITN) – Kinston triple jump state champion and future ECU student-athlete Niejel Wilkins is our newest WITN Pepsi Player of the Week!
The track and field team at Kinston High School is one big family. In fact, the Vikings are led by Corey and Crystal Bryant. Together, the brother-sister tandem is taking the program to new heights.
This year, the duo helped Niejel Wilkins claim the 2A state title in both the indoor (46'3) and outdoor (48'9.25) triple jump.
"I felt pretty special," said Wilkins on winning both state titles. "I completed one of my dreams that turned into one of my goals."
The senior will continue his jumping career at ECU in the fall.
"Growing up, I wasn't always able to have somebody around with me," Wilkins explained.
"No one gave him anything," Corey Bryant added.
"It always wasn't a big deal for me to be by myself to work hard," Wilkins said.
"You see the kid who put in the work," said Bryant. "He pretty much took what he wanted. The total package."
Wilkins is the first track and field athlete from Kinston High School to ever sign a national letter of intent to go D-I.
"Knowing that I had the chance to do something great, I decided that I needed to push myself a little harder," said Wilkins. "I just got stronger because I knew it took a lot of strength to really get far in this event."
Wilkins started jumping less than two years ago. In fact, he ran the 800 as a freshman and sophomore before switching events during his junior year.
"He was in the weight room all day long, every day," explained Bryant. "Got stronger. After school running hills behind the stadium, flipping tires on rainy days when all the other kids would go home. He would be the only kid out here working and getting stronger on his craft."
Now ECU is on the horizon, but his lasting impact at Kinston will be felt for years to come.
"He definitely left his mark," said Bryant. "Breaking school records, breaking regional records, state championship records. He definitely set the mark high."
For more on Wilkins, check out the video above! (Feature airs Tuesday during WITN Sports at 6:20 p.m.)
NOTE: If you have a student-athlete that you would like to nominate as a WITN Pepsi Player of the Week, please email a bio to Tyler Feldman at firstname.lastname@example.org.