BELLEVILLE — There have been better Class 3A track and field teams in Illinois during the past five years then the Belleville West Maroons.
Coached by former O'Fallon athlete Jay Ivory, (Roselle) Lake Park has won the last four state championships and (Elmhurst) York won the state title in 2009 and also has a pair of runner-up finishes during that time span.
But with the exception of Lake Park, no team in the state has been as consistent as Belleville West in the past five years. And nobody has been better in the relay events.
In 20 Class 3A relay events in the past five years, West has earned medals 16 times and, along with Lake Park, is the only team to place in the top six in the team competition each year.
"We take great pride in what we've been able to accomplish. It takes a group of hard working coaches and talented and hard working kids and we've been very fortunate to have those types of athletes in the past few years,'' Maroons coach Patton Segraves said. "We stress doing well in the relays and because we've had success the kids have bought into it. Would we like the one athlete who is going to score 25 to 30 points at the state meet? Who wouldn't? We've had individuals do well in the jumps and hurdles in recent years. But our success has been in the relays.
Sixth in the state finals a year ago, Belleville West should be among elite again this season. The Maroons return seniors Evan Alcorn and Josh Freivogel from its 3,200 meter relay team eighth a year ago and three thinclads each from their 400, 800 and 1,600 meter relay teams which earned medals.
Among those who will run in the relays are juniors Romello Hatter, Aaron Jackson and Dominic Davis. Freivogel, the Southwestern Conference champion in the 400 meters a year ago, is also a key part of the Maroons 1600 meter relay team.
Among those vying to help out in the relays are Antione Davis, Deshon Buchanan, Jalen Foster, Brian Hill and Brandon Harris. Segraves said that several of these same athletes will run in the individual sprint events.
Freivogel and Alcorn (800 meters) will be among the best in the area in their events, while freshman Ricky Berry could be the Maroons next top athlete in the hurdles.
Berry is the younger brother of standout Belleville West girl athletes Imani and Jasmine Berry.
Junior Ricky Nelson is coming off an injury, but could be among the Maroons best in the field events and will compete in the shot put and discus.
But like usual, the Maroons' power will be in the relays.
"We've run some good times indoors, but it's a long season. We've got two months to improve to where we want to be when its time for the sectional and state meets,'' Segraves said. "If everything goes like we hope it will, we'll be in the running for a top finish again.
"If we have a good day and maybe win a title or two, then we're looking at maybe being in the trophy hunt for a top three finish.''
Maroon girls look good
With the possible exceptions of perennial SWC and state powers Edwardsville, O'Fallon and East St. Louis, it's hard to imagine three better track and field athletes on one team then Jasmine Berry, Kelsey Shannon and Ni'Jia McNamee of Belleville West.
And Abrea Hopson isn't bad either.
The Maroons version of the Fab Four will need to be at their very best this season if the Maroons are to contend in the SWC and possibly be in the running for a state trophy by the middle of May.
Berry could be one of the top athletes in the midwest in the 100 and 300 meter hurdle events, while Shannon (high jump), McNamee (400 meters) and Hopson (100 and 200 meters) are capable of top five or better finishes at the state finals.
"Jasmine has concentrated on just track and field and she looks phenomenal for this early in the year,'' Belleville West coach Paul James said. "She won the 60 meters at the Carbondale indoor last week and we just need to keep her focused and healthy.
"Ni'Jia should be dynamite in the 400 meters and in the relays and we're hoping this is the year Kelsey (Shannon) puts it together and wins the high jump.''
Three athletes West were counting heavily on in 2014, are no longer on the team. Claudette Day (hurdles/long jump/high jump) graduated early and is now competing at Northern Illinois University. Tatyana Lewis (100, 200 and relays) moved to Georgia and Imani Berry (hurdles, jumps and relays) is concentrating on basketball this spring.
"Imani is still on the roster and the door is open if she decides to come out,'' James said.
Seniors Anna Fishbein and Kristian Goerger (field events) and Brittany Luster (800, 1,600 meters) are also expected to play key roles for Belleville West, while freshmen Dejah Campbell and Monisha Clark will help out in the relays.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org