Edwardsville senior AJ Epenesa began the outdoor track and field season Friday as he ended the 2016 season at O’Brien Stadium in Charleston last June.
Just 10 days after competing with the Edwardsville basketball team in the Class 4A super-sectional, and with only two days of practice under his belt, Epenesa opened his season with a winning throw of 190 feet in the discus and added a title in the shot put to help lead the Tigers to the team title in the boys division of the Southwestern Illinois Relays at Edwardsville High School.
The reigning Class 3A state champion in the discus, Epenesa put his athletic talent on display as he came with up with his winning throw on his first attempt of the year.
“Yeah, I’m pretty happy, especially with only two days of practice,” Epenesa said. “I was hoping to be a little more consistent, but with a few days of practice, it will come along.”
Epenesa also won the shot put with an effort of 53 feet, 1 inch, while Blake Neville won the pole vault and Devonte’ Tincher took home first place in the long jump with an effort of 22 feet, 11 inches for Edwardsville, which finished with 144 points, 41 more than runner-up Rockwood Summit.
O’Fallon, getting a win from Chris Conrad in the 1,600 meters, finished third with 91 points.
The Class 3A state runner-up to Southwestern Conference rival East St. Louis a year ago, Edwardsville competed without combination 110- and 300-meter hurdler Travis Anderson, who was bothered by tightness in his hamstring Friday.
“We’re not going to take any chances this early in the season,” Tigers coach Chad Lakatos said. “He (Anderson) had low back issues last year. These meets are basically a warmup to get us ready for the last three meets of the year — conference, sectional and state. That’s when you want to be at your best. Overall, I was pleased tonight. For AJ to come out with two days of practice and throw 190 feet is very impressive.”
Collinsville got a pair of wins from Trevore Sanders in the 100 meters and Juan Garth in the high jump.
East St. Louis wins girls division
The East St. Louis Flyerettes got wins from three individual standouts and dominated in the relays as they won the girls title at the relays.
Junior Rokelle Stanley won the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 45.1 seconds, while Evangeline Harris and Jazzmine Poole took the title in the discus for coach Nino Fennoy’s Flyerettes, who finished with 114 points to defeat Southwestern Conference rivals Edwardsville (87) and O’Fallon (84).
Fennoy said that state titles by the football and boys track teams have taken East St. Louis’ expectations to an even higher level.
“With what the boys track team did it raised our level and then with what the football team accomplished in the fall, it just took it that much higher,” Fennoy said. “We’ve had some good performances in our indoor season, but this was our first big outdoor meet of the season. I was pleased at how we did.”
Cahokia senior Mariya Hudson won the 100 meters in 12.2 seconds and took the long jump with a leap of 18 feet, 10 inches.