After breaking meet records in the discus in his last three outings, Edwardsville junior A.J. Epenesa simply went where few high school athletes in the event have gone before on Saturday at the Winston Brown Track and Field Invitational.
Taking advantage of near ideal conditions, Epenesa hurled the discus 206 feet 5 inches — the best the nation this season — and the second best in state history to lead the defending Class 3A state champion Tigers to the team title.
In breaking the 200 foot mark for the first time in competition, Epenesa said it was something had been wanting to do for a while after working hard to improve his technique in the ring.
state markI knew it was a good throw but thought it was probably in the 190’s because that’s what I’ve been throwing,’’ Epenesa said. “I was a little surprised it was 206 feet. But everything was good. We’ve been working hard on my technique.
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“It’s a rush. It’s like a (quarterback) sack in football or a dunk in basketball. I’ve been wanting to go over 200 feet so it feels good to get it today at this meet. I guess we’ll have to come up with another goal.’’
The next mark Epenesa will likely be after is the state record of 208 feet 11 inches set in 2009 by Dan Block of Lake Park.
But Epenesa wasn’t the entire story for Edwardsville, which welcomed back standout hurdler Travis Anderson. Anderson, out since early in the season with a stress fracture in his right ankle, won both the 110 and 300 meter hurdle titles for Edwardsville, which finished the day with 175 points.
Cahokia, the five-time defending Class 2A state champions, got three wins from Ja’Mari Ward in the long jump, triple jump and the 200 meters, finished a distant second with 128 1/2 points. O’Fallon was third with 128 points.
Edwardsville also got individual wins from Blake Neville (pole vault) and freshman Max Hartmann in the 3,200 meters.
For Edwardsville coach Chad Lakatos, the thought of getting Anderson back and having Epenesa at top form in the discus to go along with a good group of distance runners and athletes in the sprint relays, provides hoe that his squad may be rounding into shape for the postseason. The Madison County Meet is this week, followed by the Southwestern Conference Meet in a little over two weeks.
“I’m pleased. We knew it was just a matter of time before AJ came up with a big throw and that’s what he did today,’’ Lakatos said. “Having Travis (Anderson) back I thought gave us a boost today and I thought he looked good. He had a personal best in the 300 hurdles (38.80) seconds and we think he’ll just continue to be even better coming down the stretch here.
“We’re getting close to the time of year when you want to get everybody ready for the postseason. This was a good day. I was happy with the effort.’’
Cahokia, still competing without several key athletes, was led by Ward, who won the triple jump with an effort of 47 feet 9 inches and the long jump at 24 feet 4 inches. Ward also won the 200 meters but was nipped at the wire by Triad senior Adam Nelson in the 100 meters in a battle of two of the state’s top sprinters.
Tyran Lyons was the Comanches other champion as he took the 400 meters.
“That was Tyran’s first 400 meters this season and I thought he did fine,’’ Comanches coach Leroy Millsap said. “We’re still without some kids but today was good because we had a chance to run some of the freshmen and sophomores in the relays and see what they could do. ‘’
Collinsville’s Bailey Crone won the high jump with a leap of 6 feet 5 inches, while third place O’Fallon got wins from Joey Black in the 800 meters and Chris Conrad in the 1,600 meters.