The spotlight may have belonged to Cahokia’s Ja’Mari Ward, but it was the East St. Louis Flyers who brought home the big trophy from Thursday’s St. Clair County Boys Track and Field Meet at Belleville West High School.
Ward not only swept all four of his events – the long jump, triple jump and 100 and 200-meter dashes – he set two state individual all-time marks and a national record in the process.
The University of Missouri-bound senior opened his day with a leap of 25 feet, 6 3/4 inches in the long jump, bettering his own state all-time mark of 25-6 ½ he set at last season’s St. Clair County Meet.
Minutes later, after fouling on his first two attempts in the triple jump, Ward soared to a leap of 53-7 ½ shattering not only his own state record of 51-11, but the national mark of 52-10 1/2 set by Charles Mayfield of Pasadena Muir, Calif., in 1981.
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“I felt myself going farther than I ever had before,” Ward said of how he felt coming into the meet. “I knew if I did everything right before I hit the board, it could happen.”
Ward let out an emotional yell as he hit the sand. He knew he had done something special.
I felt myself going farther than I ever had before. I knew if I did everything right before I hit the board, it could happen.
Ja’Mari Ward, Cahokia senior and national record holder in the triple jump
“I was giving it everything I had on that jump,” said Ward, who owns three state championships in the triple jump and two in the long jump. “I was kind of showing off, I guess.”
Still, East St. Louis was able to end Cahokia’s five-year reign as county meet champs.
The Flyers, who swept the 400, 800 and 1,600 relays and received wins in the 400 from Delonte Anderson and William Keltee in the shot put, finished with 158 1/2 points, four points ahead of Cahokia. Belleville West was third with 115 and O’Fallon had 96 for fourth.
“It was no surprise to me,” said East St. Louis senior Rosevelt Davis, who anchored the Flyers to a time of 3 minutes, 15.97 seconds to win the 1,600 relay. “We knew if we all worked together and did our best, we had a chance.
“Cahokia’s a great team and they really push us, that’s what makes us both great teams. But we really reached down deep today, we really wanted this. It feels great to be county champs.”
East St. Louis coach Barry Malloyd offered an emotional response when hearing over the public address system that his Flyers had dethroned the Comanches.
Cahokia’s a great team and they really push us, that’s what makes us both great teams. But we really reached down deep today, we really wanted this. It feels great to be county champs.
Rosevelt Davis, East St. Louis senior relay anchor
“Hallelujah,” said Malloyd, raising his arms in triumph. “What a great effort by our kids. They’ve worked hard to get to this point and it’s always special to beat a team like Cahokia.
“We got some good performances out of our relays, they’ve still got some things to work on, but they ran well. Our 1-2 finish in the 400 meters was big and kind of set the tone for the second half of the meet. And we had a lot of kids who picked up points here and there to help make the difference.”
The Flyers won the 800 relay in a meet-record time of 1:26.43 and the 400 relay in 41.84.
Anderson earned East Side’s lone individual victory on the track, claiming the 400 in a time of 48.80, with teammate Sanchez Rhodes right on his heels in 49.19. A throw of 137-10 won the discus for Keltee.
Ward was not the only Cahokia athlete to shine. The Comanches got wins from McKinley Bell (shot put, 50-1 1/2), Chris Stanley (800, 1:58.98), Anthony McRoberts (high jump, 6-9) and their 3,200 relay (7:55.80).
McRoberts was seeing his first action of the spring since suffering a stress fracture in his foot at the indoor state meet in late March. He barely missed in his three attempts to clear 6-11.
“Give credit to East St. Louis, you’ve got to be on your game against them,” said Cahokia coach LeRoy Milllsap. “We were a little short-handed with injuries, but the kids we had out there competed very well.
“This meet is an important one for the kids, but they know what’s coming in the next few weeks is what really matters.”
What a great effort by our kids. They’ve worked hard to get to this point and it’s always special to beat a team like Cahokia. We got some good performances out of our relays, they’ve still got some things to work on, but they ran well.
Barry Malloyd, East St. Louis track coach
Belleville East senior William Session pulled off an impressive sweep of the hurdles. He ran a 14.18 to win the 110 hurdles and then had to rally to defeat East St. Louis’ Delano Anderson in the 300 intermediates. He finished that race in 39.61.
“That’s the race (300 IMs) I’ve really been working on,” said Session, who won last season’s Class 3A title in the 110 hurdles. “I know the Delano, the runner from East Side, was gunning for me, so I was going to have to step up my game.
“Even when I fell back coming out of the blocks, I knew I had to keep my arms moving and just finish.”
O’Fallon runners swept the individual distance events, Will VanAlstine running a 10:22.76 to win the 3,200 while the 1,600 went to Chris Conrad in 4:32.48. The Panthers’ Jonathan Whitaker cleared 12-0 to win the pole vault.