East St. Louis boys track coach Barry Malloyd fully expected the Flyers’ much heralded and nationally-ranked 4x200 relay team to break the state mark of 1 minute, 25.7 seconds some time during the 2016 season.
On Saturday at the Collinsville Invitational, some time arrived.
Continuing to stake its claim as a strong contender for the Class 3A state title in three weeks, the Flyers broke their own 41-year-old mark in the 4x200 event as part of another solid performance as it edged Southwestern Conference rival and defending Class 3A state champion Edwardsville and five-time defending Class 2A state champion Cahokia for the team title at the annual Collinsville Boys Track Invitrational.
East St. Louis, which set the previous mark in 1975, blazed to a time of 1:25.64 seconds. The overall performance, which also included wins in the 400 and 1,600 meter relays and a victory from junior Delano Anderson in the 300-meter hurdles, were the highlights of the day for the Flyers, who finished with 92 points, four more than Edwardsville, which got another huge day from junior A.J. Epenesa.
“It’s been a long time coming. Four years for this relay team,” Malloyd said. “I think we all knew we would run this kind of a time in the 4x200 relay this year. We just thought it would be in Charleston in three weeks.
“I’m also very proud of Delano (Anderson). He’s a young man who does the right things both on the track and in school. He’s another one of our kids who have worked to get to this point. We’ve still go some things to clean up in the field events and some other areas on the track. But as of right now, I’m pleased at where we are. We’re right about on schedule.”
Anderson won the 300 hurdles in a time of 38.1 seconds while the 400 meter relay team (41.63) and 1,600 meter relay team (3:17) also had strong days for the East St. Louis thinclads.
The Flyers completed a sweep of the relay events by taking the 3,200 meter relay.
Epenesa, Anderson pace Edwardsville
While Anderson looked strong in the 300 hurdles, Edwardsville’s Travis Anderson took the 110 hurdles in a time of 14.03 seconds.
But as usual it was junior Epenesa who led the way for the Tigers.
Epenesa, who had the top throw in the nation in the discus 206 feet, 5 inches at the Winston Brown Invitational last month, now owns two of the top five throws in the country this year after winning the discus with a mark of 203 feet, 11 inches.
Epenesa also placed second in the shot put with an effort of 54 feet, 7 inches.
McRoberts highlights an emotional day for Cahokia
The nation’s top combination athlete in the long jump and triple jump is Cahokia senior Ja’Mari Ward and the senior won both on Saturday, but suffered what could be a serious leg injury after having his left leg buckle after his winning jump of over 47 feet in the triple jump.
Ward was in pain as he laid on the Collinsville High School turf field. He was carried off the field. There was no announcement on the severity of the injury.
While Ward’s injury could be a devastating blow to the Comanches’ hopes of a sixth straight Class 2A state title, the return to form of senior Anthony McRoberts was a true bright spot for Cahokia.
McRoberts, headed to Illinois State University, won the high jump with a leap of 6 feet, 11 inches and placed second in the triple jump and fourth in the long jump. Like his 6-11 effort in the high jump, McRoberts effort of 22 feet, 8 inches in the long jump was a personal best.
“It’s just a matter of competing more after I missed the first four weeks of the season with injuries,” McRoberts said. “I’m healthy now and feeling strong and good. I’m looking do do even better in my events the rest of the year.”
Other outstanding efforts
▪ Adam Nelson, of Triad, in the 100 meters. Nelson won for the second time in three weeks in his battle with Ward in what could be a prelude to the state finals. Nelson, who beat Ward in the Winston Brown Invitational, finished with a time 10.69 seconds — a new school record — while Ward finished in 10.71.
▪ Tyler Higgins, of Highland, in the 400 meters and DeShon Buchanan of Belleville West in the 200 meters. Higgins shook off a slow start and rallied to win the 400 meters in a time of 49.01 seconds while Higgins won the 200 meters in a really loaded field with a time of 22.2 seconds.
Other local winners included Chris Conrad of O’Fallon who took the 800 meters in 1 minute, 54 seconds.
Edwardsville finished second with 88 1/2 points, just ahead of Cahokia (88). Lyons Township (65) and Belleville West (54) rounded out the top five teams in the meet.