High School Sports

Edwardsville edges East St. Louis for Class 3A boys state track title

Edwardsville’s AJ Epenesa competes for the Class 3A discus throw title at the IHSA track and field state finals Saturday, May 27, 2017, in Charleston.
Edwardsville’s AJ Epenesa competes for the Class 3A discus throw title at the IHSA track and field state finals Saturday, May 27, 2017, in Charleston. Chris Johns

Edwardsville senior AJ Epenesa repeated as state champion in the discus, and senior Travis Anderson won both the 110- and 300-meter hurdles, as the Tigers nipped Southwestern Conference rival East St. Louis for the IHSA Class 3A boys state track and field team title.

Despite battling hamstring injuries for much of the season, Anderson won his second-straight state championship in the 110 hurdles, finishing with a time of 13.79 seconds. The University of Nebraska recruit then added the 300 hurdles crown with a time of 37.83.

Anderson’s win in the 300 hurdles gave the Tigers a comfortable lead over East St. Louis, and when DeVonte’ Tincher placed fifth in the 200-meter (21.97), it gave Edwardsville 42 points, enough to clinch its second title in three years.

“It’s awesome, man,” Anderson said. “I knew I needed to win the 300 (hurdles) to help the team. As I stood at the (starting) line, I just told myself that this was my last race in high school, my last race here (O’Brien Stadium) and that I needed to give it everything I had. To win both the 110 and 300 hurdles and win the state title in my last high school meet ... what a way to go out.”

Defending champion East St. Louis won the 1,600-meter relay to clinch second place with 39 points. Edwardsville was second to the Flyers a year ago.

Meanwhile, Epenesa repeated for the state discus championship in dramatic fashion.

Trailing John Meyer, of Lockport, entering the final three throws Saturday, Epenesa failed to reach Meyer’s throw of 189 feet, 5 inches on his first two attempts. But with the pressure on, Epenesa responded with a winning toss of 197-11. Epenesa, who won the title a year ago, clapped his hands in celebration as the throw landed.

“I knew it (the throw) was out there, and I didn’t think he (Meyer) would be able to pass me on his last throw. He’s a great competitor, and he makes you raise your level,” Epenesa said. “I was feeling the nerves a little bit on the last throw.

“I just wanted to be able to help my team, and I knew that every point was going to be important.”

Edwardsville’s Travis Anderson competes in the Class 3A 110-meter high hurdles title race at the IHSA track and field state finals Saturday, May 27, 2017, in Charleston. Chris Johns Chris Johns

The Tigers also received a third-place finish from senior Matt Griebe (14.59) in the 110 hurdles.

The team title ends a remarkable four-year span for the Edwardsville seniors, who placed second in the state finals in 2014 and 2016 and won the titles in 2015 and 2017.

“What this group of seniors has been able to accomplish in their four years at Edwardsville High School is just tremendous,” Tigers coach Chad Lakatos said. “We’re all competitive people, and to win a state championship is what you work for from the time you start in January until now. I’m just so happy for these kids because we’ve had to go some adversity this year.”

East St. Louis also knows about adversity. The Flyers struggled a bit in the preliminaries Friday but bounced back Saturday — and they needed a strong effort in the relays to do it.

The Flyers won the 1,600 relay as the team of Deonte Anderson, Reyondous Estes, Willie Johnson and Joshua Tolson finished with a time of 3:14.76.

East St. Louis also placed third in both the 800 relay and 400 relay.

The team of Anthony Bartley, Jarell Anderson, Tolson and Delano Anderson finished with a time of 1:27.08 in the 800 relay. Bartley, Jarell Anderson, Malcolm Bell, and Deonte Anderson had a time of 41.98 in the 400 relay.

Deonte Anderson (48.35) also placed second to Luis Cossio (48.33), of Barrington, in the 400-meter.

Flyers coach Ramon Johnson was happy with the team’s performance.

“First of all, let me congratulate (Edwardsville) coach Chad Lakatos and his staff and athletes. To be able to finish one-two at state for the second year in a row shows how much talent we have in the Southwestern Conference,” Johnson said. “We didn’t have a very strong day in the prelims on Friday, so for the kids to come back and perform the way they did today, I’m pleased.”

The Flyers also got a fifth-place finish from Delano Anderson (14.59) in the 110 hurdles and an eighth-place finish in the 3,200 relay (7:48.93).