On the walls of the cramped office of Cahokia High School athletic director Roscoe Dowell are a few souveniers of past achievements of Comanches athletic teams.
Now the 51-year-old Dowell has one to add of his own achievements.
A native of Cahokia and 1982 graduate of the school, Dowell has been named as the winner of the Illinois High School Track and Field Coaches Association Girls Track and Field Coach of the Year for the 2014 season.
Tired of taking a back seat to the Comanches nationally-ranked boys program, which has won four straight Class 2A state championships under coach Leroy Milsap, the girls program also reached the pinnacle of Illinois track last spring when it nipped Normal University High by seven points to win its first Class 2A state title.
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“Actually, I found out about it a while back. It’s a very nice honor,” Dowell said. “First of all, you’ve got to have great, hard-working assistants and I have that. (Coach) Greg (Crockett) was my coach when I competed over 30 years ago. You aren’t going to find better a better track coach.
“And then you’ve got to be blessed with great athletes. We are fortunate in that we’ve got a number of outstanding athletes right now who have the ability to and the work ethics to be the best.”
A year ago the Cahokia thinclads used a pair of second-place finishes from Daisha Townsend in the shot pot and discus and the overall brilliance of Raynesha Lewis and freshman Mariya Hudson to post the narrow win.
Lewis and Hudson both placed in three individual events and combined for 35 of the Comanches’ 61 points. Hudson, regarded as one of the top freshmen in the Midwest a year ago, won the 400 meters and placed third in the 200 meters. Lewis was in the top three in both the triple jump and long jump and also placed in the 100 meter hurdles.
Lewis is a junior and Hudson is a sophomore this year as Cahokia heads into the start of the indoor season next month as the favorite to repeat its state title in late May in Charleston.
Lewis is currently sidelined with a foot injury and may not be at full strength until midseason.
“We’re going to take it easy with Raynesha. We’re not going to push her too fast,” Dowell said. “Mariya looks good and we’ve also got Earlicia (Shaw) and a few other really strong athletes. We also have a freshman sprinter coming in who we think is really strong in both the 100 and 200 meters.
“We’re going to have very large target on our backs this year. Winning one state title in track and field in Illinois is a great accomplishment. Winning two in row would be amazing. What our programs have been able to do in the past few years is it tells kids and their families that you can be successful and win state championships in Cahokia. You don’t have to leave the city.”