East St. Louis native Kevin Anderson said his first year as the Belleville East Lancers boys track and field coach was a new experience in more ways than one.
Young and inexperienced in many events, the Belleville East thinclads struggled at times in the highly competitive Southwestern Conference. What Anderson learned quickly is much is involved in being a head coach for a perennial Class 3A track power.
“It was a new experience and I learned that there is a lot more involved when you are a head coach, especially all the paperwork,” Anderson said. “As an assistant at Belleville West, most of what I did was coaching. It was an adjustment.
“This year, I’m more comfortable with the job. I have a routine I go through and I am much more organized now. There will always be things that will come up, but now I’m more prepared to hand them when they occur.”
Led by junior standout William Session in the 100 meter hurdles, the Lancers should be a better track team in 2015. The Lancers will make their outdoor debut on Saturday when it competes in the rugged Southwestern Illinois Relays at Edwardsville High School beginning at noon.
Session, son of former East St. Louis track and field legend Rodney Session, is primed for an excellent junior season after a superb summer where he competed in national caliber events all over the nation.
Session placed third at the USA Track and Field Junior Nationals in Texas in the 110-meter high hurdles. He also competed in New Mexico at the Great Southwest Classic and at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore.
“In Eugene, William competed against some of the top collegiate hurdlers in the nation from places like UCLA, USC, and Oregon and he missed making the finals by one spot. For a high school athlete to do that is impressive,” Anderson said. “We had a dual meet with O’Fallon the other day and he ran 14.3 (seconds). For his first outdoors meet of the year to run a 14.3 is pretty strong.”
Other standouts returning for the Lancers are Xavier Hall, Sanchez Rhodes and Shaltres Midgette, all in the 400 and 800 meter events. Junior Kenny Stringer is another athlete who has looked good in the 400 and 800 meters in the early going.
Senior Romajion Smith and junior Brandon Truss are two of the Lancers sprinters while freshman Dontez Pitman is another potential state-caliber athlete in the hurdle events to go along with Session .
Freshman Micah Panek is a versatile athlete Anderson has high hopes for in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races.
“We’ve got a good group of kids in the sophomore and junior class and I really like what I see in the freshmen group,” Anderson said. “Xavier (Hall) is an athlete who just missed the qualifying for state in the 800 meters by less then a second an I know how focused he is this year.”
In the field events, freshman Quin Alexander leads the way. Alexander jumped 20 feet, 11 inches in his first meet last week,
Belleville East girls
For the Lancers girls squad, it all begins with seniors Sidne’ Williamson and Maya Dorsey.
Williamson, already one of the top athletes in the state in the 200 meters, is taking aim on becoming one of the best in the long jump as well this season, while Dorsey, a state qualifier in the 300 hurdles last season, should be among the best in the St. Louis area in that event again this year.
“They both look very strong so far this season,” Lancers coach Bryan Mitchell said. “Sidne’ didn’t compete in the long jump at sectionals last year but she has already jumped qualifying distances and Maya got off to a great start in our first meet when she won the 60-meter hurdles and placed second in the 400 meters. There is no doubt that those two young ladies will be big keys to our success this season.”
Seniors Ja’Nique Brown and Rebecca Humphrey have been very impressive in the discus and shot put events, while seniors Ciara Gresham, Deja Davis and Maronjanie Jones will lead the way in the sprints.
“Deja was a member of our relay teams which qualified for state a year ago and she looks very strong,” Mitchell said. “Ciara (Gresham) is a young lady who is a first-year track and field athlete who has been competing in gymnastics. She ran the 60 meters at the the Eastern Illinois University Indoors meet and finished second so we think she’ll be able to help us as well.”
Juniors Sarah Gompers, Haley Inyart and Kaitlynn Sanchez are among the top distance runners in the Lancers program while junior Tamar Mosby is a potential state qualifier in the high jump. Mosby has already cleared 5-2 indoors.
Freshman Isabel Burwitz is another top middle distance runner looking to make her mark.