High School Sports

Brawl leads to cancellation of conference meet, end of East St. Louis track season

Willie Johnson, center, was one of the favorites to win at the IHSA state track meet before the Flyers announced they wouldn’t participate.
Willie Johnson, center, was one of the favorites to win at the IHSA state track meet before the Flyers announced they wouldn’t participate. News-Democrat file photo

The Southwestern Conference boys track and field meet has been canceled and so has the remainder of the East St. Louis High School track and field season

Southwestern Conference Commissioner Bill Schmidt confirmed Thursday that the meet, suspended on Tuesday as a result of a fight in the stands, will not be completed.

East St. Louis High School also announced Thursday it has suspended the remainder of its boys track season. The Flyers were considered contenders for the Class 2A championship, as were several of their individual athletes.

Administration from the SWC members schools met Thursday to discuss the fate of the conference meet. They issued the following statement:

"Due to time constraints, the availability of venues, and the required logistics attached to a meet of this magnitude the SWC will be unable to reschedule the meet which was canceled on Tuesday. Obviously we are disappointed that athletes will lose this opportunity, but we wish those who are competing in the IHSA State Series the best of luck."

When reached for comment late Thursday afternoon, Schmidt said the representatives did not discuss what precipitated the incident at East St. Louis High School.

"The reason for the meeting today (Thursday) was to see if we could hold the Southwestern Conference boys track meet. We dd not talk about what went on in the stands,'' Schmidt said. "I believe East St. Louis High School officials are still investigating what went on."

The decision by East St. Louis administration to cancel the remainder of its season stems from an incident that came early in the competition on Tuesday at Clyde Jordan Stadium. Spectators began fighting in the stands and several East St. Louis athletes began fighting as well.

After meeting, officials decided to suspend the meet until SWC officials could meet to discuss the situation.

On Thursday, the Flyers' program, one of the most successful in state history with 11 state championships, ended its season one week before sectional competition. The Flyers placed second in the Class 3A State Track meet a year ago and, after dropping in enrollment, were considered one of the favorites to win the Class 2A state title in two weeks at O'Brien Stadium in Charleston.

Following the decision to end its boys track and field season, East St. Louis District 189 issued a statement.

"While the investigation is still ongoing, it has been confirmed that members of the Flyers track team contributed to the escalation of the altercation at the meet held on May 9, 2018. Therefore, we are ending the boys’ track season immediately," the statement reads. "Further consequences will be given to individuals involved in the incident, in accordance with our discipline policy. Our Code of Conduct outlines expectations of student behavior; the actions that some student athletes engaged in on May 9th do not uphold our values. Hopefully, this will be a learning experience for all of our students and athletes.

"Safety remains the top priority for District 189. We constantly evaluate and adjust our methods for improving the safety for students, staff and patrons at our athletic and our public events. Additionally, the East Sr. Louis Police Department has committed to making a stronger presence at all future sporting events and we are reaching out to the state police and the Sheriff's Department to request their presence as well."

In addition to having its chance of a team state championship come to an end, several individual East St. Louis athletes will not have their shot to win state championships. The Flyers had the potential to go 1-2 in the 400 meters with senior Deante' Anderson and sophomore Willie Johnson. East St. Louis was also going to be a state contender in the 400-, 800- and 1,600-meter relays.