Known and well-respected as one of the best high school track and field coaches in the nation, Leroy Millsap of Cahokia and his Comanches track squad have a date with history again this weekend in Charleston and O’Brien Stadium on the campus of Eastern Illinois University.
It’s one they don’t plan on breaking.
Led by the premier high school athlete in the nation in the triple jump and long jump in junior Ja’Mari Ward, the Comanches will be out for a fifth straight state championship beginning with the Class 2A preliminary round on Friday morning. Cahokia, which edged Maple Park-Kaneland 90-84 to win the state championship a year ago is the only team in state history to score 90 or more points more than once.
Ironically, the first time came two years ago when Cahokia set the state record for points by a team with 99 1/2 while waltzing to its third consecutive championship. This year, with the likes of Burlington Central and possibly Mississippi Valley Conference champion Highland posing the biggest threat to their reign, the Comanches aren’t concerned with points.
For the Comanches it’s all about rings.
“What happened two years ago, scoring 99 1/2 points..... I still think about that once in a while. To miss being the first team to score 100 points by 1/2 point.....’’ Millsap said, laughing. “I’m not concerned with points this year. Just as long as we have one more than everybody else at the end of the day, I’ll be happy.
“I keep hearing how this is Burlington Central’s year. I know they’ve got a number of very good athletes and I think Highland has a chance of being there too. THey have a top sprinter in (Tyler) Higgins. But I think we’re ready. We’re healthy and like I’ve said all year, this is a very self-motivated group of kids. We gave them the day off on Monday, but they were here working out on their own. And everybody was here.’’
The 2015 state track meet kicks off on Thursday with the Class 1A preliminary round of competition at 11 a.m. The Class 2A prelims begins at 8 a.m. on Friday with the Class 3A athletes taking the field at noon. The finals are set for 10 a.m. on Saturday.
Madison senior Andre McGill appears to be the metro-east area’s top hope in Class 1A. A two-time state indoor champion in the fall, McGill had one of the top five best times in the state a week ago in sectional competition in both the 100 and 200 meters.
Wesclin senior Justin Goff is also a top threat in the 200 meters while Althoff’s Kaleb Simmons has one of the best 400 meter times in the state at 50.62 seconds.
While Ward, who has already won two state championships during his first two years, is a heavy favorite in both the long jump and triple jump, the Comanches are loaded across the board.
Cahokia has the top time in both the 400 and 800 meter relays and are ranked in the top five in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter relay events. Senior Korrion Session is ranked in the top five and a threat to win one or both the 110 and 300 meter hurdle championships, while senior Keveion Akins is highly ranked in the 100 and 200 meters.
Junior Seandre Vinson is one of two Comanches high jumpers who could contend, while junior Daniall Akins is seeded second in the shot put put.
“The goal is to win the state title and everybody is focused on that goal,’’ Korrion Session said after the Triad Sectional last week. “As long as we all do our best, we’ll be fine.’’
Other top Class 2A athletes to watch this weekend include Waterloo senior Lance Mueller in the 1,600 meters. Mueller has the top time of 4:19 heading into the preliminaries.
Highland’s Logan Geiger is ranked in the top five in the long jump, while Triad junior Adam Nelson has one of the top 10 times in the 100 meters and is part of a 1,600 meter relay team which is ranked in the top five.
While Cahokia is the favorite in Class 2A, Edwardsville will be one of the teams to beat in Class 3A while East St. Louis could also possibly be in the trophy hunt late Saturday afternoon.
Edwardsville heads into the state preliminaires with three athletes with top performances. Sophomore A.J. Epenesa has the best effort in the discus at 184 feet, while Travis Anderson and Belleville East junior William Session are ranked 1-2 in the 110 meter hurdles.
The Tigers are also seeded first in the 400 meter relay, while East St. Louis and Belleville round out the top three times heading into the preliminaries, Tigers senior Wes Schoenthal has the second best time in the 800 meters — 1:53.2.
East St. Louis is led by junior Roosevelt Davis who is ranked second in the 400 meter relay, while sophomore Delano Anderson is currently ranked eighth in the 300 meter hurdles.
Belleville West senior Ricky Nelson could be the medal hunt in the shot put as could Collinsville’s Bailey Crone in the high jump.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.