High School Sports

Johnson, relay team help East St. Louis dominate state track and field finals

Andrew O’Keefe wins state championship

Granite City senior Andrew O'Keefe won the Illinois Class 3A state championship in the 1600-meter run at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
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Granite City senior Andrew O'Keefe won the Illinois Class 3A state championship in the 1600-meter run at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.

When the East St. Louis Flyers needed a lift Saturday at O’Brien Stadium, the dynamic duo of Willie Johnson and Marcus Lampley provided it.

Johnson won the Class 2A state crown in the 400 meters, while Lampley rallied to finish second to help the Flyers take an insurmountable lead in the Class 2A team competition.

East St. Louis, which also won the 400- and 1,600-meter relays finished with 84 points, which doubled the 42 tallied by second-place Marengo.

“It feels amazing. Last year, not being able to compete, that was miserable. It was heartbreaking for all of us,” Johnson said. “This year, this weekend, today ... we were determined to get it back... Now, next year, we comeback and repeat.

“That’s the goal.”

Johnson, who also placed fifth in the 200 meters, finished with a time of 47.65 seconds in the 400, while his teammate and best friend, Lampley, was a close second in 48.17 for East St. Louis, which ran sway from the field in the late afternoon heat at Eastern Illinois University.

Following the 1-2 finish in the 400, East Side received a second-place finish from Jamariantte Burgess and a fifth-place finish from Andrew Johnson in the 300-meter hurdles, a runner-up finish from Lampley in the 200 and a championship in the 1,600-meter relay.

The team of Keontez Lewis, Andrew Johnson, Lampley and Willie Johnson finished with a time of 3:18.13.

The state title is the second in four years for East St. Louis, which won the title in 2016 and placed second in 2017. Last year, with hopes high, the Flyers had their season come to an abrupt end following a brawl in the stands during the Southwestern Conference meet.

On Saturday, the Flyers proved once again they have one of the premier programs in the nation.

“That was the plan. We ran him (Johnson) in two events throughout, knowing that when it came time for state, that we were going to need him three and probably four events,” Flyers coach Barry Malloyd said.

“Today was about vindication.. These kids were devastated with what happened last year and not being about to compete. Today was their day, and I couldn’t be happier or more proud of a group of young men.”

The Flyers didn’t wait long to make themselves heard in their return to the Class 2A state track meet finals. They matched the girls team, which last week won the state team championship.

Junior JaShawn Anderson ran a solid lead-off leg to help East St. Louis take home the gold in the 400-meter relay, as the Flyers put themselves in early contention for their first state team championship since 2016.

The Flyers’ team of Jashawn Anderson , Keontez Lewis, Nathaniel Robinson and Johnson finished with a time of 41.81 seconds, just ahead of Olympia Field Rich Central (41.99).

East St. Louis, which also received a third-place finish from Terrence Hargrove in the high jump and a fifth-place medal from Andrew Johnson, was in fifth place through seven recorded events with 25 1/2 points, eight behind leader Mahomet-Seymour.

Hargrove, a Saint Louis University basketball recruit who was runner-up in the balloting for Illinois Mr. Basketball after leading the Flyers to the Class 3A state title in March, had never competed in track and field until this spring. Saturday, the Flyers senior cleared 6 feet 7 inches to earn the third medal.

Eureka freshman Trevor Heffren won the high jump with a leap of 6-09, while Freeburg senior Zack Pluff was second with a jump of 6-08.

East St. Louis’ Willie Johnson wins the Class 2A 400-meter cash at the IHSA Track and Field State Finals on Saturday. [Photo: Chris Johns] Chris Johns Stlsportsphoto

“It is what it is. For the kid (Heffren), a freshman, to be able to go 6-09 is impressive. He’ll be one to watch the next three years,” Hargrove said. “Honestly, I came out for track to help the team and see if I could score some points in the field (events). To place third, I’m pleased. It proves I’m one of the best in the state.”

Several other metro-east athletes proved they are among Illinois’ elite as well.

In Class 3A, Collinsville junior Jermarrion Stewart placed second to Plainfield North’s Marcellus Moore in the 100 meters and 200 meters, while Belleville East freshman Elijah McCauley jumped 23-03.5 to place second in the long jump.

“I just wanted to do my best here this weekend,” McCauley said. “ I broke my personal best yesterday in the prelims, and I did it again today. My coaches really helped me out.”

While McCauley was a surprise for the Southwestern Conference, Stewart continues to elevate himself among the top sprinters in the Midwest, as he closed the gap against Moore in what has become one of the top rivalries in Illinois track and field.

After finishing 0.15 behind Moore in the 100 meter finals in 10.54 seconds, Stewart, getting words of advice from former Olympic champion Dawn Harper and her husband Alonzo Nelson Jr, lost at the wire in the 200 meter final.

Moore finished in 21.22 seconds while Stewart was second in 21.29 seconds.

“I thought about diving across the finish line, but I probably would have broke all my teeth,” Stewart said with a smile. “Of course, you want to win and to not do that... But I feel I’m getting closer. I feel like I’m doing my job.”

Belleville East senior Trison Paul was eighth in the Class 3A pole vault. Deonte McGoy, of Alton, placed sixth in the 100 meters, and Edwardsville senior Roland Prenzler was ninth in the 3,200 meters.