High School Sports

Cahokia track coach Leroy Millsap elected to state Hall of Fame

The mastermind behind one of the top boys high school boys track and field programs in the nation, Cahokia coach Leroy Millsap will soon be receiving the ultimate honor.

Millsap, 53, recently was notified that he has been elected to the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame and will be inducted with the rest of the Class of 2015 in a ceremony on Jan. 9 at Oak Park-River Forest High School

Always one to shy away from personal accolades, Millsap said he was surprised when he got the letter last week from Co-Hall-of-Fame Directors Bruce Ritter and Steve Currins. But the soft-spoken Millsap is humbled by the honor.

“I’m only 53, which I think is a little young to be going into the Hall of Fame,” Millsap said with a smile. “But if the people who nominated me and the other coaches feel I’m deserving, I thank them. It’s a tremendous honor coming from your peers.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have the chance to work with an excellent coaching staff and great kids at Cahokia High School. Hopefully, I’ve still got a few more years left.”

With the help of that staff and the talented athletes of Cahokia, Millsap has built a true track and field “superpower” in the past decade.

In the past 11 years, Cahokia brought home a top-three trophy from the HSA State Track and Field Meet in Charleston 10 times. Cahokia, which has won the last five Class 2A state crowns, also won AA state titles in 2006 and 2007. The Comanches have also placed second twice and third once. The only year they did not win a trophy was in 2008, placing fourth.

Led by one of the premier track and field athletes in the nation in senior Ja’Mari Ward and several other potential NCAA Division I athletes, the Comanches are heavy favorites to extend their state title streak to six in ‘16.

Millsap, a former world-class athlete in the triple jump and former rival of the legendary Carl Lewis in high school and college, said that while he has had the opportunity to coach great athletes at Cahokia, the Comanches’ success goes much deeper then just talent.

“Having talented athletes is just part of it. There are a lot of talented athletes. There are a lot of great athletes walking the halls who don’t become successful athletes,” Millsap said. “Here at Cahokia we’ve been very fortunate to have good athletes who have bought into what we’re doing here and trained and done the work we’ve asked of them in order to be successful.

“Plus I think winning and being successful has something to do with it as well. Kids in the school see the trophies and our state championships and they want to be part of it. Our numbers (enrollment) aren’t great compared to a lot of the other schools in the area. But the kids who are on the team are here and have success because they do the work in the classroom, in the weight room and on the track, that we ask them to do. It isn’t easy.”

The Hall of Fame ceremony is held annually and in conjunction with the ITCCCA Clinic. Other members of the Class of 2015 are Tom Akers (Eastern Illinois University), Teresa Burgard (Kankakee), Jeff Butler (Monticell0), Monica Dawson (Chicago Morgan Park), Debbie Hinchcliffe (Homewood-Flossmoor) and Dan Iverson (Naperville North).

Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean