Despite a few bumps in the road during the 2016 season, the Edwardsville Tigers and Cahokia Comanches are right where they want to be heading into the final day of the Illinois High School Association state track and field meet.
And that is to be in contention to defend their titles.
Junior AJ Epenesa threw the discus further than any athlete ever has during the IHSA state finals — 205 feet, 11 inches — and broke his own school record in the shot put while junior Travis Anderson posted the best time in the 110- and 300-meter hurdle preliminaries on Friday to lead the way for defending Class 3A state champion Edwardsville on Friday at O’Brien Stadium in Charleston.
Epenesa — whose throw of 206 feet, 5 inches at the Winston Brown Invitational earlier this season was the best throw in the nation — has the discus title all but wrapped up as he owns a 25-foot lead over his closest competition heading into the final three throws on Saturday.
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Epenesa is currently in second place in the shot put after throwing a school record 60 feet, 4 1/2 inches on Friday. Epenesa placed second in the discus a year ago.
Anderson has the top time in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles while Edwardsville also qualified for the finals in the 400-meter relay and advanced three other thinclads into the finals which begin at 10 a.m. Saturday on the campus of Eastern Illinois University.
Defending 110-meter hurdles state champion William Session, of Belleville East, has the second fastest time in both hurdles races, while Lancers teammate Amani Franklin is currently fourth in the triple jump after juming 46 feet, 10 inches on Friday.
East St. Louis, which looks to send coach Barry Malloyd out with a state title, is also in the running after qualifying for the finals, while O’Fallon junior Chris Conrad had the second best time of the day in the 800 meters at 1 minutes, 53.02 seconds.
Belleville West senior Deshon Buchanan is the Maroons lone finalist after qualifying in the 200 meters along with Roosevelt Davis, of East St. Louis, while Granite City’s 3,200 meter relay is also in the finals.
If the Cahokia Comanches are to give up their state title after a five year reign, it won’t be without a fight after veteran coach Leroy Millsap’s crew advanced 10 entries into the finals. Competing without standout senior Ja’Mari Ward, the Comanches still made the finals in all four relays and had Illinois State University recruit Anthony McRoberts in the finals in the finals of the triple jump, long jump and high jump.
McRoberts cleared the mandatory 6 feet 3 inches needed to advance in the high jump, and he went 21 feet, 7 3/4 inches in the long jump and then he went jumped 47 feet in the triple jump. McRoberts heads into the final day in third place in the triple jump and fiftrh place in the long jump.
Senior Tyran Lyons also made the finals in the 400 meters for Cahokia.
The top Class 2A hope for an individual state championship could be Triad senior Adam Nelson. A DePaul University recruit, Nelson had the second best time in the 100 meters on Friday at 10.73 seconds and will also run on the Knights 400 meter relay team.
Waterloo senior Greysan Moehrs clinched a second straight medal in the 110 meter hurdles by qualifying for the finals, while his Bulldogs teammates earned a medal in the 1,600 meter relay by making the finals.
Freeburg junior Drew Wilkerson is in the finals of the 800 meters in Class 2A.