Victories in seven individual events and a first-place, 130-point showing in the Class 1-A Sectional at St. Rita gave the Leo Lions track team high expectations for this year’s IHSA state meet, but they weren’t fulfilled.
The Lions never found their bearings against one of the strongest 1-A fields assembled in recent years and managed just 2 ½ points in state competition at Eastern Illinois University on May 23-25.
The points came from senior Darius Oliver, who tied for seventh place in the high jump with a best effort of 6-feet-4, one inch off his sectional-winning performance. To illustrate the talent of the field, Jordan Tedford of Warrensburg West Latham won the event by clearing 6-feet-10, a meet record.
Oliver and fellow senior Devin Flakes were the only Lions to survive Thursday qualifying and reach Saturday’s finals. Oliver’s 21-6 ½ in the long jump was good for 12th place, but no points. Flakes went 42-7 ¼ in the triple jump, finishing 10th but also earning no points.
None of Leo’s other individual competitors or relay teams made it through to Saturday’s finals, a fourth-place finish in its heat by the 4-x-100-meter relay marking the best showing.
On a brighter note, nine of the 12 competitors Leo brought to the state meet are underclassmen, including multiple-event qualifiers Tobias Sample, Dorian Woods and Pierre Miller. The lessons they learned and the experience they gained should serve them well next year.