It was chilly. It was gloomy. It was not an ideal forecast for a track and field event held in the spring. But Wednesday, St. Joseph didn’t let that deter them as they got their mantra from part of their moniker — fight.
The Fighting Irish traveled to Canton Academy, the host site, for the MAIS district championship and did not disappoint. By the time the crew had loaded the buses to return to Greenville, one dozen athletes had qualified for state competition in over 20 different categories. In order to qualify for state, athletes had to place in the top four as they battled Manchester Academy, Benton Academy, Greenville Christian and Porter’s Chapel.
Leading the way was senior, A.J. McCloud. After an impressive showing in the triple jump, McCloud went on to punch his ticket to the state competition in the 100 meter dash and the 200 meter dash. He gained some assistance from his team to also qualify for the 4x200 meter relay as well as the 4x400. McCloud came in first place in the 100 and 200 meter dash. Head coach John Baker was quick to point out how much McCloud’s success has influenced the entire unit. “He’s the backbone of the track team,” Baker said. “He makes everything go. He’s a special kid. He’s fast, very fast. Just a natural runner.”
Roury McCloyen continued to wow onlookers as he inched closer to breaking a state record in shot put. The sophomore sensation placed first with a 51’9” throw and added to his impressive career after capturing a state title as a young eight grader two years ago. He’s natural,” said head coach John Baker. “He’s a good thrower. He’s been throwing his whole life basically and he set a goal for himself to break the record a few years ago after he won the state championship as an eighth grader. He came out of nowhere to win the state championship on his last throw. Ever since then, he’s been trying to build on that to try and break the state record. He’ll have the rest of this season and two more seasons to break the state record. He’s just so competitive.”
A.J. McCloud, Phillon Johnson, Jarrian King and Omar Emmons took home first place in the 4x200 meter relay. Even though the crew cruised in the district meeting, Baker believes they haven’t even reached their full potential yet. “Our times are not good right now,” he said. “Our handoffs aren’t as fluid as they need to be. We’re at a bit of a disadvantage because we don’t have a track. We don’t have a pit to go high jump and long jump in and all that kind of stuff. We kind of just run around the football field and run in the neighborhood behind the school. It makes it hard to get everything just right. If we improve our handoffs, it could really be special.”
Along with the aforementioned athletes, the Fighting Irish will have a host of other athletes vying for a south state title next week, including CJ Moore, Elese Serio, Jamal Bryant, Clayton Hensley, Victor Baker, Jacob Venuti and Chase Hensley.
Overall, the Fighting Irish finished third behind Manchester Academy and Benton Academy in the district championship. South state championship track meets begin Wednesday for 1A, 2A and 3A programs. It will be held at Canton Academy as well. The overall events are slated for May 1.