DOVER — Somewhere, Jim Blades is beaming with pride.
“He’s smiling up there,” said Lake Forest High boys’ track and field coach Freddie Johnson.
The Lake Forest boys captured the Division II outdoor state championship on Saturday for the first time since 1987, back when they were coached by the legendary Blades.
Dover made it a sweep for the Henlopen Conference in boys’ competition, winning the Division I title on its home track. It’s Dover’s first outdoor state title since 2004.
Padua Academy took top honors in the Division I girls’ meet while Hodgson Vo-Tech won its first girls’ Division II championship in school history.
As the awards were passed out on the infield, Johnson talked about how special Blades, who passed away due to prostate cancer in 2004, was to him. Blades guided the Spartans to two state titles in boys’ and two in girls’ state meets during his tenure at Lake Forest. The school’s stadium now bears his name,
Blades coached Johnson’s father and Johnson ran for Blades as a student at Lake Forest. Johnson also did his student-teaching under Blades and was an assistant coach for him.
“It makes it very special because I always put on our shirts ‘We not me’ and I put ‘Blades’ at the bottom,” Johnson said. “That’s something that he always tried to instill in us — it’s about the team not the individual. In the past we’ve had a tradition of being a strong track program and these kids have worked hard and these coaches have worked hard to get back to that.”
Senior Henry Miller paced the Spartans with a pair of first-place finishes. He won the high jump with a leap of 6-foot-4 before a victory in the 300-meter hurdles (39.0 seconds) and also finished second in the 110-meter hurdles (15.05).
John Flamer, another senior, won the shot put on Friday and gave the Spartans more key points by coming in second in the discus on Saturday. Vaeshon DeShields brought home another individual title for Lake, running a time of 49.87 in the 400.
The team of DeShields, Austin Lonski, Tavon Guy and Travon Guy won the 4x200-meter relay for Lake in 1:30.09.
The Spartans ended with 142 points, enough to hold off Tatnall (117) and Mount Pleasant (114).
“Coach Johnson said all we had to do was come out and perform like we have all season and we’d be state champions,” Miller said. “I had trust in Coach and I’ve seen my teammates work hard at practice, we cry, throw up together at practice. We’ve all been together for four years, this is a great group of seniors and I’m going to miss this.”
The Dover boys were boosted by the return of senior hurdler Mykele Young-Sanders.
Young-Sanders was sidelined for the last month due to a quadriceps strain. The first time he touched a track in a month was during Friday’s preliminary hurdles events.
Still, Young-Sanders won his fourth-straight 300-hurdle crown in Division I and also won the 110 hurdles (14.59).
He was held out of some relay events but Dover didn’t need him. The Senators had 127 points to beat second-place William Penn, which had 81.
“It’s just really special,” Young-Sanders said.“For them to do as well as they did without me doing four events, it’s just so awesome. Seeing them do it on their own was special because I tell them all the time they can do anything they set their minds to.”
“We’re a team,” said Dover coach Jim Solomon. “He was down a little bit and we still won as a team. The underclassmen did a great job of picking up fourths and fifths and that’s what it takes.”
Wining the title was a feeling of redemption for the Senators, who lost last year’s championship to Caesar Rodney by 10 points despite beating the Riders in a dual meet and winning the Henlopen Conference crown.
Dover, which also won the boys’ indoor state championship this year, only won one other individual championship on Saturday. That was courtesy of Deontray Hickman in shot put who helped lead a group of field athletes who recorded a combined 62 points.
“That made me feel proud because I knew I did the best for my team.” Hickman said. “We knew we could do this if we put in the hard work for it. We were here last year but messed up on some things. We fixed the mistakes we made and went out and did it.”
Both boys’ pole vault champions were from downstate — Cape Henlopen’s Sam Young (15-6) in Division I and Milford’s Adam Funkhouser (13-9) in Division II.
Shantell Kargbeh (triple jump) and Myrissa McFolling-Young (discus) led the Smyrna girls to a third-place finish in Division I with an invidual title each. Caesar Rodney also had a pair of champions as the Riders finished fifth with Zoe Scott winning the pole vault and Jeannette Bendolph taking the 800.
Milford placed ninth in Division II for girls as the highest downstate team. The Buccaneers were represented by Davida Johnson, who won the long jump and Patricia Delva who won shot put.