GRANITE CITY — Tommy Giacobbe was glad he came out for the Edwardsville boys' track team for the first time this year.
“It’s definitely a different experience,” the Edwardsville senior said. “This year, it has been amazing for me. I can’t help but appreciate it.”
Giacobbe has been one of the key athletes in the Tigers’ outstanding season. The defending Class 3A state champions have won several meets, including Thursday’s Southwestern Conference championship meet.
“We have some crazy athletes,” Giacobbe said.
Edwardsville won the eight-team meet with 164 points, making it the third year in a row the Tigers won the league title. East St. Louis was second with 145, O’Fallon finished third with 96, Belleville West was fourth with 85, Collinsville placed fifth with 59 and Belleville East was sixth with 46.5.
Juniors A.J. Epenesa and Travis Anderson each won conference titles in two events.
Epenesa finished first in the discus in 190 feet, 9 inches and the shot put in 57-2. Anderson won the 110-meter hurdles in 13.96 seconds and the 300-meter hurdles in 38.3 seconds, finished in a tie for second with teammate Justin White in the high jump (6-3) and was part of the 400-meter relay team that finished second.
“A.J. keeps getting better in the shot put,” Edwardsville coach Chad Lakatos said. “He broke his old meet record in the discus. I can’t say enough about Travis. I put him in the high jump for the first time all year and he goes 6-3 and he wins the 110 hurdles and the 300 hurdles. He had a great third leg in the 4x100. He had an unbelievable day. Your great athletes are the ones who step up in big meets like this and both of those guys did just that.”
Also on Thursday, the Alton Redbirds finished seventh with 45.5 points. It’s the second year in a row the Redbirds placed seventh in the SWC meet.
Senior Zack Llewellyn earned his first all-conference honors in track after placing second in the discus in 145-4 and third in the shot put in 51-9. The 1,600-meter relay team of juniors Arie Macias and Tony Dobbins and seniors Keenan Stegall and Harrison Henderson earned an all-league award after placing third in 3:25.81, edging Belleville West by 0.15 seconds.
“We’re pretty happy with those,” Alton coach Jeff White said. “Those are the things that we were eyeballing as events to take up to state. Performing well in our conference is a good step toward that happening. We’re really pleased with our anchor (in the 4x400), Tony Dobbins. He fought at the end and was able to catch up and pass Belleville West at the end. It was a great race and it was fun to watch. “Zack has been great on the shot put and discus. He keeps getting better and getting stronger in every meet.”
Llewellyn said he was pleased with his performance at the conference meet.
“I got out there and my first throw in discus, I ended up throwing pretty well,” the Alton senior said. “That ended up carrying me through the meet. All throughout the meet, I had to do my best.”
The Granite City Warriors placed eighth Thursday with 40 points. The 3,200-meter relay team of seniors Ron Allen and Juwan Riggins, junior Will O’Keefe and freshman Andrew O’Keefe won with an 8:03.33. Will O’Keefe finished third in the 800 in 1:57.30 and Andrew O’Keefe placed second in the 1,600 in 4:30.14.
Granite City won a conference title in the 4x800 for the second year in a row. The Warriors beat East St. Louis by four seconds.
“The 4x800 was great,” Granite City coach Tom Miller said. “We were hoping to get under 8 (minutes), but we had great legs from all four of them, Will, Ron, Juwan and Andrew. I think they surprised East St. Louis.”
Allen said he was thrilled to be part of a winning relay team in the conference meet.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” he said.
Giacobbe earned all-conference honors in two events — the 400 and 4x100. He finished third in the 400 in 51.76 seconds and helped the 4x100 team place second with a 41.86.
“I’m pretty proud of myself,” Giacobbe said. “I usually run the 400 and 4x100. We had really good handoffs and we ran a really good race.”
Besides Giacobbe and Anderson, senior Seth Jacobs and junior Devonte’ Tincher also were on that 4x100 team. The 4x200 team of Jacobs, White, junior Jason Queen and sophomore Matt Swanson finished third in 1:31.09. The 4x800 team of sophomores Holden Potter and Wyatt Hennig and freshmen Jacob Davis and Jonah Durbin finished third in 8:38.08.
Tincher placed second in the long jump in 22-3 and third in the 200 in 22.25 seconds, senior Desmond Chappel finished second in the shot put in 55-1, junior Bruce Wachowski was third in the discus in 142-5 and sophomore Blake Nevelle finished third in the pole vault in 13-1.
Edwardsville scored points in all 18 events.
“We knew we had a challenge in front of us with East St. Louis, but our kids were great competitors today and they didn’t give up,” Lakatos said. “We scored lots of points in the field events and it carried over onto the track. So we had a great day and we couldn’t be happier for the kids at this point.”
Giacobbe, who played four years with the Edwardsville boys' soccer team, was influenced by one of his study hall teachers, Tom Wencewicz, to try out for the track team this spring.
“He talked about it all of the time, so I figured I would give it a try,” Giacobbe said.
Giacobbe quickly became one of the Tigers’ top performers in the sprint events. Besides the 400 and the 4x100, he also competes in the 4x200 and 200.
“I originally came out to do the 400 and that’s generally what soccer players usually run,” Giacobbe said. “But he (coach Lakatos) put me in other events.”
Giacobbe, who plans to attend Southern Illinois University Edwardsville next year, said he wished he another year to compete with the Edwardsville boys' track team.
“If I had more training prior to this, I definitely could be up there with Devonte and all of them,” Giacobbe said. “I’m making a decent contribution, I think.”
EHS, Alton, Granite City and the rest of the SWC teams will be back in action at 2 p.m. May 20 at the Class 3A Collinsville Sectional for a chance to qualify for the state meet.