They came of age this season. The Roxana Shells boys’ track team celebrated its most successful spring in years. And senior multi-purpose performer Jeddah Gallego was right in the middle of it all.
The 5-foot-9, 160-pounder stirred the Shells and qualified individually for the Class 2A IHSA state meet in the 100-meters. His efforts in boosting Roxana earned Gallego the AdVantage News’ Boys Track Athlete of the Year.
“ It was my best year,” said Gallego, also a wrestler for coach Rob Milazzo’s Shells.
Yet it was track where he made his biggest moves. Gallego played a big part in helping Roxana win the Green Division title of the Madison County Meet for the first time since 1975. The Shells also shared the girls’ title with Metro East Lutheran, giving them two county championships for the first time in school history.
Roxana track coach Juli Akal said Gallego’s contribution to the team was immense. He was the guy the Shells could lean on when they needed to register some points. They also finished second in the East Alton-Wood River Co-Ed Relays, third in the South Central Conference chase and third in the Roxana Relays.
“ Jeddah is an exceptional hard worker,” Akal said. “Things have not always been easy for him and his family, and he struggled with a back injury that at one point nearly ended his career.
“ One doctor told him he would never run again.”
Gallego didn’t let that back injury derail him. He worked at it and vowed to be at his best. It showed his senior season.
“ I enjoy competing and this year there was great competition,” Gallego said, referring to the Springfield Lanphier Sectional and state finals.
The Shells competed against larger schools in Springfield, but Gallego came through in the 100-meters. He turned in a time of 11.08 seconds and finished second to Highland’s Tyler Higgins. He didn't qualify for the second day of the state finals. Nevertheless, he savored the experience.
“ I was ecstatic to get an opportunity to go to state,” Gallego said. “I had to miss graduation to compete in the sectional, but I really wanted to run in it. After I finished the sectional race, I hugged one of our coaches."
He carried that kind of enthusiasm on his shoulders all season. His best times included: a school-record 10.8 in the 100-meters, 22.68 in the 200-meters and a Roxana record of 44.28 in the 4x100-meter relay. Gallego served as the anchor on that 4x1 team.
His top outing could have come in the county meet. He won the 400-meters, was runner-up in both the 100 and 200 and anchored the victorious 4x4 relay.
“ My favorite meet was the county meet,” said Gallego, also a cross country runner. “I felt good about my season, just knowing that one of my goals was to make my mark at my school. The biggest influence on me, inspiration for me were my coaches.”
Akal added, “Through all of Jeddah’s struggles, he has kept his focus on his goals and worked very hard to achieve them. He played other sports, but track has always been where he excelled the most. He has been a great example of work ethic.”
Gallego isn’t certain what he’s going to do next year.
“ I’d like to go to college and compete in track. I know I could improve on my times as a sprinter and maybe even do the long jump,” he said. “I’m just looking for an opportunity.”
If he gets that chance, Gallego figures he can plot his future. “I’d like to be a coach,” he said.
Akal senses that Gallego has the skills to serve as a future mentor.
“ He will be greatly missed next year by the underclassmen who looked to him for leadership this year," she said.