The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

March 12, 2014

Danville rallies to claim Big 12 title

Leverenz wins two individual events, anchors two winning relays


---- — BLOOMINGTON — Entering the final event of Tuesday’s Big 12 Conference boys indoor track meet, the Danville Vikings were within two points of first place.

So, coach Steve Luke turned to a pair of seniors, including Johnny Leverenz, the Class 3A state champion in last year’s 800 meters.

Leverenz and Jelani Day did everything they could but the Vikings came across the finish line second to Normal West, but the unthinkable happened. A member of the Normal West team failed to realize the 1,600-meter relay was still in progress and ran onto the track — impeding the anchor runner from Champaign Central.

Meet officials disqualified Normal West, giving the event victory to Danville and it allowed the Vikings to tie the Bloomington Purple Raiders, who finished third in the final event but moved up to second with the disqualification, at 112 points for the overall team title.

“Every year, Todd (Orvis) and I teach our kids about those type of situations,’’ Luke said. “That’s a good example of what can happen when you are not paying attention. We’ve been able to avoid that, because we take it very seriously. It’s a shame for Normal West.’’

And while the finish was a little unusual, it didn’t change the fact that Leverenz, who signed early this year to attend Butler University for cross country and track, had a spectacular indoor meet.

All he did on Tuesday was anchor the Vikings record-setting 3,200 relay, set a new conference record in winning the 800 and he cruised to a league title in the 1,600, while also trying to help a teammate place in the event.

“He tried to bring Jeremiah (Cooley) along to get those points,’’ Luke said. “Johnny is a leader by example. We came in thinking he would get three wins, and then we took a look at the meet records.

“They went out and got the 4-by-8 meet record and he ended up getting the 800 record.’’

But even after that, he was still willing to add the 1,600 relay into his day.

“I was feeling somewhat decent after those three events,’’ Leverenz said. “I knew that I could pull it off and I knew our team needed a fourth runner that was going to finish strong.’’

And Leverenz along with Luke credited Day, a fellow senior, for giving Danville the chance to win that final event.

“Those kids did all of that with guts,’’ Luke said. “He had a little problem this past Saturday in the Centennial meet, but he got it fixed.

“It was probably his leg in that relay that got us the conference title. Both he and Johnny said they wanted to run that race and I’m really proud of both of them for stepping up for the team.’’

Day was just coming off a third-place finish in the 200, which was won by Danville senior Trent Sherfield.

“Jelani was outstanding,’’ said Sherfield, who also won the triple jump. “Before the 200 race, we talked about how we had to get at least first and third to give the team a chance.

“Like our coaches at Danville High always preach, we are going to scrape and fight until the finish. That’s what we did.’’

In addition to his two event victories, Sherfield also finished second in the 60 and long jump events. He admitted that gave him a little extra motivation for the 200 and triple jump.

“I couldn’t get myself on the board in the long jump and losing that 60 was definitely weighing on my mind,’’ Sherfield said. “I used that aggression in my last two events.’’

In the freshman/sophomore portion of the Big 12 meet, Danville finished third in the team standings. Winning individual titles for the Vikings were Tyler Huckleberry (3,200), Jaiden Nelson (shot put) and Christian Rogger (60 hurdles).