BY CHAD DARE
A year ago, the Danville Vikings shocked the Big 12 Conference.
Danville nipped Decatur MacArthur to claim its first boys track and field title in more than a decade.
The Vikings will try for the repeat tonight and they will do so on their home track at the Wayland-Young Athletic Complex.
“It’s going to be great to host a big meet like the Big 12 Championships in front of the home crowd, but we don’t have the same team this year,’’ Danville coach Steve Luke said. “We lost a lot of points with Cirron Clark and Josh Robinson graduating. We’ve got some guys back that will score really well, but we’re not nearly as deep.
“Our expectations are to lay it on the track and see what happens.’’
The overwhelming favorite, according to Luke, are the Bloomington Purple Raiders.
“Bloomington is loaded,’’ Luke said. “They are probably one of the top teams in the state when it comes to 2A teams.’’
Leading the way for the Vikings tonight will be the distance duo of Johnny Leverenz and Caleb Hummer.
Leverenz is the top-seeded runner in the 800- and 1,600-meter races, while Hummer is in the top four of the 1,600 and 3,200 events.
“Johnny is going to have a real good race with the (Nathan) Allyn kid from MacArthur,’’ said Luke, noting that the top four in that event have all ran at or under 2 minutes this year.
Both Leverenz and Hummer had key roles in the Vikings Big 12 Championship last year as did junior Dakota Gash, who is seeded fourth in the 300 hurdles.
“He is capable of dropping another second, which could put him second or third in that race,’’ Luke said. “He ran an outstanding race last year, helping us to win the conference title as a sophomore. I expect a good night from him.’’
Another performer that could come up big for the Vikings is Lonnie Buggs in the 110 hurdles and the long jump.
“Lonnie has been dealing with a sore back all year, but his time in the 110s has been dropping recently,’’ Luke said. “And if he’s feeling good, he could pop a 21-foot long jump to get us some big points.’’
Realistically, Luke knows the Vikings are facing a tough task trying to repeat as conference champions.
“It’s been a season of ups and downs for us,’’ he said. “Lately, we’ve had a number of things go wrong that has hurt our depth.
“But, the best thing for us is that the meet is on our home track, and our guys really run well here at home.’’
And why is that?
“We are real proud of our facility and we are real proud of our tradition,’’ Luke said. “We will make Danville proud with the kids that we will have on the track.’’
Tonight’s action is set to begin at 4:30 p.m.