The 400-meter dash at the Class 1A Lisle boys track and field sectional meet was the final installment in the rivalry between North Shore Country Day junior James Lovett and U-High senior Boluwaitfe Johnson.
The two ran against each other frequently in 400s over the years, and for the most part Johnson edged Lovett. Friday was different, though. Lovett ran a second faster than he did last year and a half second faster than he had throughout this year and topped Johnson for fourth place, edging his rival 52.06 to 52.51.
“It just shows that when it matters most I run the best,” Lovett said.
While he came close, Lovett didn’t reach the qualifying standard (51.74) and missed out on a state berth. The top two finishers automatically advanced to state.
Lovett is a tall runner (6-foot-1) with a “beautiful stride,” said North Shore coach Patrick McHugh. Throughout the season, Lovett usually ran four events, but at the sectional he ran just two (the 4×100 relay and the 400) so he had his legs underneath him.
“I think he’s just got a natural ability towards the 400 and he’s beginning to have more and more of a passion for the event,” McHugh said.
In the fall, Lovett said he plans to play football. He’s a wide receiver, defensive back and linebacker for North Shore. Lovett said he also intends to get out on the track more in the offseason and not only train with running 300s to improve his 400, but also run longer distances to increase stamina.
His stated goal is to win state, of course, but running under 50 seconds in the 400 is something he wants to accomplish as well. During the sectional meet he said that he started fast and was right with the leaders through the first 300 meters before fatigue set in. He pushed himself, though, and managed the personal record.
“I have the sprinting down,” Lovett said. “I just need to have the endurance to keep that sprinting up through the last 100.”
But next year, Lovett won’t have Johnson, who will be graduating, to push him. Though beating Johnson was a goal for Lovett, he said that he and Johnson are Facebook friends. The rivals hugged after the race.
“We’ve had such a great relationship,” Lovett said. “It’s really been fun getting to know him. It’s always been the two of us racing against each other, it’s been very fun for me and for him.”