Marcus Jegede knows the drill by now: Lake Park is the track and field team the rest of the state is chasing.
The Lancers were the defending Class 3A champs when Jegede arrived as a freshman in 2011 and that’s what they’ve been every year since. Last spring they became the fourth school to win four consecutive state titles and this year they’re aiming to become the first to five-peat.
“It’s a love-hate relationship, I think,” Jegede said of Lake Park’s great expectations. “I love the hype and I love the pressure. But at the same time, sometimes the pressure can get to you.
“You know everyone is expecting you to do so well and when you don’t … it’s very disappointing.”
The Lancers did especially well last year when they won state by 30 points over runner-up Providence. That was a senior-dominated team, and of the nine athletes who won medals, only two return: Jegede and junior Antonio Shenault.
But the two of them give the Lancers a leg up on their quest to make history this season.
Jegede was third in the triple jump and ran on the seventh-place 400-meter relay team a year ago. He’ll be counted on to do as well or better in those events this season, along with the long jump and 100 meters.
Shenault was one of 2013’s breakout performers, taking third in the 110 high hurdles in his first year of running the event.
One of the quirks of Lake Park’s early titles in this run was the team’s heavy reliance on field events. Even last year, the Lancers’ winning formula skewed that way as they got points from two pole vaulters, two triple jumpers, a discus thrower and multi-talented Scott Filip in the high and long jumps.
But the Lancers have been becoming more balanced, a trend Jegede says will continue in 2014.
“That’s the plan,” he said. “We are trying to diversify ourselves because things are changing. We need points everywhere.”
Last week’s Top Times indoor state meet offered a glimpse of where some of that scoring might come from. Besides Jegede’s triple jump title and Shenault’s runner-up effort in the 60 hurdles, Lake Park’s 3,200 relay team took third.
“Our distance kids are off the charts,” Jegede said. “They’re going to be amazing this year.”
What also is remarkable is Lake Park’s depth. In recent years, some promising individuals have missed competing in the postseason because there was so much talent ahead of them — especially in the throws and jumps.
That’s the case again, according to Jegede. “We have kids who can step up if we need them to,” he said. “Hopefully we don’t need them to too many times. But they’re there.”