College of DuPage track teams record a double-double
A year ago, Akira Lebron was sprinting for the Glenbard North girls track and field team.
A year later, she jumped and threw the College of DuPage women's team to its second National Junior College Athletic Association Division III national championship in a row. The Chaparrals' men's team equaled that accomplishment.
Funny thing is, Lebron wasn't even sure she was going to participate in track in college. When she made her decision to go forth, she figured her main events would be the 200- and 400-meter dashes. But fate would intervene, as she developed shin splints in COD's indoor season.
"I was out all of indoor season, and when I got started again, in order to keep injuries away, I focused on jumps rather than sprinting," she said.
Good decision. She finished in the top six in the long jump, high jump and triple jump in the meet held May 12-14 in Troy, N.Y.
As an added bonus, she finished second in the javelin and fourth in the pole vault to propel the women's team to victory with 138 points.
And she also got to run a little, helping the 400-meter relay team to an event national title with a time of 49.51 seconds. For that, she was named an NJCAA first-team All-American.
Lebron was just one of many local athletes to contribute to their respective team championships. Alyssa Gaski was a distance runner for Glenbard East last year, and ran cross country for COD last fall, which went to nationals. She ran a leg on the 3,200-meter relay with Glenbard West's Morgan Clifford, which won the national title in the time of 1:22.20.
"I didn't think I was going to run in college," Gaski said. "I didn't even know (COD) had a track and cross country team. I didn't want to give up running, and I love racing. Getting a gold medal was amazing."
Clifford contributed as well, taking sixth in the 400 hurdles and seventh in the 100 hurdles.
Now consider the yeoman's work put in by Anthony Eddy, formerly of West Aurora, on the men's side.
Eddy finished second in the 1,500 run at 4:09.90 and went 2:03.80 to finish seventh in the 800 run. He also ran a leg on the 3,200 relay that took second in 8:14.86, joining former Naperville North runner Spensir Stec in the process. Eddy and Stec also teamed up to finish seventh in the 1,600 relay in 3:38.81.
Winning the team national title "was kind of a surreal moment," Eddy said. "Just coming in from West (Aurora), I was able to go to state, and I always told myself that I would be back in this situation at one point, and it ended up happening."
Another local athlete who was a major contributor to the men's title, with 118.5 points, was Glenbard West's Diego Villalobos. He took second in the long jump and equaled that placement in the 400 relay. For those efforts, he was named a first-team All-American.
Villalobos also took third in the triple jump and fourth in the 100 dash.
Winning both titles this season was even sweeter than last year, coach Bob Cervenka said, because there was the usual full complement of teams. Last time COVID-19 limited the number of squads at the national championships.
"That was one of the things that I discussed with the teams early on," Cervenka said, "that we won it last year and obviously the goal is to win again. During the season I allow the athletes to run their individual events, but when it comes to the national championships, it's all hands on deck. Akira did five events, and the same thing with Diego and many of the other athletes."
Both teams recorded their sixth national titles, all since 2000.