By Mike McClure

The Laurel varsity boys’ track and field team entered last Tuesday’s quad meet in Woodbridge with three wins, looking for three wins to make history. The Bulldogs’ coaches kept track of the numbers after the completion of each event, including the 4X400 (the final event) which Laurel won by a step, then huddled to get the official tally after the meet as the athletes anxiously awaited in the bus. In the end, Laurel edged Sussex Academy by 13 points (75-62) to win the team’s first ever Henlopen South title.

“It was a crazy experience. I’ve been thinking about it since eighth grade,” said sophomore sprinter Khalid Burton.

Members of the Laurel track and field team are shown celebrating in front of their bus after winning the program’s first ever Henlopen South title last Tuesday in Greenwood.

“That was one of our highest expectations this year. Having success motivates us for the future,” senior state champion Brandon Rife said. “It was an exciting moment for us.”

“I think it was very rewarding. From day one we always talked about winning the South, trying to make history, and that’s what we did,” added junior hurdler and jumper Elias Elzey.

Pre-season goal- Laurel head coach David King came into the season with the goal of winning the division title. COVID cancelled the season three days into his first year as head coach. The team lost to Lake Forest and Indian River each of the last two seasons with many of his top athletes only in eighth or ninth grade.

“In the history of Laurel we haven’t had any track achievements as a team,” he said. “Some things fell in line for us. All the hard work paid off. I expect these guys to make a run at least for the next two years.”

Anticipation- The Laurel team sat on the bus, waiting for their coach to give them the good news. After receiving the official scores King entered the bus and asked the athletes what they were laughing about, then preceded to tell them they won the South. 

“He had us nervous. He was like ‘we didn’t win’,” said senior high jumper Deshawn Copes.

“It was very close. At first we were nervous,” freshman high jumper Za-Bryan Eley said. “It feels good. This was one of my goals. I wanted to get it for basketball.”

 “We already knew we won. As soon as he (King) told us we won the whole bus was shaking, we were screaming,” said Burton.

“You could see it on everybody’s faces when we did win. It was like one of the best days ever,” Elzey said.

Celebration- The Laurel team celebrated on the ride home then was greeted by the fire trucks and a police escort which took them on a parade through town before arriving at the school where a group of 30-40 community members were there to greet them. “The community really showed up for us,” King said.

“It was a little unexpected. I heard some of the guys say the fire trucks were going to be there but I wasn’t sure it it was true or not,” said Elzey. “Having the community support us after all the hard work, it just feels good for us.”

“It was my first time experiencing it,” Eley added. “I think we can see more and experience more and come back for another.”

Team effort- What the Bulldogs accomplished was done as a team. No one athlete carried the team to the division title, several team members contributed first and second place finishes in their area of expertise.

“It takes heart out there with the work and the conditioning,” said Copes. “We came as a team.”

“Everybody did what they had to do. We support each other as a team and get the job done,” Eley said.

Another key to the team’s success is its (boys and girls) coaches: King, new assistant coach Zachary Osborne, Aaron Lewis, Daisey Taylor, and Jakeysia Snead.

“I think they’re the backbone of everything,” said Elzey, who credited the coaches with creating a good atmosphere that helps the Laurel athletes both physically and mentally.

Future- With a number of young athletes on the team, the sky’s the limit for the Laurel track and field team.

“Now they know our ranking. They know we can do some big things for Laurel,” Burton said. “Most of our team is young. Definitely next year we’re going to bring that heat.”

But for now the focus is on this week’s Henlopen Conference track and field meet, then the state meet next week. King said his goal for the boys’ team is to reach the top three in the conference meet, which includes Division 1 teams from the North, and to be first or second in the Division II state meet. “We have the capabilities to do it,” said King.

“It’s (winning the South) really given us confidence and everything we need coming into conference and states to perform at a high level,” Rife said.

“I think after winning the South we know we’re a team that can be taken seriously,” added Elzey.