Former Cahokia High track and field star Ja’Mari Ward added to his tremendous resume last weekend by winning the national championship in the long jump at the United States Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
Ward was impressive in winning the competition with a first-place jump of 26 feet 7 ¾ inches, which was two inches further than his nearest competitor. It was also a season’s best jump for Ward, who also won the Southeastern Conference championship in the long jump during the spring.
A 2016 graduate of Cahokia, Ward was one of the top long and triple jumpers in his history of St. Louis metro area track and field. He was a four-time individual state champion and an All-American and the linchpin to numerous state team championships for the Comanches.
After signing with Mizzou, Ward has enjoyed success at the collegiate level, which includes a pair of SEC championships in the long jump as well as being a two-time NCAA All-American.
Merle Mensey continues Masters track dominance
St. Louisan Merle Mensey has been a tremendous performer on the national and international track and field stage in the Master’s Division for nearly two decades. Mensey, 70, has been one of the world’s best in the throwing events.
Mensey recently competed at the North Central American and Caribbean Masters Athletic Championships in Toronto and brought home more gold medals. Competing in the Women’s 70-year old division, Mensey began the competition winning the hammer throw and setting a new world record with an effort of 126 feet eight inches. Mensey came back the following day to set another world record in the age group as she won the Women’s Throws Pentathlon with a total of 4,799 points.
As well as her tremendous athletic exploits, Mensey is also the director of her own foundation, Throwing and Growing in 2008. For more than a decade, Mensey has helped develop and mentor young girls through physical fitness and in her specialty, the throwing events as well as many other activities. Mensey has helped develop the talents of young ladies, who have gone on to earn college scholarships in track and field.
RIP Coach Monken
Former metro east football coaching legend James Monken passed away over the weekend at the age of 85. Monken was a head coach on the in East St. Louis for 25 years, with 21 of those coming at small-school power Assumption High School from 1967-88. He also spent four years as the coach at East St. Louis Lincoln High.
In his 25-year career, Monken compiled an impressive record of 177-67-7 while leading his teams to 15 state playoff appearances. The Pioneers of Assumption High were a Illinois-state power under Monken’s direction as he led them to the playoffs eight times in his last ten years at the helm, including four berths in the state semifinals.
Monken helped nurture the careers of some great players at Assumption, including Eric Wright who went to become a star defensive back at the University of Missouri and an All-Pro with the San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl championship teams of the early 1980’s. Another great player was running back Jerome Heavens, who went on to become a star player at Notre Dame, leading them to a national championship.
Monken was inducted into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 1990.
Caleb Love is making the rounds
Class of 2020 basketball standout Caleb Love of CBC has been making the rounds at several special events to close out his summer of activity. The 6’3” Love was in Colorado Springs last weekend to participate in the USA Basketball Mini-Camp with many of the top players in the country.
Love was also one of 30 players to be selected to the Chris Paul Elite Guard Camp, which took place two weeks ago in Winston Salem, N.C. He was also invited to participate in the Nike Skills Academy, which will be held from August 5-11 in Los Angeles.
Love is currently Missouri’s top ranked Class of 2020 player, according to Prep Hoops Missouri. He has scholarship offers from many of the top collegiate programs in the country, including North Carolina, Kansas, Louisville, Missouri, Indiana, Texas and many more. He was a member of the 2019 St. Louis American “Fab Five” All-Star Team after leading the Cadets to a runner-up finish in the Class 5 state tournament.