PAPILLION — It took almost a half-hour and six starts to the race, but Lincoln High’s Darius Luff refused to be denied his new spot on the all-time charts in the boys 110-meter high hurdles at the Papillion-La Vista South Titan Classic track and field meet Saturday.
Because of an issue with the starter’s pistol being in sync with the automatic timing system, the third and final heat of the boys 110s started five times, only to call the competitors back a couple of seconds into it.
The sixth time was a manual start with the timing system’s cameras capturing the finish. What it caught was the senior and defending all-class gold medalist ripping off a :13.6 in the cool, windy conditions. The :13.6 is second on the Nebraska high school all-time charts behind only the :13.4 that Creighton Prep’s Randy Brooks ran in 1977.
After each misfire, Luff was already two or three hurdles down the flight. When the starter shot his pistol again to stop the race, Luff shoved the hurdle down in front of him in frustration.
“All I could do was try to stay loose and not lose focus on the task at hand,” said Luff, a Nebraska recruit who has the fastest 110 hurdle electronic time in state high school history with the :13.84 he ran during the Class A preliminaries at state a year ago.
When his time flashed on the Foundation Field scoreboard immediately after the race, “I wasn’t expecting to see that (:13.6),” Luff said. “I felt great at the start, but my legs were starting to feel fatigued late in the race after basically running an entire race before that.”
The timing system worked for a couple races Saturday, but most were hand times.
Luff also won the 300 intermediate hurdles (:40.09) and ran a leg on the Links’ victorious 1,600 relay to lead Lincoln High to the team title in the 10-team meet by a 102-79 margin over runner-up Papillion-La Vista South.
Another Links senior, Passmore Mudundulu, improved his state-leading mark in the boys long jump by breaking both the meet and stadium records with a personal-best leap of 23 feet, 2½ inches. Mudundulu has been steadily improving this spring, going 22-5 at the Northeast Relays in late March and 22-11 a week ago at Grand Island.
“I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon,” said Mudundulu, who has his eye on the school record of 24-½ by Bobby Williams in 1961, which is tied for seventh on the all-time charts.
The school record “is the goal for the Harold Scott (Invitational Wednesday at Lincoln High),” Mudundulu added. “There are still a lot of things in terms of technique I can improve on.”
In his first meet this spring, Lincoln High’s LeeAaron Berks won the 800 in 1:57.87, the best time in the state this spring. The victory, however, came with some controversy.
On the last curve as Berks was trying to regain the lead on the outside from Lincoln Northeast’s Shadon Shannon, there was contact between the two, then Shannon pushed his former Rocket teammate.
The shove actually gave Berks forward momentum for the final 100 meters of the race. Creighton Prep’s Leo Burns was second in 1:59.94 and Shannon was third in 2:03.65.
Berks and Shannon exchanged words near the finish line following the race and had to be separated by coaches and teammates. Berks downplayed the incident afterward.
“I claim Shadon as my brother, I love that kid,” Berks said. “He’s a competitor, I’m a competitor. We both wanted it.
“I didn’t think I’d be satisfied with my time, but considering this is my first meet and the (cool, windy) conditions, I’ll take it,” he added.
The Links also got a gold medal from Spencer Reed in the triple jump (41-10½). East’s Tyler Brown unleashed a throw of 184-6 in the discus for a meet record and the top performance in the state so far this spring, while his Spartan teammate Thomas Oliver captured the 1,600 in 4:34.2.
Papillion-La Vista South won a tight girls team race with 140 points, edging runner-up Millard West (132½) and Lincoln East (131). Spartans winning gold medals were Jenna Muma in the 1,600 (5:18.0), Abigail Schmidt in the 3,200 (11:22.49, meet record), Kylie Johnson in the 300 low hurdles (:47.3) and Solana Honda in the pole vault (10-6).