BLOOMINGTON | Eugene Johnson has mentored dozens of football players, wrestlers and coaches during more than four decades of coaching at West Side.
Saturday night was the first time he had ever been able to savor a team state championship.
Johnson had tears in his eyes and was drenched from water bottles his team poured over him in celebration. He stood near the podium, soaking it all in after the Cougars scored 41 points to win the team title over Carmel (39).
“It was a beautiful shower,” Johnson said. “I waited a long time for it. I must be real dirty, all the years that I had to wait around.
“But the most important thing is that we praise God. This truly was a blessing … it’s all about being grateful and being patient. The Lord works in mysterious ways and he performs wonders in His time.”
Johnson waited more than 40 years for his first team state championship, so he didn’t mind having to wait for the final race for it to be decided.
Carmel led by three points going into the 1,600-meter relay. West Side placed second in the second heat and could only watch as the Greyhounds ran in the final heat.
On the first exchange of that final heat, Carmel’s runners dropped the baton. The Greyhounds were unable to recover, finishing last in the heat and allowing West Side to secure the team championship.
“A dropped baton never hurts in a case when you want one dropped,” Johnson said with a laugh. “I didn’t necessarily want it dropped, but it happened … we’re thankful, we’re thankful.”
Lonnie Johnson won the long jump (23 feet, 6 inches) and teamed with Barry Wesby, Carlton Smith and Jonvea Johnson to snare the 400 relay (41.32).
“I didn’t get to jump last year, so I was basically coming out here and getting redemption,” Lonnie Johnson said. “I just took advantage of the chance I had. This was my last time doing track, so might as well go out with something.”