‘Passing the baton’: 1971 state champs from Lincoln visit Titans

Published 12:24 pm Thursday, May 11, 2017

The history buff inside Port Arthur Memorial principal Glenn Mitchell helped him bring together the city’s past track and field heroes with the standouts of today.

The way he sees it, it’s better to see history in person than just written down.

“I thought it would serve as an incentive to look at the records to see what to shoot for,” said Mitchell, a former runner and track coach himself. “It helps to have words of wisdom from guys who did it.”

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So, he invited members of the 1971 Lincoln High boys track team to speak to the Memorial athletes who qualified for the 5A state championship meet, which concludes today at the University of Texas at Austin. No locals competed in Thursday’s 5A events.

What the 1971 Bumblebees did was make history.

The team coached by Leroy Leopold set what was then a UIL record for the most points in a state meet with 48 in winning the 4A championship. Robert Perry Jr., who earned a scholarship to LSU, had already set the second-fastest time nationally in the 100-yard dash at 9.3 seconds in a meet at Texas A&M going into state. He won the event in 9.6 seconds and won the 220-yard dash in 21.5. He also anchored the 440-yard relay team to second place, finishing the meet with half of the Bumblebees’ points.

To Rodney Broussard, track and field wasn’t an individual sport.

“They instilled us to be different,” Broussard said of his coaches. “We didn’t have a bunch of individuals. We all looked at it as being a team. We all did our part.”

There was a slight hurdle Lincoln had to overcome 46 years ago to win a championship.

“We didn’t even have a practice track until I became a senior,” said Perry, now minister of music at Beaumont’s Church of the Living God. “That’s when they finally decided to put one in. We had to go to Thomas Jefferson. We had to take a yellow bus or go into private cars to practice.”


The visit

On Wednesday, Perry, Broussard and teammate Henry Chambers visited Memorial’s qualifiers for the 5A state championship meet, which concludes Friday at the University of Texas at Austin’s Mike A. Myers Stadium. The boys of ‘71 hoped to “pass the baton” of winning to today’s Titans, encouraging them in their pursuit of Memorial’s first team state title. Memorial finished second as a team two years ago in 6A.

“I think they really liked it,” coach Darrell Granger said of the Titans’ reaction. “When other men that have accomplished the goal we’re trying to set talk to you, it really hits home.”

Perry’s message to the Titans was simple: “Keep your eyes on the prize,” he said, “but first, keep God in mind. Nothing can happen without Him.”

Michael Rideaux, another member of the ‘71 Bumblebees, won the 440-yard dash at state and was on the relay team as well. Allen Mullins and Albert Lott were the other state qualifiers for Lincoln then.

Today, high school races are measured in meters. And like the ‘71 Bumblebees, the 2017 Titans have made their marks nationally.

Kary Vincent Jr., who will play football and run track at LSU next school year, holds the fastest 200-meter time (20.77 seconds) in the state this year and fifth-fastest in the country. Memorial’s 4×100-meter relay team of Ireon Brown, Vincent, Xavier Hull and De’Andre Angelle topped the state charts with a 40.38-second run in the 5A Region III meet on April 29, good for third in the U.S. The 4×200-meter team (Brown, Micheal Odoms, Vincent and Hull) is third fastest nationally, and the 4×400 crew (Ja’Quan Francois, Hull, Allen Santos and Brown) 14th fastest.


One of the guys

Mitchell was state champion in the 400 meters for Lincoln under coach James Gamble in 1966. He remembers the days when he and the up-and-coming Bumblebees would square off on the pavement away from school.

“It was winner-take-all,” Mitchell said, adding the prize was the proverbial crown of “king for a day.”

Mitchell would go on to coach his own kings of the track in Omaha, Neb., leading Horace Mann High to four state team titles in five years. Mann was second the other year.

Now, Granger is trying to help the Titans claim their own crown in Texas.

“This team has been confident all year,” he said. “With the support they feel they’re going to have, they’re confident they can win.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews


About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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