All-Delco Boys Track: St. Louis fulfills promise to go out a champion

UPPER DARBY– Donovan St. Louis let out a yell as he crossed the finish line to win the boys Class AAA 400-meter dash at the PIAA Track & Field Championships. As he slowed down, the Upper Darby senior clapped his hands and then bowed his head in thanks.

His journey was complete.

Two years earlier, St. Louis made a vow to be the best that he could be.

Much of that drive was spurred on by watching the likes of Ridley’s Malik Jones, the 2014 Daily times boys track Athlete of the Year, as well as Upper Darby teammates Ghassan Dix and Ramsey Kerkula. He liked the way they ran. Mostly, though, St. Louis admired their drive.

All strove to be champions. All succeeded in various forms. Jones won the Class AAA 200-meter dash title as a junior and the 400-meter crown as a senior. Dix was a key relay performer for the Royals and is a sprinter at West Chester. Kerkula was the Central League individual champ in the 800-meter run as a senior in 2014.

And even though he took the occasional shortcut, like finding ways to get out of the team’s weight-training sessions, St. Louis wanted to follow in their footsteps, which he did.His victory in Shippensburg capped a season in which he went undefeated in the 400. St. Louis was the Delco, District One and PIAA Class AAA champ in the 400, but he’s not a one-event athlete. St. Louis also finished the season ranked No. 1 in Delaware County in the 200-meter dash and was a key contributor to several relay teams. It was his anchor leg in the 4 x 400-meter relay that helped the Royals finish second in the event and in the team competition at the state championships.

Along the way, he set two individual school records (21.98 seconds in the 200 and 48.33 in the 400 at the state meet) and was part of two record-setting relay teams. St. Louis also set five school records during the indoor seasons.

Those performances caught the eye of the coaching staff at Kent State University and earned St. Louis a spot in Upper Darby history.

He was the first Upper Darby athlete to win a gold medal at the state meet since Bill Edgar won the 120-yard high hurdles title in 1963. He also is the first male athlete from Upper Darby to earn Athlete of the Year honors in boys track.

Joining St. Louis on the All-Delco team, which was chosen by the Daily Times sports staff following consultation with the county coaches, are Upper Darby teammates Akeim Thomas and Mason Weh; Braheem Bishop of Chester; Dion Durnell, Evan Emanuel and Evan Sing from Penncrest; Morgan Ellis-Foster of Delco Christian; Kevin James from Cardinal O’Hara; Milton Jones of Glen Mills; Academy Park’s Desean Lee; Stephen Pierce from Haverford High; Sam Pope of Episcopal Academy; Gurjeet Rai from Marple Newtown and Micah Sims from The Haverford School.

James, Rai and Weh are repeat selections. Weh and Sims are the only juniors on the first team. Bishop is the lone sophomore.

St. Louis edged James for Athlete of the Year honors. James is a six-time All-Delco selection, a two-time Runner of the Year in boys cross country and the county record holder in the 3,200 meter run.

St. Louis’s growth as a runner is topped only by his development as a student and as a person.

“He didn’t run his freshman year because he had some academic problems, but he worked hard to work those problems out,’ Upper Darby coach Dan Nelson said. “He’s such a likeable kid. I have teachers come up to me all the time and ask me how Donovan is doing and I tell them he’s doing fine. He’s really matured.’

“I’m a student-athlete,’ St. Louis said. “Schoolwork has to come first. If I wanted to run I had to become a better student.’

Improving his grades wasn’t the only issue St. Louis had to work out. He is a Seventh Day Adventist, a Christian denomination that holds Saturday as the Sabbath. Adventists are expected to refrain from such secular activities as work and competitive athletics.

Since most of the major meets take place on Saturday, that posed a problem for St. Louis. He did not compete in many of the major meets as a junior for that reason. This year, St. Louis made the decision to compete in selected meets, even though it did not sit well with his mother, Bath-Schebba Dyer.

“I’m still working through it,’ he said.

St. Louis has shown that he can do anything he wants when he puts his mind to it.

“I feel like I’ve bettered myself, as a person and as an athlete,’ St. Louis said. “I feel I’ve matured quite a bit, especially this year. I was a captain (along with Thomas) so I had to take more of a leadership role. Last year, I just sat back and tried to lead through my running, but this year I took a more vocal leadership role.’

Being a good leader, St. Louis knows there is room for improvement. It’s the next step in the journey.

“I know I have to get stronger,’ he said. “I tried to go to the weight room as much as I could, but I also seemed to find a way to get out of it. I know I have to dedicate myself more in the weight room in college and I’m looking forward to it.’

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