The lasting image of Paul Lucas’ junior track season is one of him sprawled out on the track at Mesa Community College.
He still won, by the way, but it signified the end of one of the best individual seasons in Arizona track history.
The Mountain Pointe sprinter had the state’s best times in the 100, 200 and 400, along with posting the best long jump of the season.
At the state meet he won the long jump but felt a twinge in the hamstring. The twinge became a strain near the end of the 100 when he won the event in 10.66 seconds despite the pain that forced him to pull up near the finish line and fall on the track.
It was a disappointing end — to him and track fans — but it did not tarnish the season he had on the way to being named the Tribune Boys Track Athlete of the Year.
“It’s part of God’s plan,” he said at the time. “It happened for a reason. I have more to look forward to and that’s all I can focus on now. There are bigger things ahead. I just have to be smart about it.”
One of those bigger things happened this weekend when Lucas competed in the Great Southwest Classic this weekend in Albuquerque, N.M. The results weren’t available, but he felt healthy enough to take on a national field.
Once Lucas, who has more than 10 football scholarship offers, gets in a top field — just like he did at the renowned Arcadia Invitational during the season — he tends to be at this best.
“As good as a athlete Paul is, he is a great competitor,” Pride assistant coach Larry Todd said. “He brings a strong work ethic to practice every day and doesn’t shy away from the difficult workouts. He also has the ability to retain coaching information and the body awareness to evaluate his races and jumps. When an athlete gains an understanding of what they are being taught it makes it easier for mistakes to be corrected and Paul has the ability to not only help himself but his teammates as well with technical issues.”
The best part of Lucas’ season might have had nothing to do with posting a record time or finishing strong, but taking time out help others.
The Pride had a special needs student with Down syndrome work with the team this season and one of the athletes who showed the most interest in getting him to practice was Lucas.
“I don’t look at it like a challenge,” Lucas said early in the year. “It’s a fun learning experience working with him. God blessed me with all of these abilities and not everyone has them. I definitely know not to take them for granted.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.