A funny thing happened on the way to the recent Monticello High School trophy giveaway. The search for a particular piece of 60-year-old hardware yielded none, but instead found another gem in one of the last places staff members looked.
A large, 1950 photograph of Larry LeCrone – the winner of three eighth grade state track and field events that year – was presented to his family last week. It was found after Larry McClure, a classmate and lifelong friend of LeCrone, asked for staff to keep an eye out for it when they were sorting trophies for the June 5 giveaway.
“This is fantastic. It’s wonderful,” said Sue LeCrone, who lost her husband just last October. “It’s inspiring to me, because when he did this, they didn’t have the division of schools, so he ran against athletes from East St. Louis and Chicago.”
High School Assistant Director and Activities Director Dan Sheehan initially thought he had let McClure down, informing him the morning of the June 5 event that a 1950 trophy highlighting LeCrone’s accomplishments was nowhere to be found.
“I felt sorry, he was disappointed, and he left. It couldn’t have been 30 minutes later we found another closet, and more trophies. We didn’t find his trophy, but we found something just as special was this picture. This is exactly what this was about,” stated Sheehan.
Funny thing is, the trophy itself had been in Larry LeCrone’s study at his home all along.
“All they had to do is ask,” joked Mrs. LeCrone.
McClure has claimed for decades that LeCrone was one of the best athletes to ever compete for Monticello.
The numbers back it up: Not only did LeCrone win three state titles in 1950, he won Monticello Middle School the team title with 14.5 points.
His 120-yard low hurdles time of 13.9 seconds still stands as the state record. He also won the 220 dash in a time of 20.4 seconds, and tied for top honors by clearing the bar at 10 feet in the pole vault.
“He had a bamboo pole and would land in sawdust. He ran hurdles on cinders. He had none of these nice things to land on,” added Mrs. LeCrone.
Son Dan LeCrone marveled at a 10-foot pole vault with a bamboo pole.
“He always said the hardest part was the landing. You had to land on your feet,” said Dan LeCrone, who placed in the state track meet himself at both the middle and high school levels.
Excelling at track and field runs in the family. Daughter Diane Hendrix won the eight grade state title in 110 meter hurdles, while her sister Deb Phipps was also a Little Okaw Valley champion.
Hendrix’ son, Andy, also earned state honors while competing for Bement High School.
McClure added that Larry LeCrone’s diminutive stature helped him overcome the odds at the eighth grade track meet.
“Here’s a guy that’s about (5 feet, 5 inches), probably weighed about 120 pounds. He had short legs, and had to take nine steps when everyone else was taking seven. My thought is, if it can be an inspiration to other kids, he can show it’s the heart that counts, not the body.”