PCA’s Llopis wins 400 meter title, two silver medals at MAIS Class 3A meet
Published 9:19 pm Saturday, May 7, 2022
FLOWOOD — Daniel Llopis’ strategy was simple enough — run as fast as you can, for as long as you can.
As he zoomed down the final straightaway in the 400 meters, constantly looking over his shoulder to see if anyone could do the same, it went from simplicity to genius.
The Porter’s Chapel Academy junior easily won the Class 3A boys championship in the 400 meters Saturday at the MAIS Overall Track Meet at Jackson Prep. His time of 53.17 seconds was a personal record, and blew away runner-up Nash Von Kanel of DeSoto School by two full seconds.
“I start out hard to get ahead of everybody, and then just pace at that point. Keep up a strong, fast pace and you’ll be all right. Then at the end just keep pumping your legs and don’t give out — and don’t look back, because it will mess your race up,” Llopis said, before adding with a laugh, “But I did look back. I was just trying to make sure.”
Llopis became the first PCA track and field athlete to win an individual state championship since 2005, when Allen Cassell won the last of three high jump titles in a four-year span.
Llopis’ victory in the 400 meters was also far from his only highlight on Saturday. He won two silver medals to go along with his gold, finished second to Von Kanel in the 300 meter hurdles and to Greenville Christian’s Christopher Bell in the 200 meter dash.
Llopis was PCA’s only athlete in the meet, but scored 26 points by himself to give the Eagles a 10th-place finish out of 17 teams competing.
“It’s fun. I was very nervous coming here, though, because I was afraid was going to do bad. I’m not used to big events like this. But I’m very proud of myself. I think I did very good,” Llopis said.
Llopis’ silver medal in the hurdles was earned much the same way he won the 400 meters, with an all-out approach from start to finish. He took off hard and fast for the first half of the race, but tired with about 50 meters remaining. Von Kanel closed a 20-meter gap and finished in 42.59 seconds. Llopis crossed the line in 43.79 seconds.
Despite letting a gold medal slip away, Llopis chopped about three seconds off his personal-best time.
“I started out really fast because I just wanted to keep up. But I think when I got to the curve I hit one of them (hurdles) and it messed up my place,” Llopis said. “But I was just keeping my form and kept going, and I think I did pretty good. I kept it together at the end.”
In his final event, the 200 meters, Llopis had another impressive showing. He stayed within striking distance of the favorite Bell the entire race and for a moment looked like he might steal it at the end. Bell held him off by a few steps, though, to win by a half-second. Bell’s time was 23.08 seconds, Llopis was second in 23.57, and Trent Felton of Lee (Ark.) was a distant third in 24.31.
“I really wanted to beat Christopher Bell because I had him last week and I almost had it (today),” Llopis said with a grin. “I did what I could. I ran as hard as I could.”
The high point of his day, obviously, was his dominant win the 400 meters.
Llopis turned onto the final straightaway with a comfortable lead and kept it all the way through, winning by about 20 meters. He looked over his shoulder several times as he passed the grandstand with 50 meters to go, but no one mounted a challenge.
The gold medal in track capped an outstanding athletic year for Llopis. He was an all-state football player in the fall and was selected to the MAIS soccer all-star game in the winter. He ran track for the first time this spring and reeled in three medals including a state championship.
“I definitely enjoyed track a lot,” he said with a smile.