Thirty years ago, senior Leonard Jones and junior Martez Williams, the only two entrants in the 1990 Class AA state track and field meet representing Patrick Henry High School, shocked everyone but themselves and Head Coach James Cook by leading the Patriots to the championship, edging Minnetonka 44-42.
The dynamic duo leaped their way to the title with Jones—who garnered the nickname Leapin Leonard while playing basketball in high school—placing first in the high (6’7”), long (23’10½”) and triple jumps (48’3¾”), while Williams placed third in the high (6’6”) and second in the triple (48’¼”).
“It is definitely one of the highlights of my athletic career,” said Jones, who went on to become an All-American track and field performer at the University of St. Thomas, where he also participated in basketball and football. “It is something me and Martez talked about,” he continued, “but it almost didn’t happen.”
Williams, at the time one the state’s top all-around athletes starring in football and basketball, did not initially go out for the track team, opting to play baseball instead. When the team lost early in the baseball playoffs, he joined the track team just in time to help put Henry on the map.
“I had a hard time getting him to come out that season,” Jones remembered. “I’m glad he decided to join the team. We accomplished something memorable.”
After high school graduation in 1991, Williams starred for the Southwest Minnesota State University men’s basketball team and became an outstanding wide receiver for the football team before his untimely death in 1995.
As a person teaching a class on survival skills for young African American males at Henry back in 1987, I got a hint of Jones’ athletic greatness to come. During passing time on an early fall day, future basketball All-State performer Prentiss Perkins announced to me amidst a crowd of students, “I’m a pretty good basketball player, but he’s the best athlete in the school.” Perkins was pointing at Leonard Jones.
Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald is a contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.