United Township’s Jean-Luc Soglohun already has two state medals in the triple jump, his most recent coming last spring with a sixth-place finish in Charleston with a leap of 46 feet, 6 inches.
He admits a first-place state medal is a distant goal that’s out there, but he’s more worried about form as the boys track and field season gets under way.
“Right now the goal is to not even think about numbers, but get my technique all set,” Soglohun said. “The numbers just come.”
Soglohun is originally from Togo, West Africa, and has been living in the East Moline area since he moved here when he was 2. He speaks French, but he has no accent.
Soglohun played varsity football the last two years, starting at quarterback as a junior and playing there some this year before moving to running back and wide receiver last fall.
But this is an athlete whose main sport is clearly track and field.
“Football was kind of his second sport to track,” said UT track coach Evan Holschbach. “That hardly ever happens anymore where track is their main thing and they do other sports as well. I think he really identifies first as a track and field athlete.”
The senior is aiming high this season. While he is focused on his form, he does have some numbers he'd like to reach. His next goal is 47 feet, with an eye toward 48 feet, which would qualify him for junior nationals.
Long range he would like to reach 50 feet, which would put him in contention for state gold in the triple jump this year with returning state champion Cameron Ruiz of Lake Villa, who won a year ago with a leap of 50-6.
He also believes he could place in the long jump this year, where his goal is a jump of 24 feet. He’s already gone over 22 feet indoors this season.
Though he qualified for state in the long jump a year ago, it was not a major goal by any means.
“Last year I wasn’t really planning on qualifying for long jump,” he said. “It wasn’t really a priority. I wasn’t worried about it. It was more triple jump. I wasn’t even reaching the numbers for long jump until we got to the end of the year around conference. The adrenaline started pumping and all the form and technique came together and I started jumping high 21s. Then at sectionals I hit the mark and I went.
“This year definitely, I’ve already been jumping over state qualifying and I’ve scratched a couple of good jumps. But this year I am hoping that I can hit the marks I need to qualify for state in the long jump, too.”
Soglohun may run some hurdles this year, too. And he believes he will be part of the 400 and 800 relays. His goal is to earn a track scholarship at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, a school that has been talking to him for about a year. Eventually, the Panther senior whose parents are both doctors would like to become an athletic trainer.
But for now, it’s time to lead the Panthers to a second straight Big Six track and field title.
“Our team basically we have a lot of studs in a lot of spots,” Soglohun said. “We are very talented in a lot of events and mostly it comes from the skills. But in the track events we have people that will most definitely score some points. They will either win or get second and third. We can have our A guy be out and the other guy will step up and still score points for us because our team we have a pretty big roster and a lot of talented kids.”
He’s hoping for another stellar May, too. He knows he has experience on his side.
“It’s a pretty good feeling because not everybody has the ability to go to state numerous times," Soglohun said. "I am pretty grateful to be able to do that and bring back some hardware.”
But for now he expects tough competition ahead in the Quad-Cities, especially the triple jump where Moline returns state qualifier Marcellus Johnson and Rock Island Alleman returns Class 1A placer Nathan Graves.
“Being in the Q-Cs, it’s like being a regular athlete every single day because every meet … you get to start over,” he said.
“It depends on what happens at the end of the day,” Soglohun added, “more than your status of being a returning state medalist.”