When Coeur d’Alene tribal member Jerry Louie-McGee stepped onto the track at Dona Larsen Park in Boise, Idaho, for the 5A state track and field meet, 50 was just a number.
The Lake City High School football star had a 50-yard punt return for a touchdown and hauled in a 50-yard touchdown pass from his brother Tucker Louie-McGee, but had never gone under 50 seconds in the 400-meter dash on the track.
He had always been a “football guy” running track to stay in shape. But his time of 48.64 (seconds) in the 400-meter dash to win the state championship, turned some heads and raised his stock in the minds of college track and field recruiters.
To put his time in perspective, the high school senior-to-be ran faster than Washington State University junior Lucas Sealby (48.76) and Colorado freshman Erik Gaytan (49.74) did at the Pac 12 Championships this year.
“I came off the final turn and just focused on the finish line … hoping I would get there,” Louie-McGee said with a laugh. “I didn’t really look at the board (for the time) because I was really dead. When they said I ran a 48.64 for the new school record, I was shocked. I don’t even know how I did that honestly, but I’ll take it.”
The race was one for the highlight reels and one of the best of the meet. Because of the distance between Coeur d’Alene in the Idaho panhandle and the Boise schools in the southern end of the state, Louie-McGee doesn’t get to race guys like Bryson Stout of Meridian or Jacob Wright of Idaho Falls on a regular basis. This was his chance to make a statement in a quality field.“There’s no doubt that if I raced those guys week-in and week-out, I’d be even faster,” Louie-McGee said.
The numbers told the tale as Louie-McGee took his place in lane 3 in the finals with Stout next door, in lane 4. Stout was the fastest qualifier (49.59). Louie-McGee, who qualified with a time of 50 seconds, knew it was “Game On.”
“This wasn’t a normal 400. I knew I was going to have to be sprinting the whole time. Bryson tries to get out of the blocks with 21 seconds through the first 200, then maintain to the final curve and give it everything he has in the last 100,” Louie-McGee told ICTMN.
In the back of his mind Louie-McGee knew Stout tends to die in the end. He remembered his training, remembered to keep his form, pushed past the pain. There was just one man to beat, and he was closing in fast with the stadium of fans on the Boise State campus on their feet.
It came to a sprinter’s lean. Both flirted with the overall state record of 47.97, but it was Stout in a spectacular finish. Louie-McGee, hands on his hips, gulping for air, trying to will oxygen back into his spent legs, could only fall back on the idea that he left nothing on the track. He spent it all.
But then an announcement came. Track officials said Stout had a lane violation and was disqualified. Louie-McGee moved up one position and took his place on the top shelf on the podium as the 5A state 400-meter champion.
“I was catching him. With another five yards, I’d have gotten him,” Louie-McGee said. “That’s the only regret I have is that I didn’t beat him to win the state championship. But racing those guys is fun. I’m pretty competitive and those guys make me better.”
As it works for those who work hard, Louie-McGee had one more showdown with Stout in the final race of the day. As the 4×400 relay unfolded before them, both Stout and Louie-McGee made ready to run the anchor leg. For Stout, it would be his final race of a stellar high school career. For Louie-McGee, it was one last chance to prove he was a true champion.
Louie-McGee took the baton with 15 meters to make up. In the spirit of Billy Mills, he made up ground with a warrior’s heart, and won running away to lead his team to the state championship in a season-best time of 3:21.87.
His 48.71 for the anchor leg proved the open 400 time was no fluke.