The focus on Lafayette (La.) High pole vaulter Armando Duplantis reached worldwide proportions throughout his junior season with the Mighty Lions.
So the fact that Duplantis was among the finalists for the Gatorade National Track and Field Athlete of the Year wasn’t likely a huge surprise to many.
On Thursday morning, though, the 5-11, 147-pounder got the pleasant surprise of learning he indeed was the winner of the prestigious national award.
Gatorade officials interrupted a Duplantis family breakfast at a local restaurant to present him with the trophy honoring his incredible track and field season.
“It’s an award that I’ve always wanted to win,” Duplantis said. “It’s an award I’ve always followed. I’ve always seen the past winners. I don’t know how to describe it exactly, but it’s an honor to be on a list with such great athletes.”
The plan worked perfectly considering family breakfasts are commonplace in the Duplantis family.
It quickly turned unconventional when Keri Lockett of Gatorade Sports Marketing walked into the restaurant and gave Mondo – as he’s known in the track world – something to go with his bacon and eggs.
“It seemed like a normal breakfast,” Duplantis said. “They surprised me with the award and then I had facetime with Eli Manning.”
With Duplantis being a football fan and Manning being from Louisiana, it was a connection that made sense.
“That was really cool,” Duplantis said.
Ironically, it was a second such meeting with a famous Manning in recent months. Duplantis was the All-Acadiana Track Athlete of the Year, so he met and took a photo with Daily Advertiser Sports Awards featured speaker Peyton Manning on May 10 at the Cajundome.
Duplantis took the track and field world by storm during his junior season. In the indoor season, he broke the World Junior record with a leap of 19-1 at the New Balance Nationals Indoors in March.
Then he shattered the national high school record by nearly a football with a leap of 19-4.25 at the Texas Relays. He’s now cleared 18 feet six times outdoors, which twice as many times as any high school pole vaulter in history.
He naturally won his third consecutive state championship at the Louisiana outdoor state meet in Baton Rouge, but he also displayed his athletic ability by finishing second in the long jump as well with a effort of 23-5.5.
His performance helped the Mighty Lions finish third as a team at the state meet.
With a senior season in high school to go, Duplantis now turns his attention to international competition. He’ll be competing in the European U20 Championships in Italy in July and then the IAAF World Championships in London.
Duplantis wasn’t even able to attend his brother Antoine playing for the LSU Tigers in Omaha while training on future international events.
“I went back to my fall training, more like training to try to get in good shape before I leave for Europe and not as heavily jumping and technique,” said Duplantis, who has maintained a 3.29 grade-point average despite his busy schedule.
“I’m just trying to physically get stronger for Europe, because last year I kind of got injured a little bit. With the long plane ride, I got of got beat up a little bit, so I’m trying to get stronger than last year before I leave.”
Duplantis said the international events this summer will largely determine his plans for his future after high school, i.e., go to college or turn professional.
“I haven’t really decided what’s going to happen,” he said. “We’re going to kind of see how the summer plays out. We’ll see what happens at the world championships.
“After the world championships, I’ll be able to better see what direction I’m going to take. We’ll see.”