Hahnville native Semaj Lewis, a track and field standout who was attending the University of Louisiana-Monroe where he earned an athletic scholarship, died last Thursday at the age of 19. Lewis was the younger brother of former Destrehan High School and LSU football star Jai Eugene. Lewis attended De La Salle High School in New Orleans and made a major impact on both the track and football field.
He was just two months shy of his 20th birthday.
As a junior, Lewis secured honors as state champion in 2015 by posting a time of 6.99 seconds in the 60 meter dash at the LHSAA Indoor Track and Field Championship. He qualified for four other events at the state outdoor championship later that year, including two relay events and the 100 and 200 meter dash.
After a strong senior year at De La Salle on both the track and the gridiron, Lewis had offers to choose from to play both sports at the next level. He originally committed to Stephen F. Austin to play football before opting to attend Louisiana-Monroe to run track. There, he was also offered the chance to try out for the football team. At De La Salle, Lewis was a standout at cornerback and safety who drew interest from a number of D-I schools, including Tulane, Texas A&M and Missouri. He intercepted three passes as a senior for a Cavaliers team that went 9-2.
In his senior year, he was a key member of the Cavaliers 4×100 Class 3A state championship squad at the outdoor track and field championship meet, running the final leg in an event his team posted a winning time of 42.03. He finished as state runner-up in the 2016 indoor 60 meters championship in his senior season.
Lewis followed in the footsteps of his father, Stephen, who also ran track at De La Salle.
After his championship win in the 60 as a junior, Lewis said, “I’ve wanted this ever since I was a freshman. I made it to regionals the past two years, as a freshman and a sophomore, but never got further than that. This year I was even more motivated than I was in the previous two. This year I said to myself, ‘I refuse to lose.’”