Hahnville runner wins state title

Hahnville native Semaj Lewis made a run, literally, for the Division II 60-meter dash state championship at the LHSAA track and field event in Baton Rouge, where he crossed the finish line in 6.99 seconds to win the title.

A student at De La Salle High School in New Orleans, the 5-foot-8, 138-pound junior said he’s been working toward this dream for the past three years.

“I’ve wanted this ever since I was a freshman,” Lewis said. “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.’”

In addition to the 60-meter dash, Lewis runs anchor in the 4×100 meter relay, and the 4×200 meter relay. He also competes in 100-meter sprint, and the 200 meter, which relies more on endurance than speed.

Lewis said his coach, Michael Peniciaro, has been nothing but a great influence on him and always pushes him to work hard on the field, in the weight room and the classroom.

“He listens to what you tell him,” Peniciaro said. “He worked hard on cleaning up his start out of the blocks and that’s made all the difference for Semaj. The light has truly come on for this young man this year. He’s respectful and very dedicated. I’m not only his coach, but I’m his teacher, in U.S History, and he’s doing excellent on both fronts. I think he has a very bright future in front of him.”

Lewis is a three-sport athlete at De La Salle, where he plays football, baseball and track. He plays right, center and left field on the diamond and cornerback on the gridiron. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.69 seconds, according to his profile on ESPN Recruiting Nation Football website.

Athleticism seems to run high in the Lewis family. Semaj’s older brother, Jai Eugene, played football for LSU, and in 2006 was ranked as the No.1 cornerback in the country. His father, Stephen, also ran track for De La Salle. His biggest fan, his mother Hazel August-Lewis said she can’t take any credit for any of his athletic prowess.

“His father and his brother helped him with athletics, I didn’t have anything to do with that,” she said. “But I do take full credit for his good looks.”

Semaj hopes to attend college on an athletic scholarship one day. He’s visited a couple of summer camps, one at Texas A&M and another at Alabama. But whether he becomes an Aggie or a member of the Crimson Tide, Lewis is quite positive he knows what he’d like his future sport to be at the next level.

“All of them,” Lewis said. “I want to do it all.”


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