CHARLESTON — Among the other athletes throwing the shot put and the discus, Ryan Pearce doesn't pass the eye test. He's about 5-foot-10, 180 pounds and usually the smallest guy competing.
Lucky for the Villa Grove junior, awards aren't handed out for size. Pearce threw the shot put 57 feet, 0.5 inch to finish second in that event and later won the discus with a heave of 166-11.
"It's not about size, it's just technique," Pearce said.
"Don't ask me how he does it. I haven't figured that part out yet," said older brother Tyler, a medalist in the discus as a senior for Villa Grove last year. "He's half my size and is still way better than me. He's just got the form down. I feel like I kind of helped him, but he did this all on his own. It's really cool to see, and he's got another year so we'll see what he can do."
It's the second straight year Ryan Pearce has medaled in both events. He's the youngest of Villa Grove's throwing Pearces. Oldest brother Michael was a state medalist in the shot put in 2009.
"It feels awesome. Unreal, actually. It's great coming over from shot put where I didn't feel my best and coming over here and hoping to prove something, and I sure proved it," Ryan Pearce said. "This year there was a little more pressure on me. I was hoping for two firsts, but I did my best and got a first and a second, so you can't ask for anything better."
His smaller size allows Pearce to run the sprints for the Blue Devils through the season. It was common to see Pearce sweep the throwing events and also win the 100. We might see that rare combination at next year's state finals.
"I've got another year, hopefully come back and win state again," he said. "I hope I can come back in a couple of running events, too."
The duo of Pearce and Adam Crutchley led Villa Grove to a fifth-place team finish. Crutchley finished sixth in the 800 and fourth in the 1,600.
Crutchley, who toyed with the idea of skipping the 800 to make a run at the 1,600 title, put the team standing before his personal goals.
"I owe it to Ryan and Villa Grove," he said. "This is so great. I know Ryan would like to have done better in the shot, but this is fantastic."
Crutchley said he typically struggles to bounce back in the 1,600 after competing in the 800, and it's all the more challenging on a day like Saturday, when temperatures reached the mid-90s.
"A lot of people complain about the heat, but I just kind of shut my head off when I run, so it doesn't really bother me," he said. "Subconsciously, I'm sure it got to me like everyone else; it's crazy hot. When I go out for a run I shut off and not think about it."
Warriors go out on top. Tuscola's 800 relay team of Jeff Broch, Broc Smith, Chris West and Alex Kemp won the area's other state title Saturday in 1 minute, 28.79 seconds.
After breaking the Class 1A state record with a 1:27.93 in Thursday's preliminaries, the Warriors set the bar high entering Saturday.
"This is what we've been coming here for. It felt so good. This is great. It was amazing," Kemp said. "I knew right when I stepped across that line, all of my training this entire senior year is a good way to end my career."
The goal entering the weekend was to win a state championship, no matter the time. Laying claim to the state record is icing on the cake.
"We just wanted to win. We got the PR (Thursday). All we could as for today was to come across and get a gold medal," Kemp said. "They're both great feelings. I couldn't believe it in prelims when we set the state record. Right now it's an even greater feeling to win it."
Good day for Spartans. Considering he missed about a month of training midway through the season, St. Joseph-Ogden's Zeke Elkins was ecstatic after finishing third in the 400 and fourth in the 800.
Elkins sat out most of April while dealing with Osgood- Schlatter disease, which causes intense pain in the knees while going through a growth spurt.
"I can really tell the difference. I just didn't have that endurance with me just from missing those four weeks of intense training," the Drake-bound Elkins said. "I came here hoping to do my best. I knew I still had it in me because I've been training hard for this moment. It (stinks) to see those guys up there and not having that extra oomph to be with them. It's good that I made it this far and did what I did and I'm really happy."
Through the pain, though, Elkins grew an inch.
"I went from about 5-8 and a half to 5-9 and a half," he said.
Elkins helped the Spartans to a fourth-place team finish.
Alex Arteaga was fifth in the 300 hurdles, the 1,600 relay team of Cole Johnson, Arteaga, Chas Cox and Elkins finished third, and Sam Gilly was fifth in the discus.
The 3,200 relay team of Landon Vowels, Drew Knipfer, Johnson and Cox was expected to finish high in the medals, but one runner fell after being pushed and another tripped on the rail. They finished 10th.
Gilly entered the day 10th in the discus with a throw of 145-11 on Thursday. He moved up to fifth after throwing 153-6 Saturday.
"That was my goal all year: just give it my all. I had thrown in the 150s earlier this season and I wanted to hit my PR mark, and it just happened to move me up five spots," Gilly said. "After what happened to the 4 by 8, I really wanted to do it for those guys. Especially the seniors, going out like that shouldn't happen, so I wanted to give them something to smile about today."
Woodard second. Unity's Scott Woodard has been running second to Monticello's Steve Schroeder most of the year, and Saturday was no different. The Rockets senior was second in the 3,200 to the Monticello state champion, but there's no shame in the accomplishment.
"He's definitely a person to chase. He runs good times all the time and is always consistent," Woodard said of Schroeder. "I think I ran all my 2 miles against him. I knew all year I wanted to do well in state. I didn't have an exact goal in mind; I had a time goal and I knew what time would get me a good place and went for it."
Woodard clocked a 9:48.27 in the 3,200.
"It's amazing. I got seventh last year in a quality field. To be able to come back and get second is really cool. It's starting to sink in a little bit."
Woodard finished eighth in the 1,600.
Clark goes fourth. Danville's Cirron Clark finished fourth in the Class 3A pole vault. Clark went out trying to clear 15-9 after he had cleared 15-6.
"I was here last year, but I didn't do so good," Clark said. "I feel like I worked hard enough to place higher, but I'm proud of myself, proud of everything. I'm just getting ready for college."
Clark hasn't decided where he'll attend next.
"I just know I'm jumping somewhere," he said.
Clark's personal best in the pole vault is 15-8.
"I was trying 15-9. I was almost there," he said. "I've just been jumping all day; it's hot. I probably could have had it if I had a little more energy."
Viking a fan favorite. Clark's Danville teammate Caleb Hummer didn't fare well in the standings — he finished last in the 3,200 — but he drew a loud ovation from the crowd for his effort.
The freshman ran with an injured Achilles tendon, and his status was in doubt until race time.
"We got a test run before the meet. I was feeling good, but two laps into it my Achilles started flaring up again," Hummer said. "It's pretty disappointing, but this year was all about preparation for the next three years. I think next year I can probably be pretty competitive here. I've got to get healthy and have a good cross-country season."
Carrel can't repeat. In the Class 2A pole vault, defending state champion Brandon Carrel of Urbana didn't place Saturday after failing to clear a height.
Mahomet-Seymour teammates Austin Armetta was seventh and Andrew Roney eighth after both cleared 14-9.
"I was really, really disappointed," Roney said. "My 14-9 vault, my coach told me I cleared it by at least a foot and then I got too excited and started running faster and hit the bar at 15 feet each time. I've cleared that height five or six times this season. My PR this year is 15-3. I've got next year and great coaches, so I'll be back."
He'll have to make his way back without Armetta, a senior, with whom Roney enjoyed a fun season.
"That's been the best part," he said. "We just had fun, sat under the tent. We had fun every day in practice pushing each other."
Hensley sets mark. Rantoul's Charles Hensley set a school record of 54-7.5 en route to finishing fifth in the shot put.
"The record was 54-2.4; this has been a dream. I busted my (butt) in the weightroom, and I PR'd by 11 feet this year alone from the first throw of the season," Hensley said. "I'm speechless. After all the work I put in I was expecting this, but in this meet I didn't know if all the work would pay off. It's the first time since junior high I've been to state, and I'm on the podium."