CHAMPAIGN — There's still some work to do at this week's Class 1A sectional, but the Tuscola boys' track and field team is looking toward making some history at the IHSA state finals later this month.
If the Warriors' performance at Monday's News-Gazette Honor Roll Meet was any indication, Tuscola just might surpass the 2008 team's third-place showing at the state finals.
Jeff Broch, Broc Smith, Brandon Mills and Alex Kemp started things off by tying their own school record (43.63) in the 400-meter relay, a race that featured some less-than-perfect exchanges.
"It wasn't the greatest race. Our first handoff was pretty good," Kemp said. "The second exchange was shaky. Our second leg ran past our third guy. The last exchange between me and Brandon, we fumbled it a couple of times. Once I got it, all you can hope for from there is to get faster than everybody else."
Tuscola was faster than everyone else in that race and pretty much all the sprint races.
Smith, Kemp and Broch finished 1-2-3 in the 100 and later Smith and Broch went 1-2 in the 200.
If that wasn't enough, Broch, Smith, Chris West and Kemp teamed to win the 800 relay (1:29.62), breaking the school and meet records.
All this has the Warriors thinking about adding some first-place hardware into the school's trophy case.
"We can do some damage at state, I know we can. The goal is to win in the (800 relay) and get at least top five in the (400 relay)," Kemp said. "Overall as a team, I think we're going to have to go in our events and see what we can do there. The (1,600 relay), we'll see if we can move up a couple of spots there. We've got depth this year, so I think we'll have a chance."
Said Smith: "It means a lot. I hope we do really well this year at state. I think we can get several medals this year, a lot better than we have been doing."
This isn't just a group of confident kids dreaming impossible dreams. Coach Ryan Hornaday, who coached that 2008 team, sees the potential to make some noise in Charleston, too.
"I've actually used that 2008 team as a measuring stick all along. That bunch was third at indoor state and we were second at indoor state," Hornaday said. "We set our school record here today (in the 800 relay). I've got to think it's lined up for us to do well at state. (Perennial powers) Herrin and Harrisburg are 2A now and that really swings the door wide open for us."
Also setting a meet record Monday's was Villa Grove's Adam Crutchley. The senior broke the 1,600 mark with a run of 4:22.44, breaking the previous standard of 4:22.6 set by Schlarman's Scott Krapf in 2006.
Crutchley wasn't on the original heat list and was only added to the race after three other athletes scratched. And he did so, according to him, by not running hard.
"I just decided I was going to take this as a training run today because we have a sectional on Thursday. I figured I'd take Tuesday and Wednesday off and get a good workout in today. There was no pushing it, just running good and strong," said Crutchley, who told his mom Melissa not to attend Monday's meet because he wasn't expecting to be competitive during his only race. "I PR'd by five seconds, so I'll take that. I'd like to go under 4:20 (at sectionals), but who knows."
Urbana's Brandon Carrel, the 2011 Class 2A state champion, and Mahomet-Seymour's Andrew Roney each cleared 15 feet, 3 inches to break the record in the pole vault. The previous mark of 15-2 was set by Urbana's Aaron Mathis in 2007.
Mahomet-Seymour's Forrest Smoes won the 3,200 by more than 30 seconds, but he won't be representing the Bulldogs at this weekend's Class 2A sectional.
"Considering I was by myself and my taper hasn't been exact, it was an all right performance, I probably could have gutted it out a little bit more," Smoes said. "I was fairly pleased with myself. This was my last meet of the season."
Smoes said he probably could have run faster if some of the area's top 3,200 runners were in the field, such as Monticello's Steve Schroeder, the area's best.
"Maybe not Schroeder, he'd be too far ahead of me," Smoes said. "But definitely someone else who could have pushed me."
Danville's Joshua Robinson joined Smith as the only double winners. Robinson swept the hurdles races.
"It feels pretty good because I don't think I even placed in the 110s last year," Robinson said. "I'm in the best shape I've ever been in so I'm looking forward to sectionals."