Boys' state track notes: 'I'm so emotional right now'

Boys' state track notes: 'I'm so emotional right now'

CHARLESTON — A small group of kids clad almost entirely in black and white huddled on the homestretch of Eastern Illinois' bright blue track on Saturday.

It was the Salt Fork boys' track and field team, and its members were waiting to hear the school's name announced over the loudspeakers at O'Brien Stadium.

They knew what was about to happen. For the first time in program history.

But IHSA officials wanted the troupe set up to receive individual medallions before any such group recognition would occur.

So, after briefly trying to move the entire huddle as one, the Salt Fork athletes relented.

"We were perfectly fine with it," junior Payton Taylor said. "Everyone's so happy. It's amazing."

Moments later, those youngsters got to hoist the Class 1A team trophy, earned via 40 points that pushed that Storm past co-runners-up DuQuoin and Pana (36).

"I don't think a lot of people here (thought we could win), but we did," Salt Fork coach Phil Surprenant said. "This was our plan. We said on Thursday, 'Forty points will win this meet.' And we scored 40 points."

Critical to that total was Taylor, who collected 10 points by placing fourth in the shot put and sixth in the discus.

Also important were three points from Dawson Rogers in the 800-meter run and another four from the Storm's 400 relay of Rogers, Max Branigin, Tate Johnson and Caine Wilson.

"We did not expect the 4 by 1 to get here," Surprenant said. "For them to get in and then to move up in seeding, from where they were seeded eighth I think, to get to sixth and get those couple extra points, huge."

But the ultimate hero was the senior Wilson, who suited up for Salt Fork's last event of the day, the 200, after placing second in the 300 hurdles and third in the 110 hurdles.

Wilson was informed before his half-lap sprint he'd need to acquire at least seventh place for the Storm to rule the 1A roost.

"I had a brain fart and scored it wrong," Surprenant said.

"They come back and they're like, 'Oh, man, we screwed up. You've got to get fifth,'" Wilson added. "Just like a million things running through my mind, but all of it kind of came to motivation for me."

Wilson easily outdistanced both seventh and fifth, landing second in 21.86 seconds.

As much as Salt Fork wouldn't have reached the top of 1A without Wilson's final effort, it also had to have Taylor in the fold.

And that wasn't a guarantee, as Taylor also plays for a Storm baseball outfit that competed in a 1A sectional championship game Saturday. Good news: Taylor will be back on the diamond Monday for a super-sectional game after Salt Fork defeated Mt. Pulaski.

"I'm so emotional right now," Taylor said. "When I found out they won, I just lost it."

★ ★ ★

A familiar scene unfolded with about 600 meters remaining in Saturday's second heat of the Class 2A 3,200-meter run.

It had played out in the prior day's second flight of the 1,600 run preliminaries — Mahomet-Seymour's Mathias Powell and Monticello's Garrett Dixon duking it out for supremacy over the O'Brien Stadium track's back straightaway.

This time, they started the process much earlier. And after having run several more laps.

"I knew (Metamora's) Adam Gilbreath-Glaub came back with a crazy kick last year," Powell said, "and he's been having a really good season. ... I wanted to go early rather than later."

Turns out Gilbreath-Glaub was nowhere to be found, leaving the contest between familiar foes Powell and Dixon.

They were the only two who finished below 9 minutes, 30 seconds, with Powell taking the title in 9:24.15 versus Dixon's 9:27.92.

"It's a lot of fun to race with (Dixon), race against him," said Powell, who later added a third-place display in the 1,600. "Especially in such a high-pressure meet where he does so well. ... You can always rely on him to set the pace, set some standard."

★ ★ ★

Mason Barr managed to fit two very different reactions into his pair of championship performances Saturday.

The Ridgeview/Lexington senior, representing the Mustangs alone after 2018 Class 1A long jump champion Tate Walcott suffered a broken leg at sectionals, started his final day of IHSA state action in the 110-meter hurdles.

It wasn't a surprise the top-seeded competitor finished first, but Barr burst into joy both while crossing the finish line and after seeing his time on the stadium's video board.

A clocking of 13.94 seconds.

Only problem: It didn't mean exactly what Barr hoped.

"(Breaking the 1A record of 13.93) was definitely the goal," Barr said. "I thought it was 13.97, so (as) I came across the line I thought I had it. Definitely a little upset about that."

He took out any frustration on the 300 hurdles, zooming past the field in 37.70 seconds and capping the showing with a straight face.

"Just happy I came out with a PR," Barr said, "and just pumped to get out and run this year."

That was a reference to Barr missing his 300 hurdles preliminary last year after not checking in at the necessary time.

There was no such tumult in 2019 for the future University of Illinois athlete.

"It's meant a lot," Barr said. "Definitely glad I came out on top at the end of it all."

★ ★ ★

Ramsey Hunt knew, when he headed home Saturday, he wouldn't have quite as many state track and field medals as younger sister Kaylenn.

The Tri-County sophomore garnered three in last week's girls' meet, and her brother was in just two finals for the Titans seven days later.

So Ramsey Hunt decided to pick up something his sibling doesn't have.

The junior flew 46 feet, 3 1 / 4 inches in the Class 1A triple jump to stave off all competition and top an IHSA podium for the first time.

"I was a little bit angry when I didn't get it last year because my PR was six inches over the first-place jump," said Hunt, who also bagged sixth in the long jump. "It feels good to PR by six inches from last year and more than a foot from this year."

★ ★ ★

Seeing an Ifft atop a pole vault leaderboard isn't anything new around the state of Illinois.

That didn't make Prairie Central senior Chandlar Ifft's Class 2A state championship in the event Saturday any less meaningful.

"I've been working for this forever," the Hawks senior said. "My sister (Kassadee) started it off, she was a state champion back like four years ago, and I've wanted to do it ever since."

Chandlar Ifft was the lone 2A vaulter to clear 16 feet on Saturday. He attempted to soar over 16-6, but couldn't quite attain that height on this day.

Regardless, it was a memorable finish.

"I've cleared 16-6 before, and I just wanted to get to 17 as fast as I could," said the University of Wisconsin signee. "I have more meets in the future, so I'll have shots at 17 soon."