Substitution pays dividends for Groves
CHAMPAIGN – When Centennial's Davin Dollison pulled out of the 300-meter hurdles a few minutes before the event, meet officials asked if anyone wanted to take his place. Danville coach Steve Luke volunteered David Groves.
Smart move. Groves ran away with the title and set a personal record in the process.
"I just had to show my coach that I can be the stud he wants me to be in the 300s," Groves said.
Groves, a sophomore who had just finished running a leg on the 800 relay team, only had a few minutes to prepare for the 300 hurdles.
"I was dead," Groves said. "I was doing some breathing exercises, pretty much trying to catch my breath. I didn't have any time to practice my hurdle drills.
"I just pretended this was sectionals because making it to state is my goal."
Team effort for PBL
Paxton-Buckley-Loda's Nick Brehm won the 3,200 early in the meet, but he didn't celebrate his own win as much as he did teammate Tom Pacey's win in the 1,600.
Brehm, who was in last place in the 1,600, crossed the finish line with both arms raised while screaming in excitement for Pacey who had finished the race in 4 minutes, 28.33 seconds – a PBL record.
"I heard the announcer say Tom was going for it," Brehm said. "I kind of pulled up toward the end and started watching. I don't know if that was the right move for me but it was cool to watch him do that, especially as a sophomore."
As Pacey crossed the finish line and bent to tug at his shorts, he could hear Brehm coming up behind him.
"That's a perfect example of senior leadership right there," Pacey said. "Ever since I was a freshman he's been pushing me and the whole team. Even if he's back in the race, he's still gonna be cheering you on."
Urbana University High's Malcolm Taylor entered the 400 as the favorite. But the pressure of living up to the hype was nothing compared to the trash talking Taylor endured before the race from Centennial's Michael Neal.
"I heard Michael Neal talking stuff saying he was going to beat me so that pumped me up a little bit," said Taylor, who won in 49.26. "I didn't trash talk back. I don't do that."
Taylor teamed with Austin Rundus, Jacob Olshansky and Isaac Chambers to win the 3,200 relay. The same group placed seventh at last year's state meet and the goal is to improve this year.
"We're much faster than we were at this point last year," Rundus said. "Everyone has been doing pretty good and we've been consistent so we hope to do better."
Up, up and away
Urbana's Mykhail Chambers and former Champaign Central star Ian Winston are good friends. The two were once teammates during summer track a few years back. So when Chambers cleared 6 feet, 9 inches in the high jump to break Winston's previous mark of 6-8, he said he would expect a call from Winston. But it won't be a nasty one.
"He actually made me promise him to break the record before I graduate," Chambers said. "There won't be any disputes or hard feelings. He'll be happy for me."
After clearing 6-9, Chambers made three attempts at 6-10, his personal best this season, but couldn't clear the bar.
"I'm a little disappointed in that," he said. "I feel like I could have got it when I made 6-9, but I wanted to secure the record so I didn't go for it then. I just wanted to play it safe."
Monday's performance went a long way in easing the pain after Chambers' disappointing performance at last week's Big 12 Conference meet, where the senior cleared 6-4 and finished third.
"I felt pretty good," Chambers said.
Throwing his weight around
Salt Fork's Sean Nicholson won the shot put at 48-10. But the win alone wasn't the reason Nicholson was all smiles Monday. Of his six throws, three were better than his previous best toss.
"It was pretty nice out tonight and I felt pretty comfortable," Nicholson said. "I was glad to get some good throws in."
Perhaps it was the big-time atmosphere of Monday's event that aided in Nicholson's performance, or throwing on a college campus.
"The ring felt pretty nice," he said. "They got it kind of cut down into it, so I definitely think that helped. This let me know where I stand with some of the better guys. Especially in the discus, it showed me I still have a lot to work on."
Everyone's a winner
The night's most exciting race was the 800 meter relay won by the Central quartet of Kurt Kibler, Reggie Pace, Kyle Kibler and James Carter.
The Maroons edged Tuscola's Tyler Carter, Travis Surma, Matt Bailey and Ben Edwards by less than one-tenth of a second. Still, the Warriors celebrated as if they had won. Turns out, they had just set a school record.
"That group was eighth in the state last year and we just hadn't put them together all year," Tuscola coach Steve Spears said. "We got them all together tonight and said, 'We're not going to get many more chances at this.' We had a good night, good competition and ran well."