CHARLESTON — So, just how did the Mahomet-Seymour 3,200-meter relay team run so fast during the preliminary round of the IHSA Class 2A state track and field meet Friday at Eastern Illinois' O'Brien Stadium?
"Run fast and turn left," the Bulldogs' John Butcher said.
Butcher, who ran the third leg on the relay, teamed with leadoff runner Cale McCormick, Matthew Chupp and anchor Elijah Johnson to set a school record, crossing the finish line in 7 minutes, 56.65 seconds. It was the sixth-best qualifying time in the event that will feature 12 teams in the finals.
In breaking the school record, the M-S quartet shaved nearly 25 seconds off its sectional qualifying time of 8:21.48.
"We're pleased with it," Butcher said. "Sectionals are more of a qualifying deal so we just strided it in, especially Cale."
Cahokia, which ran in Mahomet-Seymour's heat, posted the day's best time at 7:49.76 and is the team to beat entering Saturday's final.
"It's nice to have someone to chase, but they'll be chasing us eventually," Butcher said. "It's going to be intense; there's a lot of teams under eight (minutes) right now. We're looking forward to the finals."
The 3,200 relay team was the only running event in which the Bulldogs qualified for Saturday's finals. Derek Bunch threw the shot put 53 feet to qualify for the finals, and pole vaulters Andrew Roney and Austin Armetta each cleared 14-3 to advance in their event.
"Both are in the finals, and that thing is wide open," M-S coach Keith Pogue said. "I thought they vaulted OK today, but there's an awful lot of guys in contention, and the champion could be one of 10 guys."
Jonathan Schaap and Lucas Prather will compete in the 3,200 on Saturday, an event that didn't run preliminaries Friday.
A good showing by the five individuals and the relay could put the Bulldogs into trophy contention, where they contend the goal coming into the weekend was to finish near the top four to bring home a trophy.
"We feel really good. We knew we had a lot of talent coming into it, and it's great to be here and showcase our talent," said Jordan Rock, the anchor runner on the 1,600 relay team with Chupp, Ryan Pavesic and Johnson that ran a season-best 3:24.94 but just missed qualifying for the finals. "It would be really special if we could do well tomorrow. Really special."
"It's gonna take something out of the ordinary, but it's possible," Pogue said. "We needed that 4-by-4 relay or someone else to qualify to have a real shot."
Urbana senior Brandon Carrel, the reigning state champion in the Class 2A pole vault, is in contention again after joining a host of others in clearing 14-3 during the prelims.
"I'm having fun right now. I'll probably be freaking out tomorrow because that's just what I do," Carrel said.
It's a different feeling for Carrel returning as the state champion as opposed to entering the state meet last year as a relative unknown.
"I feel like there's more pressure because everybody knows me, but I jumped 14-6 last year. They know they're better than that; they know I'm better than that," Carrel said. "We all know each other, so it's not that bad. I'm going for 16 (feet). It's a big jump."
In Class 3A, Danville's Cirron Clark was among a group of athletes who cleared 14-9 in the pole vault to qualify for Saturday's finals.
Clark qualified with a sectional vault of 15-4, second only to Plainfield Central's Luke Winder.
A look at how the area will be represented in Saturday’s IHSA boys’ track and field Class 2A and 3A finals (list includes area 3,200 runners, an event that did not run preliminaries Friday):
School Individuals Relays Total
Mahomet-Seymour 5 1 6
Centennial 2 0 2
Prairie Central 1 0 1
Rantoul 1 0 1
Urbana 1 0 1
Danville 2 0 2