DANVILLE — Caleb Hummer and Luke Vaughn are writing their comeback stories on the go.
Neither athlete is in the kind of condition that a full spring of training would have made them, but each was good enough Thursday to win an individual event in the rain-soaked Big 12 Conference boys’ track and field meet at Danville’s Wayland-Young Athletic Complex.
Hummer, a sophomore at Danville, broke away from the pack in the final two laps of the 3,200 meters and beat Bloomington’s Keith Meyer by more than a second.
Vaughn, a senior at Centennial, prevailed in the discus by more than 15 feet. He is competing less than two months after having surgery to repair a broken bone in his throwing hand.
A year ago, Hummer was one of the area’s most promising distance runners. At the Big 12 meet as a freshman, he placed third in the 3,200 behind two seniors.
By fall, he was battling Achilles tendinitis in both legs and ran less than one-third of the cross-country season. He had to take another two weeks off from training during the recent indoor season. On Thursday, his time of 9 minutes, 34.79 seconds was his all-time best.
“I expected them to push me hard,” Hummer said. “I feel really good. This gives me a lot of confidence going into sectionals.”
Hummer broke away from Meyer in the final 800 meters. “I trusted my foot speed,” he said.
Vaughn successfully defended his title in the discus and was the shot put runner-up. He was competing two weeks after having a cast removed from his right hand. He was advised by doctors not to throw for four weeks, but Vaughn said, “I can’t sit and do nothing and watch the others throw.”
On Monday, he picked up a 12-pound shot put for the first time since the surgery.
“After the cast came off, I thought ‘No way I’d be able to throw the shot,’ ” Vaughn said. “I tossed the 10-pound shot, and it felt decent.”
He was the Big 12 runner-up in the shot and rated that as his most satisfying event for the day since it was more unexpected.
His winning toss in the discus (172-4) is the area’s best performance this season. It’s just 7 inches less than he threw a year ago to win the Big 12 title in a season where he’d practiced all spring without a six-week layoff.
Vaughn isn’t ready to discount his lofty goals.
“I was hoping for the low 180s (Thursday), then to be in the upper 180s at sectionals and to be chasing 200 (feet) by state,” Vaughn said.
Danville’s Johnny Leverenz was a double winner, capturing the 800 and 1,600 races. Champaign Central’s 3,200 relay was also triumphant. Centennial’s Allen Terry was the runner-up in both hurdles races.
The Maroons’ relay runners represent each class. The anchor is freshman Ashton Hyatt.
“We knew we’d be good,” Hyatt said, “but to be the best in your conference is amazing.”
The leadoff runner is sophomore Isaac Kasten. He is followed by junior Corey White and senior Kendrell Thompson. Central coach Argie Johnson is not surprised by the unit’s success.
“Three of the four ran cross-country (Thompson was a football player), and I thought they had a chance at making it to state,” Johnson said. “We have one more week to see if they can get it done.”
The runners have been the same throughout the spring, though Johnson switched the order and recently installed Kasten as the starter.
Thursday’s collective time of 8:25.03 is nearly eight seconds faster than they’d run in any previous meet. Hyatt’s anchor split was 2:03.
Leverenz ran his personal best (1:56.25) to win the 800, a race he also won at the Big 12 indoor meet. In a heavy rain, he returned to capture the 1,600 in 4:34.72.
“It was nice to run a hard 800 and come back with a good time in the mile,” said Leverenz, who is closing in on the school record in the 800. The Danville mark of 1:55.3 is held jointly by Barney Hance (1966) and Mike Butler (1987).
Bloomington won team honors in the nine-school meet by 87 points. Centennial was third, Danville fifth, Central seventh and Urbana eighth. There was less of a margin (59 points) separating second from seventh than separated the first-place team from the runner-up.