CHARLESTON — When Ryan Pearce was the state runner-up last year in the shot put, he set out to make himself better.
“This year I’ve been practicing the shot more,” Pearce said. “I haven’t really balanced them out between the shot and discus. The more practice you put in the better your output will be.”
The results showed that the Villa Grove senior is clearly the state’s best in the weight events.
Pearce had six shot put attempts during the two days of this year’s Class 1A state track and field meet, which ended Saturday at Eastern Illinois.
If the IHSA awarded medals for all of the top performances, Pearce would have captured first, second, third, fourth and fifth.
In Saturday’s finals he had three throws better than any of Thursday’s attempts, and his winning toss (60 feet, 01/4-inch) was more than 51/2 feet ahead of the runner-up.
“To win by that much is crazy,” Pearce said. “I didn’t think I’d beat everybody by almost 6 feet. I don’t know that there’s any better feeling.”
Pearce repeated as the discus state champion. The 12 Class 1A finalists competed in a steady rain and none was able to improve upon their performances from the preliminaries. Trying to keep a grip on the implement and maintain footing was so difficult some finalists had tosses that barely reached 80 feet.
Pearce’s winning effort was 162-1.
“The ring was slick and I was throwing in my tennis shoes, which is something different I had to do,” he said.
He completes his prep career with a school-record six state medals in track and all three of the Blue Devils’ first-place finishes.
The area was well-represented in the discus. Salt Fork’s Alec Dutton was the runner-up and Fisher junior Josh Wallick ended third.
Dutton needed better throwing conditions in his bid to become the Storm’s first champion.
“The weather was no one’s friend,” said Dutton, the fourth-place medalist in the shot put. “Even though I’m second I have no hard feelings to Ryan. I know how hard he has worked.”
Wallick, a state champion wrestler, is developing an aptitude for the discus.
“I’ve gotten a lot better,” he said, “and now that I know how to throw it my potential is unlimited. It has been a fun school year.”
A fourth area athlete, Paxton-Buckley-Loda’s Reno Jamison, placed ninth in the discus, giving the area more medalists in that event than any other in Class 1A.
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Schlarman senior Jesse Hahne and Centennial senior Luke Vaughn joined Pearce and Dutton as the area’s only other double medalists in individual events.
Hahne was fifth in the 1,600 meters and sixth in the 3,200. They were his first two state medals.
A year ago, Hahne placed 10th in the 3,200, missing a medal by 0.2 second.
“That was pretty heartbreaking,” he said.
Hahne didn’t mind the rain that was a constant throughout the day.
“I prefer this over the past three years, when it felt like it was 100 (degrees),” he said. “It was annoying when you were getting splashed in the face, but that made it fun.”
Vaughn improved to third in the Class 2A shot put (58-71/2) and remained fourth in the discus (170-9).
“I’m happy moving up,” Vaughn said. “I’ve only been back throwing the shot a couple weeks (following surgery on a broken hand) and I didn’t expect too much. I was definitely blessed with a quick recovery.”
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Mahomet-Seymour pole vaulter Andrew Roney finished with the same medal as the Bulldogs’ 1,600 relay — fourth place in Class 2A — but their feelings about the finishes were drastically different.
“It’s always great to get a medal,” Roney said, “but I’m disappointed, definitely disappointed. I should have done better.”
Roney cleared 14-6.
Relay runners Matt Chupp, Jordan Rock, Sam Hohlfelder and Andrew Shroyer lowered the school record they established Friday to 3:21.68.
“We’ll take it. Heck yeah,” Shroyer said. “Performing like this in front of that crowd is a once-in-a lifetime thing.”
All four of the runners had 400-meter splits between 50.2 and 50.6 seconds.
“We have four good runners,” Rock said. “This is my last high school race and it’s awesome to go out like this.”
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Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac’s Jon Davis was running fourth in the final 120 meters of the 1,600 race when he couldn’t believe what happened in front of him.
St. Thomas More’s Nick Hess, who had started his kick, was surging forward when he was tripped on the north curve and fell.
“I feel sorry for Hess,” Davis said. “I thought he had a shot (at second place).”
Instead, Hess wound up in 11th place and Davis surged forward. The freshman was the state runner-up in 4:27.84.
“Very happy,” Davis said. “I never dreamed I’d get in the 4:20s. This is another stepping stone. I hope to get better next year and the year after.”
Schlarman’s Hahne was in front of the incident and wanted to keep clear.
“I didn’t want there to be a chain reaction,” Hahne said.
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St. Joseph-Ogden had medalists in the high jump (Eric Rydell, third), the 3,200 relay (fifth) and the pole vault (Matt Knipfer, tied for ninth).
Seniors Drew Knipfer and Cole Johnson were the Spartans’ final two relay runners.
For Drew Knipfer, finishing the race and earning medals was the victory he needed to end his prep career.
“Last year I fell on the handoff when we were in the lead,” Knipfer said. “It’s nice to redeem myself and be all-state.”
Nick Poff and Clayton Nigg were the first two relay runners.
This marks the 23rd time in the past 25 years that SJ-O has had a medalist in boys’ track. However, the 6-foot-2 Rydell is the first high jump placer from the school.
He cleared 6-4.
“Coming into the season, the reality of it was not there,” Rydell said. “The last couple weeks I hit bigger heights and peaked at the right time. A lot of hard work paid off.”
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When Urbana Uni High’s George Gunter studied the list of 800 finalists a year ago he saw that eight of the 12 runners were seniors.
“I was hoping with a good season I could be top four,” Gunter said.
His time of 1:58.71 on Saturday earned him the fourth-place medal.
“I’m pretty happy,” the junior said. “That’s my fastest time of the year.”
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Early in the season, Paxton-Buckley-Loda’s Tyler Rubarts was a reluctant hurdler.
“I didn’t want to hurdle,” Rubarts said, “but coach (Mike) Brehm said he wanted two persons in every event, so I kept with it and towards the end of the season, my form got better.”
His time of 15.81 in the 110 high hurdles earned Rubarts the eighth-place medal in Class 1A.
“I’m glad Coach Brehm told me to stick with it,” he said. “It’s pretty exciting to get a state medal.”
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Tuscola’s Eric Ponder joined the Warriors’ lengthy list of state medalists. On the way to his ninth-place finish in the 1,600 meters, he put himself atop the school leaderboard.
Ponder’s 9:34.07 clocking was a school record.
“I knew the heat would be fast and I thought I could do it,” Ponder said.