Kroner's boys' track and field storylines

Kroner's boys' track and field storylines

What will he do?

Inquiring minds are curious as to which events Danville senior Johnny Leverenz will run this week in the Class 3A state meet. He qualified in two individual events as well as with the 3,200-meter relay. Coach Steve Luke said Leverenz will strictly do individual events at Charleston. He is the defending 800-meter state champion and ran a time earlier in the season that ranked him fourth nationally this spring.

“We feel pretty good about Johnny’s chances in the 800,” Luke said. “The big question was what to do with the 1,600. Todd (Orvis, assistant coach) and I both feel he could have run a very comfortable 4:15 or better in the 1,600 (at sectional) with the short turnaround in the 800. The 800/1,600 double is still very interesting to us. Don’t be surprised to see him go after the double. Todd and I have the utmost confidence in Johnny.”

Repeat feat?

The East Central Illinois area fared well last fall in the Class 1A state cross-country meet in Peoria. Jon Davis of Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac was the champion, followed by Nick Hess of St. Thomas More. In fifth was Tuscola’s Eric Ponder. Not surprisingly, they enter the state’s 3,200-meter final race with three of the best four qualifying times from the 14 sectional meets. Davis and Hess are ranked 1-2.

All three advanced in the 1,600 as well with times that were among the state’s top 10 in qualifications. Helping the distance runners is that there will be no preliminaries in the 3,200 on Thursday.

“The sectional last Friday was a good indicator for him to see what it is going to be like to run that double,” O/A-P coach Craig Black said. “Jon is feeling very confident in his abilities and is looking forward to the challenge of running the double.”

The competition in this area is a bonus for area distance runners.

“Every time we go to a big meet, there is always someone to challenge him (Davis),” Black said.

Tuscola coach Ryan Hornaday is not surprised that the area trio ranks so highly.

“There is a lot of talent in this area, great runners and top-notch programs that prepare us to compete at an elite level,” Hornaday said.

Hess is ready for a strong final push.

“Nick is finishing his high school career with an outstanding year,” STM coach David Behm said. “He has the fastest Class 1A times (for the overall season) in the 3,200 (9:19.70) and the 1,600 (4:21.0). He is very fit and ready to race.”

Taking on hurdles

Things will change for Centennial hurdler Allen Terry this week. In many meets, Terry has ran unchallenged in his races. At sectionals, his qualifying time was more than three-fourths of a second ahead of all other competitors. In the finals, he won by almost a half-second.

And yet, Terry is ranked among the state’s top five in Class 2A entering Friday’s preliminaries. Chargers coach Greg Walters believes better times are in his runner’s future.

“The competition this weekend will certainly help everyone to achieve at the highest level,” Walters said. “It’s really hard to go your fastest when you’re always in the lead.”

Terry’s season best in the 110-meter hurdles (14.64) places him within reach of the school record (14.24).

“We definitely felt that Allen was good enough to make it to the finals last year (when he placed 10th),” Walters said. “He has improved this spring and has been much more consistent.

“He was fourth indoors (at the state meet, in the 60 hurdles) and is a much better hurdler over the 110s than the 60s.”

Strong in the field

Rantoul advanced two athletes to state in Class 2A. Each is in a field event, and both are ranked among the top six heading into this week’s meet.

Eagles coach Mitch Wilson is making sure his qualifiers know that the seedings mean nothing when state gets started.

“We have some decent numbers on paper,” he said, “but you have to go out and perform. They don’t give out medals by where you’re seeded at.”

George Washington (long jump) and Tyrin White (discus) are first-time state-meet competitors. Wilson hopes the jitters are behind them.

“I think you’re more nervous at sectionals knowing that it doesn’t matter what you’ve done all year. You have to do it on that one night,” he said. “Once you make it to state, you’re already there, so you might as well have fun and compete.”

Washington sailed a season-best 22-03/4 to win the Centennial Sectional in the long jump.

“I knew he would probably get over 21 feet by the end of the year,” Wilson said, “but I am not sure any of us, including him, thought he’d get over 22 feet this year.”

White has won the discus in most of his meets this season, his second year of throwing.

“A lot of people think you can pick up a disc or shot and go throw it far and do not realize the amount of technique it takes to be able to throw far,” Wilson said. “Last year was all about learning the fundamentals, and he did a good job with that. This year, his form has really improved.”

Busy Panthers

Counting relays, Paxton-Buckley-Loda’s Tyler Rubarts will have the maximum four events going on at state. Teammate Vaughn Gentzler will have three.

PBL is the only Class 1A school with two 110-meter hurdlers seeded among the top 10. Gentzler is fifth, and Rubarts ranks eighth.

“Vaughn and Tyler push each other all the time,” PBL coach Erik Ronney said. “By having them work together in practice, it shows greatly at each meet. They want to beat each other, and that’s what makes for a great 1-2 finish. I’m excited to see how (Thursday) works out for these two.”

Ronney said he is not treating the state meet differently than any of the others in which the Panthers have competed.

“We are going there with one mission,” he said, “and that is to continue on with our success and reach our personal best to place in each event. These young men have their eye on the prize.”

Good representation

Unity qualified athletes for state in seven events. In all, 10 Rockets will compete at EIU, including Justin Deters on all three of the school’s advancing relays.

“As with every team in the state meet, we will need to bring our best (Thursday),” Unity coach Tim Gateley said. “Everyone needs a little luck as well. With a little luck, we will be running and vaulting on Saturday with a chance at a medal.”

Unity’s 1,600 foursome is closing in on the school record and needs to cut less than a second to break it. Runners besides Deters on the unit are Chandler Cousins, Andrew Warnes and Ashton Montgomery.

Warnes — who earlier in the year broke the school record in the 1,600 — is highly ranked (second) in the 800.

“His current seed time is a by-product of his hard work in conjunction with competing against all the other great middle-distance runners we have around this area,” Gateley said. “Running against very good competition week in and week out has prepared him for this stage.”

On a streak

Mahomet-Seymour has had Class 2A state placers each of the last three years. The Bulldogs are in position for more medals this year. Alex Keeble is ranked second in the 3,200 ahead of Saturday’s race.

“I believe he has a shot at the state title but will have to beat some more experienced runners that have competed at state before,” M-S coach Todd LaFond said. “He’s young (sophomore) but has a lot of heart, and if he can stay in contact with them he will give all he’s got to beat them.”

Another M-S advancer is 400 runner Sam Hohlfelder, who earned a medal last year as part of the 1,600 relay. That relay is back, but he is the lone returning runner.

“Sam has run some extremely fast splits in our 4-by-400,” LaFond said. “If he can duplicate that in his open 400, he has a shot at the finals.”

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