State track & field notebook: SJ-O vets save energy
CHARLESTON — St. Joseph-Ogden’s 3,200-meter relay wasn’t concerned about putting together its best times of the season in Thursday’s preliminaries of the 120th IHSA boys’ track and field state meet.
“If we were in position to win (the heat race), we’d go for it, but we’re trying to save up for Saturday,” Clayton Nigg said.
The Spartans put together a veteran foursome, with three seniors sharing the baton before junior Nick Poff took over on the anchor leg.
“We weren’t pushing it full max,” Corey Thompsen said. “We ran hard enough to make sure we qualified.”
Braydon Crozier was the leadoff runner on a unit that was timed in 8 minutes, 15.05 seconds and advanced to the finals with the ninth-best time.
“Saturday, we’re looking to go faster,” Nigg said. “I feel pretty good about our chances.”
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Like SJ-O, Urbana Uni High used the exploits of three seniors and sophomore Marshall Allston-Yeagle to register the fourth-best qualifying time (8:08.71) in the 3,200 relay.
The runners cut nearly 14 seconds off their time from sectionals.
“We’ve run faster than this,” Jonny Yockey said, “and if we all string together our top times, we can cut even more.”
Arch Robison ran the leadoff leg, and George Gunter was the anchor.
“It feels good,” Yockey said. “We expected this.”
Gunter narrowly missed a berth in the open 800 finals. His time of 2:00.17 was 0.06 from a spot in the nine-runner finals. He placed 10th overall.
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Athletes have been training all season to be at their peak for the state meet. Preparations beyond the physical ones took place this week as well so that the athletes were ready for the warm (80-plus degrees) and humid conditions.
“You drink a lot of water the day before and ice when you can,” Yockey said.
“All week, we’ve tried to stay in control of the conditions and stay hydrated,” Nigg said.
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Unity’s Aaron Luesse took the guaranteed path to a finals berth. All heat winners automatically move into Saturday’s session. The other positions are filled with the athletes with the next-best times or distances.
Luesse won his heat of the 110-meter high hurdles.
He was ready to go well in advance of setting his feet in the starting blocks.
“I woke up at 5:45 with my mind racing,” Luesse said.
Besides a season of tough workouts, Luesse cited two other keys to his position among the state’s elite.
“Eating healthy and getting a lot of sleep,” he said.
His time (15.23) ranks fourth among the nine finalists.
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Paxton-Buckley-Loda’s Vaughn Gentzler took off for his race in the 110 hurdles and was immediately called back.
A false start eliminated one of his competitors.
Though he wasn’t the culprit, the delay had an effect.
“You’re pumped and ready, then to have to wait, that takes it all away from you,” Gentzler said.
He advanced to the finals with the fifth-best time (15.28), though he said, “I did better (out of the blocks) on the false start.”
Gentzler also advanced in the 300 hurdles with the eighth-best time. Teammate Tyler Rubarts posted the fourth-best mark in the triple jump (43 feet, 6 inches).
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Arcola’s 400-meter relay broke the school record it set at sectionals (43.92), lowering the time to 43.68.
The Purple Riders are seeded fifth for the finals.
“Togetherness,” Tony Salinas said. “We all stick together. We knew we’d do well.”
Anchor Jamie Warren, who rejoined the unit at the sectional meet, believes the team can contend.
The top qualifying time was 42.99.
“We’ll be right there with them,” Warren said.
Zach Moutria and Clayton Strader were the school’s other relay runners.
Arcola was a near miss for the finals in the 800 relay with a time of 1:31.94 that placed 11th overall.
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SJ-O’s 400 relay took satisfaction in posting its best time (44.08) on what turned out to be the final day of the season for the unit. The Spartans were 0.19 from the finals and placed 12th.
“We’ve been in the 45s all year,” Jesse Tice said. “This was a big step forward.”
His state debut was “nerve-racking,” he said, but added, “As soon as I got the baton, everything went away, and I got energy back.
“Our handoffs could have been a little better. Other than that, it was just go.”
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Sam Wilner’s state debut took longer than anticipated. From the moment the Judah Christian senior stepped on the blue track at Eastern Illinois University for his 400-meter race until he crossed the finish line, the elapsed time was 1 hour, 40 minutes.
More than 1:39 of that was due to the first of two lightning delays that halted competition. The first delay took place without any rain falling.
When the race restarted, Wilner said, “The adrenaline had died down a little, and I didn’t feel all the effects (of being at state).”
He responded with the best time of his career (52.83) but did not advance to the finals.
“In my head, I didn’t think I’d run my best,” Wilner said, “but it’s really cool being on such a big track.”
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Sophomore Andrew Warnes, from Unity, and senior David Ricks, from Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, are among the 12 qualifiers in the 800 meters. Warnes won his heat with a time of 1:57.93, which has him seeded third for the finals.
“My goal was to win the heat because that’s the surefire way to make finals,” Warnes said.
He outsprinted Tristan Fox, from Lena-Winslow, down the straightaway and edged him at the line. Fox’s time was 1:57.96.
As a freshman, Warnes advanced in the 1,600. He expected to be back in that event.
“After indoor, I ran a pretty good (800) leg on the 4-by-8 relay, and Coach put me in the 800,” he said. “It took off from there.”
Of the finalists, he is the lone non-junior or non-senior.
“I have my work cut out for me,” he said. “There will be a lot of tough seniors in the finals.”
Ricks, who is seeded eighth, is a two-time finalist in the event.