State track notebook: Illineks' strategy pays off
CHARLESTON — Few high schools have four 800-meter runners whose times are so interchangeable the order they run on a relay doesn’t matter.
Many coaches select the order in the 3,200 relay with the idea of having a quick starter and a fast finisher.
Urbana Uni High coach Doug Mynatt tried a different approach. He put his two swiftest runners in the last two positions with the thought that they could make up considerable ground.
The strategy worked well in Saturday’s Class 1A 3,200-meter IHSA state championship race at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium.
Arch Robison and Marshall Allston-Yeagle held their own in the first half of the race and Jonny Yockey and George Gunter closed the gap, helping the Illineks to a second-place finish.
“Our strategy was to run smart at the beginning and catch them at the end,” Yockey said. “I didn’t see us running six seconds faster (than the unit’s previous best).”
It’s the highest finish by a Uni High boys’ relay at state. The foursome also lowered the school record to 8 minutes, 1.57 seconds.
“What a fantastic way to end my running career,” Gunter said. “Second is fantastic, and it was a close second (1.47 behind the winners).
“Everyone ran their hardest, and I’m more than happy with that.”
The relay will need to rebuild next year. Allston-Yeagle is a sophomore and the only non-senior on the foursome.
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Coaches have preached it for years: You never know what will happen if you try your hardest.
If anyone still has doubts, check with Danville junior Caleb Hummer.
He was assigned to the slow heat of the Class 3A 3,200-meter state race.
Based on sectional times, he was seeded 36th among the 39 competitors.
“I just ran,” Hummer said. “I didn’t have any expectations. I just put everything out there.”
He shocked the so-called experts, winning his heat race (9:23.41) with one of the top 10 times ever recorded by an area athlete.
Hummer did it without anyone on his heels, pushing him to a fast time.
When the results of the fast heat were finalized, the overall seventh-place medalist was Hummer.
“I didn’t have much of a cross-country season (due to injuries),” Hummer said. “I made up for it with this track season. I didn’t expect to run that well, but the crowd was great and pumped me up the last 200 meters.”
Danville distance coach Todd Orvis expects Hummer to “be a major player in cross-country and track next year,” adding, “for him to have this result is unbelievable.”
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Another performance that drew rave reviews was turned in by Tuscola High School, which had five of its 31 squad members qualify for state. Four reached the finals, and three of them were all-staters in two events.
When all the results were totaled, coach Ryan Hornaday’s Warriors had 37 points and the third-place Class 1A team trophy. It’s the second time in seven years Tuscola has finished among the top three at state.
“We got everything we could out of the few guys we had,” Hornaday said. “I couldn’t be more thrilled.”
Broc Smith was the 100-meter runner-up and Stephen Gibson placed second in the shot put. Gibson came back with a third-place showing in the discus, matching the 3,200-meter result of teammate Eric Ponder. Ponder placed fourth in the 1,600, and the final point came from Smith’s ninth-place effort in the 200.
“Every year we’ve had a relay or an individual medal, but it doesn’t happen often that we have two or three guys who could medal,” Hornaday said.
Throws coach Stan Wienke returned to the staff this year, and Gibson said he made a tremendous impact.
“He made a huge difference from my first throw in my first warmup,” Gibson said. “He always had the right thing to say and worked on basic technique. We knew he was one of the best in the state, and I wouldn’t be here without him coming back.”
Gibson improved by more than 16 feet this spring in the discus.
“He (Wienke) loves field and track, as he calls it, and has been to every practice way before me,” Gibson said.
The two medals resulted in a “very good day,” Gibson said. “This is the cherry on top.”
The top three runners in the 100 were separated by 0.03. Smith was second (10.92).
“If my start was better, it would have been mine,” Smith said. “I didn’t have a great start. I’ve been trying to do this for four years, and I finally did it. It was so close.”
The winner crossed the finish line in 10.90.
Ponder was third in the 3,200.
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In all, 49 area athletes or relays competed Saturday. Thirty-four earned medals.
Rantoul’s George Washington IV placed third in the long jump, as did Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman’s Tyler Owen in the high jump. Arcola’s 400-meter relay was fourth, matching the school-record time it put up two days earlier in the preliminaries (43.68).
“We’ll take fourth any day,” said Clayton Strader, the relay’s leadoff runner. He was followed by Zach Moutria, Tony Salinas and Jamie Warren.
Owen cleared 6-7, tying his career best.
“I really like basketball, but I’d say I’m more of a track athlete,” Owen said. “I can definitely go farther in track than basketball.”
Washington wound up jumping off his right foot, instead of his left, and was unable to improve his first-day best.
Third place, he said, “is a huge accomplishment.”
Teammate Tyrin White was fifth in the discus. It’s the third time since 1987 that the Eagles have had more than one individual placer in the same year.
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Mahomet-Seymour’s Alex Keeble, who broke a 37-year-old school record in the 3,200 meters in the preliminaries (9:27.58), bounced back a day later with a fifth-place state run in Class 2A. Unity’s Andrew Warnes (800) and Paxton-Buckley-Loda’s Tyler Rubarts (triple jump) were Class 1A area athletes finishing fifth.
Champaign Central’s 3,200 relay, which wasn’t seeded among the Class 2A schools that would get a medal, moved up from 10th to seventh.
“The medal is the material memory, but the experience we gained is priceless,” anchor runner Ashton Hyatt said.
Isaac Kasten, Corey White and Henry Sills were the Maroons’ first three competitors.
The foursome ran a season-best time in Friday’s prelims and then lowered it almost four seconds (to 8:02.68) a day later in the finals.
M-S’ Brennen Shobe placed sixth in the pole vault, finishing behind five seniors. He was the only freshman finalist in 2A in the event. Shobe cleared a career-best 13-9.
Unity’s Aaron Luesse placed sixth in the 110 high hurdles. He is the Rockets’ third hurdles’ state placer overall and the first in the sprint-hurdle race.