CHARLESTON — Daniel Mboyo shouted a three-word phrase as the Urbana boys’ track and field team concluded a photo session under the lights at Eastern Illinois’ O’Brien Stadium.
“Anything is possible!”
Professional basketball fans may be familiar with the comment, made by Kevin Garnett after the Boston Celtics’ 2008 NBA Finals victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Mboyo and the Tigers hadn’t won a championship at Friday’s IHSA Class 2A state meet. But they pulled off an achievement worthy of Mboyo’s Garnett impression.
Urbana captured its first boys’ state team trophy since 1942 by sharing third place with East St. Louis. Each program produced 41 points, though the Tigers needed and received some help from the Flyers.
Urbana went into the day’s last event — the 1,600-meter relay — tied with East St. Louis for second place at 41 points. Mascoutah held the top spot with 44 points, and Eureka was hot on everyone’s heels with 35 points.
Guess which one of those four teams didn’t have an entry in the 1,600 relay’s final and fastest heat?
“As it goes in track sometimes, it comes down to the final event,” Tigers coach Forrest Farokhi said, “and it really came down to that 4-by-4 — which we were not in. As far as other teams, it’s pretty miraculous.”
Eureka won the race to vault into second place in the team chase, while Mascoutah placed third to secure the team title. But East St. Louis stumbled all the way into 10th place overall, earning the Flyers no points when just one would’ve separated them from the Tigers.
“We’ve had a lot of talent at Urbana, but we haven’t always been able to express that at the state meet,” Farokhi said. “This is my sixth year there, and I think I’ve been there long enough for the kids to realize my effort and intent with the program.”
The Tigers’ day began well when the senior Mboyo, a future Illinois track and field athlete, won the long jump at 22 feet, 103/4 inches.
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Once running events began at 5 p.m. following a heat delay, Urbana added two more titles.
Mboyo teamed with senior Jeremiah Hamilton, freshman Cedric Sabin and sophomore Jackson Gilbert to post the 400 relay’s top time of 42.11 seconds. That also established a school record.
“We looked at the film from sectionals and realized we could squeeze out a little bit more extension in the handoffs,” Farokhi said. “So each athlete just moved it back one step, and (Friday) they executed flawlessly.”
Hamilton grabbed the other championship, as he staved off Unity senior Kyle Burgoni in the 200 dash for a win in 21.67 to Burgoni’s 21.79.
“I don’t want to leave (my teammates) on a bad note saying, ‘Man, we could’ve got this,’” said Hamilton, who will continue competing in track and field at Southern Illinois. “Some people going on to the next level to college, and other people still got a while to go for high school. So with that being said, I was like, ‘I’m going to make them happy.’”
Hamilton also effused praise for his coach, whom he called “amazing.”
“He’ll be there for you, go the extra mile, make sure you’re on top of your game,” Hamilton said. “Without him … I wouldn’t even have a clue what track was.”
Urbana also received points from Gilbert in the 400 dash (third in 49.63) and its 800 relay unit of senior Sean Longdon, Mboyo, Hamilton and senior Caelan Webb (sixth in 1:30.83).
Gilbert also had only positive things to say about Farokhi.
“I always had speed. I just never knew how to use it,” Gilbert said. “And the Urbana coach … he’s been helping me out, finding my speed.”
Though perhaps there’s another reason Gilbert fared so well at his first IHSA state meet: the two little panda bear faces painted on his thumb nails.
“It’s a good luck charm,” Gilbert said. “My girlfriend in Urbana, we match nails. It gives me powers.”
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Though Unity’s Burgoni was kept out of the winner’s circle by Hamilton in the 200 dash, he bested a different sprint field earlier Friday.
Burgoni eclipsed everyone in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.72 seconds to follow through on his top seed entering the event.
“Feel like all the work I’ve been putting in in the offseason and in-season has paid off,” Burgoni said. “So I’m feeling good. I feel like I earned it.”
As Burgoni prepared to enter the starting blocks for his 100, the public address announcer noted that Burgoni has been “burning up the track” since indoor season began earlier this year.
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CJ Shoaf’s day could’ve included multiple state championships.
The Mahomet-Seymour senior left Charleston with one — in the high jump — but also placed second in the 110-meter hurdles and third in the 300 hurdles.
The former race had the facility buzzing in its immediate aftermath.
Shoaf and East St. Louis’ Devonte Ford each were listed at 14.07 seconds on O’Brien Stadium’s video board. It was necessary to reach past the hundredths of seconds to find a winner, and Ford was granted that win by one-thousandth of a second.
“It was an amazing race,” Shoaf said. “That one, even when they put it up on the board, it was still under review. One one-thousandth of a second, that’s crazy.”
Shoaf clocked 38.79 in the 300 hurdles, landing behind Peoria Richwoods’ Kevyere Mack (38.20) and Carterville’s Townsend Barton (38.54). But Shoaf wasn’t done yet. Still sweating and trying to catch his breath, Shoaf soon made his way across the infield for the 200 dash. He took 18th in 23.33.
“It was brutal. … I got right off the finish line (for the 300 hurdles), turned around, went all the way around because I couldn’t walk through (the check-in tent),” Shoaf said. “Walked right back around to the 200 check-in and right back to the start. I was carrying my spikes the whole time. Put them on just before the race and still ran a good time.
“I’ve got a lot of family and friends here. Some of them expected me to scratch (the 200) just because it was going to be so close. I just took it as a victory lap — one last race.”
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Kejuan Caradine was fired up after his last of four attempts in Friday’s triple jump competition.
The Rantoul junior used that try to exceed 13 meters, allowing him to finish sixth overall at 42 feet, 9 inches.
Seconds after exiting the sand and celebrating with some nearby teammates, though, Caradine was performing pushups next to the pit.
“I cursed,” Caradine said. “So every time we curse, you’ve got to do pushups for it.”
Caradine let his emotions overcome him in a positive way after his performance, which he said was spurred on by Eagles junior Robert Buford.
“I was getting on myself, in my head,” Caradine said. “But my friend Robert, my friend of a long time, he came down here and talked to me. He told me I’ve got to do it. I’ve got to get it all out. And I told him, I made a promise: I was going to jump 13. So I was going to have to make that promise happen.”
Preps coordinator Colin Likas highlights three standout area performers from Friday:
KYLE BURGONI, UNITY
The senior (left) rounded out his high school career with a pair of strong performances during two of the track and field world’s shortest events. Burgoni opened his Class 2A state meet stay with a win in the 100-meter dash, stopping the clock in 10.72 seconds, before returning for the 200 dash and landing in second place with a time of 21.79.
JEREMIAH HAMILTON, URBANA
The senior’s goodbye to prep track and field was a big reason the Tigers took home a share of third place in the Class 2A team chase. He played a key role on a championship-winning 400-meter relay (42.11 seconds) and a sixth-place 800 relay (1 minute, 30.83 seconds) and then surged ahead in the 200 dash and posted a critical win in 21.67.
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BRETT GIESE, PAXTON-BUCKLEY-LODA
The senior was one of just three athletes who was able to stick with Mahomet-Seymour’s CJ Shoaf in the high jump when the bar was raised to 6 feet, 51/4 inches. Though Giese ultimately didn’t clear that height, he still wound up taking fourth place at 6-23/4 and claimed a significant share of the Panthers’ 14 team points on Friday afternoon.