Charleston, Ill --- The winds whipped up strongly from the south and affected most athletes Thursday in the first day of the prelims of the IHSA Boys State Track Meet. It did not affect Steve Schroeder (Monticello, Ill) and Grant Nykaza (Beecher, Ill) as they ran in the final heat of the 1600 Meter Run.
To them, it was just a rehearsal for Saturday’s final. Schroeder and Nykaza traded off the lead for the first three laps before Schroeder took the lead just before the last lap. He came across the finish line effortlessly running 4:21.28 while Nykaza jogged in a second behind (4:22.55).
“Everybody in the stands today thought I wanted to beat Steve today. The plan today was to just qualify. That was it,” said Nykaza after his run. “I did not want to run the last lap in 73. I wanted to come in nice and easy. I have some thoughts in my head about Saturday but I will keep them to myself.”
Thursday’s prelims for Schroeder set him up for a busy day on Saturday. He opened up the prelims by anchoring his school to the fastest time in the prelims in the 4 x 800 Meter Relay (8:10.29). Schroeder’s split on the anchor was 1:56.8 just ahead of St. Joseph-Ogden. He finished the day by anchoring his schools 4 x 400 Meter Relay running a 53.5 anchor. Monticello ran the 23rd fastest time in the relay and did not advance.
After he finished his 1600 meter heat, he announced that he would run the 4x8, 3200, and the 1600. Big plans for the state cross country champion. “He is the strongest distance runner in 1A,” said Nykaza.
“My plan today was test the field on the last lap. I think I executed my plan,” said Schroeder. “Saturday is going to be a lot of fun. Getting to run on this track so much? I want to dell well in everything I can. It is all about heart and guts and doing whatever it takes.”
The triple that he plans to do is not for his own self gratification. He wants to do it for his teammates. This is his last chance to that.
“I want to do this for my teammates. They have given a lot of the summer, over the winter. I just want to give back to them. They have been there for me through all my struggles. They are great teammates. We just want to bring a trophy home with us.”
Monticello is in good shape heading into Saturday’s finals. The Sages are tied with 6 qualifiers along with Oregon, Chicago Leo, and St. Joseph-Ogden. Newton leads all of Class 1A with 8 qualifiers including all 4 relays. Sparta qualified all of their relays and has 7 total qualifiers.
Leo chances of repeating took a little bit of a hit when they bobbled the final exchange of the 4 x 200 Meter Relay. They finished 26th and did not advance. Their 4 x 100 Meter Relay had the fastest qualifying time (42.67).
Other news and notes from Thursday’s prelims:
The athletes in the 100 Meter Dash and the 110 Meter High Hurdles took advantage of the consistent 20 MPH south winds at their back. Colin Carver (Casey-Westfield, Casey Ill) just held off George Wayda (Pleasant Plains, Ill) to run the fastest time in the High Hurdles (14.54). Wayda was four hundredths back. Carver came back to run the fastest qualifying time in the 300 Intermediate Hurdles (38.35). In the 100 Meter Dash, Dontae Pryor (Kewanee, Ill) was the fastest qualifier running a 10.59. Defending champ Jonathan Hutchison (Peoria Christian, Peoria Ill) qualified by winning his heat in 10.83. Pryor is also the leading qualifier in the Long Jump (23-0.75).
There was one record set on Thursday. In the final heat of the 4 x 200 Meter Relay as Leo Catholic was having their handoff problems, Tuscola won the heat in an electrifying 1:27.93 breaking the record set by Lombard Montini seven years by one hundredths of a second. Considering how strong the wind was, it will be interesting to see if they can lower their record.
Daniel Farmer (Johnston City, Ill) had a great day on the track. He opened up by qualifying eighth in the 100 Meter Dash (10.81). In his best event, the 400 Meter Dash, Farmer charged around the back curve and finished with fastest qualifying time in the event (48.97), almost a second and a half ahead of Devin Johnson (Erie-Prophetstown, Erie Ill). He led all qualifiers in the 200 Meter Dash running a 22.46 into the strong wind on the home straightaway. “I got a slow start in the 100 again. The 100 did not affect my legs in the 400.”
Zeke Elkins (St. Joseph-Ogden, St. Joseph, Ill) set himself to a busy day on Saturday similar to Schroeder. He qualified in the 800 Meter Run (1:59.54). Thirty minutes, later he was back on the track in the blocks in the 400. He qualified sixth in that event (50.57). He anchored his team into the finals running a 50.3 anchor placing St. Joseph-Ogden into the finals.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day occurred in the 800 Meter Run when Michael Brown (White County, Carmi Ill) had the fastest qualifying time in the event (1:56.56). What makes it so eye-opening is that a week ago at his sectional, he ran 2:06.87 to win the West Frankfort Sectional which was the second slowest time heading into Thursday’s race. So who is this guy? That is what people were asking. I can tell you he ran in the 1A State Cross Country meet last fall finishing 32nd. He did come back and was the eleventh qualifier in the 1600 (4:33.31). This is the beginning of a story in which we will see this young man back in the finals again and again. A star in the making…
The weight events looks like they will be heading to an exciting conclusion on Saturday. Adam Weidner (Bureau Valley, Manlius Ill) had the longest mark in the Shot Put (57-10.75), only 7 inches ahead of Ryan Pearce (Villa Grove, Ill). Pearce is also leading the discus heading into the finals (166-11), three feet ahead of Jake Mahin (Staunton, Ill).