Despite several mishaps at sectionals such as the loss of Carson McKee and the 4x1 relay, Illini West remains the team to beat. The Chargers have been atop of the Milesplit Illinois Power Rankings for much of the outdoor season and there is no reason to stop now. The team is still strong with Jace Norman in the field and Connor Artman on the track. But expect Sterling (Newman Catholic) to breath heavily over the shoulders of the Chargers if they falter. Tuscola and defending champion New Berlin will fight for the top spot.
LJ: What a difference a year makes for Jordan Rowell (Sr., Elmhurst IC). He qualified for state but did not compete, but this year could be different after leading all sectional qualifiers with a personal best 22'6." The road to a championship on the surface seems easy because Jaylon Bester (Jr., Belleville Althoff) did not qualify out of his sectional. Fortunately, for the fans there are several other 22-footers in the field including Tate Walcott (So., Ridgeview), Ben Friesen (Sr., Chicago Christian), and Colton Polhemus (So., Tremont). A dangerous figure here is Connor Artman (Jr., Carthage Illini West). He is one of the top track athletes in Illinois and will be a factor in this event.
PV: The defending state champion and Illinois Top Times champ two times is ready to put a stamp on his career. The individual we are talking about is Curtis Gordon (Sr., Vandalia). The University of Illinois recruit ranks #2 state side with at 16-0. He could be challenging 3A's Zach Bradford of Bloomington virtual meet style.
HJ: Tristan Tewes (So., Pleasant Plains) is ready to continue the family name in the headlines over the next several years. Tristan's older sister Hope was a standout high jumper for the Cardinals before moving on to Murray State University. The battle for supreme high jumper will mean that Tewes is going to have to fight the likes of Caleb Vogel (Sr., Duquoin) for the title on Saturday. Both leapers are ranked #2 in the state with 6'8.25" clearances. Jace Norman (Sr., Illini West) won Illinois Top Times with a personal best 6'8" but has only cleared 6'5" outside. Nick Schultz (Sr., Gibson City) has gotten over the bar for a 6'8" best. The field is incredibly deep and is arguably the deepest field event in the state regardless of classification.
SP: This was not a strong event a year ago. That could change with Nick Olson (Sr., Flanagan) leading the charge. Olson ranks #10 in the state with a nice personal best 57'10" and inching toward 60-feet. It has been several years since a Class A thrower has touched 60-feet. The undefeated Olson may be that one to do it. The closest challenger Andy Bird (Jr., Warsaw) is nearly three back at 54'11.50."
TJ: Nick Schultz is the classification leader while Jarod Meents (Sr., Clifton Central) leads all sectional qualifiers. Schultz qualified with a 42'9" which means nothing until Thursday afternoon. Jaylon Bester will seek revenge after missing out on the long jump. He has leaped 44'1".
DT: Devin Jones (Sr., Duquoin) is the class and sectional leader heading into Charleston. Jones has been dominant in Class A with his 183' which ranks #5 in the state. Though Jones is only four feet ahead of Ty Kinkelaar (Sr., Effingham St. Anthony), the difference is for more than a dozen feet better than him.
4x100: This should be the most exciting relay in the prelim as a bunch of 43-something quartets go at it. Rushville Industry has the best time overall at 43.30. Sectional foes Warrensburg-Latham and Decatur (St. Teresa) will duel again and should advance to the final with ease. Expect the winning time to dip into the 42s.
3200 (no prelim/race on Saturday 5/27):
Athletes to Watch: Logan Hall (Jr., Arthur (A.-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond)), Wyatt McIntyre (Jr., Athens [Coop]), Tanner Chada (Sr., Hinckley (H.-Big Rock)
Skinny: This is another showdown among the fantastic top-end talent in 1A, a group of upperclassmen that frequently see each other. Hall, McIntyre and Chada separated themselves from the rest of the 1A pack with 9:11, 9:11 and 9:16 performances at DNP on April 22 and they will almost surely make up the first three spots on the podium. All three were consecutive at 1A XC state (McIntyre 2nd, Hall 3rd, and Chada 4th) and will also rematch in the 1600. McIntyre has had a slightly more prolific season than Hall or Chada's, and Hall also may elect to focus on the 1600 where he is a slightly stronger favorite than McIntyre or Chada. Expect one of those two to make this race honest.
There will be a new champion as the super talented Bret Dannis (St. Bede) has moved up to 2A. Saturday should be a great show if Connor Artman, Trey Miller (Sr., Lewistown), and A.J. Christensen (Jr., Forreston) all get through safely. Miller is the sectional best 15.14 but Christensen has the class best 14.69.
100: Easton Bianchi (Jr., Newman Central Catholic) has the third fastest time in the state at 10.52. This fast time has propelled Bianchi as the favorite in the man's fastest race. He is also the sectional leader at 10.78. Can Bianchi maintain his status and dethrone Kahlil Wassell (Sr., New Berlin)? It is going to be fun to be exciting to see if this and more happens. Jaylon Bester will challenge for a Saturday top perch as will Demontae Martin (Sr., Chester).