Illini West celebrate a championship amongst each other Saturday evening (Pierre Nealon photo)
The Illinois Top Times in late March seemed to be the catalyst that sparked several top teams throughout the outdoor season. Such is the case of Carthage (Illini West) which produced many good performances inside of O'Brien Stadium on the campus of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. The Chargers did not disappoint the Power Team Rankings by MileSplit Illinois where they sat atop the rankings for much of the season including the final one. The proud group from Hancock County scored a healthy 61 points to easily outdistance runner-up Colfax (Ridgeview) who suprised with 34 points. The final trophy receiver was Forreston who tallied 31.
Illini West picks up big points in the field-
The field events are a great place to pick up points and boost a championship minded team. So it was no surprise to see pre-meet long jump favorite junior Connor Artman pluck 10 quick points. Artman had two full days from Thursday's preliminary round to refresh and overcome a deficit to Jordan Rowell (Sr., IC Catholic) who lead all qualifiers with at 22-9.25. Artman dropped a big personal best 23-5 that moved him to IL #6 and his team one step closer to a state title.
Illini West senior Jace Norman did not win the high jump Nathan Kiger (Sr., Palastine) did with a solid 6-7 clearance. Norman finished third on a jump off to Caleb Vogel (Sr., Duquoin) both at 6-6.
PV: An incredible upset occurred when IL #2 performer and defending champion Curtis Gordon (Sr., Vandalia) placed second to Cameron Witts (Williamsville). The winning height of 14-9 was quite a surprise since Gordon has jumped 16-0 this season.
SP: Nick Olson (Sr., Flanagan) moved from third to state champion with a narrow win over Andy Bird (Jr., Warsaw) 55-9 to 55-6. Both throwers moved up from their prelim marks to and separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Olson maintained his classification best 57-10.
TJ: Mason Wright (Sr., Forreston) aided his team's cause with a class best and personal record 47-0 on Saturday.
DT: Not the best showing by winner Ty Kinkelaar (Sr., Effingham St. Anthony) but he got the job done with a 164-6 effort against Devin Jones (Sr., Duquoin). Jones' 163-7 was one of three marks over 160-feet.
Riley Wells put a stamp on the 800 field by running a sensational effort
Distance races gets split decision in the distance events-
Logan Hall (Jr., Arthur) has maintained that he wanted to get Jon Davis' junior class 3200m record 9:05.23. It would be a tall task in achieving the mark when the pace stalled during the first half to just under 4:40. Battling with Tanner Chada (Sr., Hinckley Big Rock), Hall had to know that an easy win was not going to happen. They both separated from the pack to make this a two man show. Hall bid his time well for the next several laps and struck fast on the penultimate lap. That final charge was good enough for the state championship in 9:13.74. Chada ran 9:16.28. The big times was an improvement for Class A which in the past usually has one athlete above and beyond. Hall would later take third in the 1600m in 4:19.48. Chada won the race on a big finishing kick in 4:18.35 to hold off Eli Ten Eyck (Jr., Pittsfield) who ran a personal best 4:19.01.
The effort of the day on the distance side was sophomore Riley Wells of Rockford Christian in the 800m. Wells, who is a rising star, led one of the deepest Class A fields in history with a IL #2 1:52.84. Despite a fast but honest pace, Brandon Schnitker (Jr., Nashville) battled hard to the end and placed 2nd in 1:53.53. 10 of the 12 finalists ran under 1:59.00.
Relays put stamp on the track-
The top 9 times in the 4x800 all came via the championship race. The initial lead off legs were sub 2:00 before subsequently tailing off. Illini West was the team with the least amount of decline which propelled them to an easy winner 8:03.91.
Decatur St. Teresa had a solid, but unnerving lead in the 4x100 until the anchor legs arrive. Anchor John Bryles got ran down by Rushville's Derryn Holmes who turned on the turbo jets with 50 meters to go and won in 43.28.
Ridgeview burned the fastest time of the season in outdistancing the 4x200 field in 1:28.90. Senior standout Mason Barr anchored home the win ahead of Rockford Christian and Mercer County.
Rockford Christian closed out the day with a thrilling win in the 4x400 in 3:22.41. Riley Wells anchored home the win with a 50.5 split. Illini West picked up 8 points for good measure clocking 3:22.85.
Easton Bianchi sweeps the short dashes and more-
The name Easton Bianchi (Jr., Sterling Newman Catholic) is one that will be remembered going into 2018. Bianchi motored home two convincing sprint victories. The first one was the 100 in which he sped to a Class A legal wind best 10.86 (0.8). Kahil Wassell (Sr., New Berlin) was the star of the championship last year could not reel Bianchi home, had to settle for second in 10.93. Bianchi turned back Wassell again in the 200 busting 21.78 (-0.1). Wassell ran 22.15. Wassell had earlier finished second in the 400 in 49.43 to Ben Friesen (Sr., Chicago Christian) 48.65.
Trey Miller (Sr., Lewistown) improved on his 14.99 prelim time in 110HH to win going away against A.J. Christensen (Jr., Forreston) 14.80-14.94.
Mason Barr returned from the 4x200 to help his own cause in the 300H in a class best 38.32- the 10th fastest time in the state.