E. St. Louis will be ready to strut their stuff this weekend on the big blue track and more
The sundial is almost set on the preliminary round for the many teams and athletes who have visions of a state title and personal accolades. Among the teams to watch is #1 E. St. Louis Senior. The Flyers have been hungry and laser-focused on getting to Charleston intact after having their season cut short last year due to an ugly incident. Look for the team from the famous eastside to provide multiple high grade of individual talent all over the track and of course relays. ESL is a complete team. Contrast them with #2 Marengo who will feature the pronged attack by junior Finnigan Schirmer. He could win four races this weekend. Thornridge, Dixon, and Mahomet-Seymour will fight for the right to be in trophy contention and top five status.
Some of the top field event talents reside in this classification. Track newcomer Terrence Hargrove (Sr., E. St. Louis) led the sectional in the high jump with a 6-8 clearance. He came to the program after a stellar basketball season after leading the Flyers to a state title. As good as Hargrove has been, he is not the favorite. Zach Pluff (Sr., Freeburg) is the main guy in the state whose 6-10 has kept him afloat and ranks in the top 20. Let's see if these two stallions can challenge the 7-foot barrier. It has been quite a while since we have seen more than one leaper eclipse this magical mark.
Another top athlete that is a must-see is pole vaulter Chandlar Ifft (Sr., Prairie Central) who comes from a long line of vaulting lineage. His older sister Kassadee was a former state champion and now is part of the Notre Dame University team. Ifft leads the state with a 16-6 clearance and will be aiming for his first title this weekend.
Hunter Hendershot (Jr., Mahomet-Seymour) has been relatively quiet this spring despite coming in with some solid throwing marks by his standards. The shot put appears to be Hendershot's best event with a reach of 60-7.50 which is good for fifth in the state. The undefeated Hendershot will look to defend his title and with a five-foot advantage coming into Charleston, he will be tough to beat. Hendershot is also the favorite in the discus throw but by not much. Athan Huelskamp (Jr., St. Viator) will provide fierce resistance. His 171-1 best is just a few feet short of Hendershot's 175-0 class best.
The long jump could be scary good if some of the season bests come into play. David Emuze (Jr., Springfield Southeast) is one of the favorites with a season-best 23-1. But he will be opposed by Isaac Green (Jr., Greenville) who is the sectional leader... Khalil Ross (Jr., Springfield Lanphier) jumped 46-4 at the sectional lead all triple jumpers.
Relays will come through when it counts-
The 4x800 has not been as swift to date as some would like, but that is expected to change after the prelim round. Dixon appears to be the team to beat as they are the only unit to go under 8:00 with a robust 7:57.28. Look for Stanford-Olympia, Rockford Christian, Wheaton St. Francis, Burlington Central, and Sycamore to challenge.
E. St. Louis Sr has a great history in all four relays, but that does not mean they will be dominant in the three are entered. The Flyers will lead with the 4x100 where they come in with a 42.06 best. That time leads the classification. It will be interesting to see if star Willie Johnson is on it prior to the final. ESL will surely face a challenge from Rich Central and Thornridge prior to the final. The battle in the 4x200 should see Chicago St. Rita, the sectional leader, vs. ESL, Mascoutah, Rich Central, and Rock Falls. The winning time could be in the 1:27-high range on Saturday.
The distance arena is underrated-
Distance running in 2A has typically been hit or miss since the added classification over ten seasons ago. The primary culprit has been enrollment changes that either move teams or athletes up or down over the course of the season. But there may be more depth this season. Mathias Powell (Sr., Mahomet-Seymour) is considered the 3200m favorite after coming off of a great cross country season in which he became champion for the first time. Powell's 9:03.51 is the classification leader and it's the third best overall in the state. It is unlikely that we will see a sub- 9:00 effort from the winner. But a hearty competitive effort between Powell and Garrett Dixon (Sr., Monticello) should produce a memorable battle. Dixon has run 9:11 compared to the next best person Dawson Smith (Jr., Rock Falls) at 9:25.64.
The 800m will receive a boost from Riley Wells (Sr., Rockford Christian) who comes in from 1A where he has notched several state titles. Wells sectional time is not very appealing but keep in mind that he has clocked 1:52 as a sophomore. He also has a deadly kick just in case. Jacob Gray (Sr., Metamora) and Jackson McAlister (Jr., Waterloo) have been racing well of recent and will not be intimidated.
Daniel Chen's 4:15.80 looks very appealing for the IMSA senior. Chen cruised during his sectional race and will be right there with the likes of Powell, Dixon, and the newcomer on the scene Brent Brunner (Sr., Rockford Christian).
Finnigan Schirmer is a one man army-
The one-man wrecking ball Finnigan Schirmer (Jr., Marengo) could be someone to put on a show this weekend in four events: 100, 200, 110HH, 300H. Schirmer is the state leader in the 300H so watch for to possibly challenge the 37-second barrier.