As a photojournalist, I have found myself to snap into this tack-sharp focused state where I hardly check the stopwatch at the meet. It is only after the excitement and adrenaline begin to fade when I have found myself realizing that I had just witnessed and documented a record-breaking performance. The 3A 4x800m Relay in 2016 at The IHSA Boys State Track & Field Championship is one of these spectacular moments and experiences as a photojournalist that I treasure to this day.
It is undeniable that the show-stopping 4x800 laid down by Sandburg was a life-changing race to have witnessed. The squad that made up this record-setting relay was the Eagles' Tom Brennan
, Dylan Jacobs
, Sean Torpy
, and Chris Torpy
. Their time: 7:37.36, less than four seconds off of the national state meet record, holds as the Illinois record. And this was despite the breezy conditions.
I still look back on every single one of those captivating sub-eight minutes of competition as some of the most exciting moments in my sports photojournalism career thus far. From a personal standpoint, I was a senior at Lane Tech in 2016 and gearing up to graduate before endeavoring to Northwestern University to study journalism and Spanish. In 2016, I was watching the athletes I grew up admiring take off to incredible feats. As a former distance runner, the 4x800 competition is especially motivating to witness
Like so many of the athletes competing, this was also my final season of high school track & field, albeit in a different regard. I had hung up my poorly used running spikes the year before to focus on my growing interest in photojournalism. This was my fourth year in a row covering the IHSA Boys state championship finals as a solo photographer for MileSplit -- it garnered a sentimental feeling.
And back to the historic 3A 4x800, I was seeing many of my graduating class put on a show that fans would talk about for years. As each lap went on, the athletes would pass the officials and journalists at a speed that felt almost too fast to even fathom that a record was going to fall that day. For those of us at eye level, all we could do was watch in awe and try to calculate each lap's speed by glimpsing at the scoreboard from behind the eyecup of your DSLR. The whole time, I was eagerly photographing as each athlete raced by.
Then there was the bell. It had felt as if the Torpy twins had just exchanged the baton for the anchor leg. And the next thing you know, Chris Torpy was crossing the line, arms raised. With a seven-second lead on Oak Park-River Forest in second. A celebratory yet reserved Chris would eventually reconvene with his team, all smiling ear-to-ear. He would go on to win the 800m handily.
The entire 2016 state series was quite a spectacle. Illinois still has eight records standing from that sunny weekend at O'Brien Field. During the finals, somehow there was not the quintessential deluge and thunderstorm that typically accompanies at least one day down in Charleston, Illinois during the championship. But the Sandburg distance squad would truly bring a storm of their own that day, making their mark in history. As a team, they earned third in the 3A competition!
Check out the 2016 3A 4x800m championship