The final day of the competition was filled with as much trepidation as it was excitement. Friday's 2A championship was moved to a later time because of harsh weather conditions which included very high heat and humidity. A late thunderstorm hit the area on Friday night opening Saturday with cloudy skies and morning rain. However, the cooler than expected climes that topped out near 80F were well received.
EIU bound senior Brandon Battle of Edwardsville was the center of attention as he was chasing after the all-time 400m record held by the legendary Kahmari Montgomery in 46.24. In that pursuit would be a sprint "Triple Crown" on display. In between Battle's madness were relays to watch, distance events to ponder, sprint competition to figure out, and the always exciting field events to decipher.
The MileSplit IL final Power Rankings were as good as it gets when it comes to the state championship. The final standings here were Naperville (Neuqua Valley ) 36, Minooka 34, Normal West 33.
EVENT BY EVENT-
Discus Throw: Coming in as the sixth seed and seventh rated performer during the sectional and regular season, Ryan Faut of Glenbrook South made the most of his opportunity on the biggest stage. He fouled on his first attempt, but it was a 178'11" PB for the win during his second effort. The mark would also be the second-best in the state this season.
High Jump: It was another defection from basketball that turned into a big gain for track and field. Moline junior Rob Pulliam wanted to try something different in his athletic career. He admitted to being a complete novice after joining the team in April, he got over 6'4" in his first-ever competition. It was the 6'8" clearance that drew serious attention. Undefeated coming into the state meet, Pulliam would not hold. Pulliam won the competition at 6'9" and had the bar moved up to 6'11.50" instead of 7-foot because he wanted the school record. He did indicate that his goal for '22 is to be a consistent 7-foot jumper.
Long Jump: Rock Island has produced a ton of talent at the state championship but no one outside of their community expected Samson Shakuru to win it all. Well, Shakuru saved his best on the third attempt and it was a good one: 22'11.75". Shakuru survived a last-second scare from Jake Mackowiak of Lincoln-Way Central whose 6.99m measured in English's terms 22'11.25 fell just short.
Pole Vault: The soft-spoken Liam McGill of Bloomington definitely carries a big stick when it comes to the vault. He has to, coming from an area of the state where the event is king. The state leader had no trouble in winning his first title and keep the tradition at home following star Zach Bradford. McGill cleared 15'9.75" amid some rough conditions but with a nice tailwind.
Shot Put: The big-time favorite Kyle Clabough of Yorkville was not going to lose this one. He made sure of it with a 61'6.50" bomb on his third attempt.
Triple Jump: Competing with a favorable +3.0 wind, Leslie Fisher of Normal West hit on his best jump of the competition which was good enough for the win- 48'1.50" (+3.0). The favorite Malcolm Bevans of Chicago St. Ignatius was third (45'11.5") behind Desmond Horton of Lake Park's 47'8".
4x800: The top-rated squad from Minooka was billed by almost every pundit to take this title. After all the Indians produced a then state leading 7:49.74 at the Homewood-Flossmoor Sectional. Minooka opened up as expected in a great spot and was second after the first leg. They would have a three-second leg with anchor Vincent Van Eck waiting in the wings. A deficit that big with an ace to boot could be tough to overcome. On the bell lap, Neuqua Valley's Nicolas Dovalovsky chopped the lead in half and went for the win. Locked head to head with less than 50m remaining, Dovalovsky got the edge and his 1:52.32 split netted an IL#1 7:49.00. Minooka's runner-up prize was 7:49.43.
4x100: Homewood-Flossmoor was the top unit coming with a state and sectional best 41.40 but the Vikings placed 6th. Minooka was the next team up and the Indians took advantage of the opportunity and roared home in 42.01. Oak Park-River Forest took the runner-up spot over Normal Community with the same time 42.30.
3200: Humid conditions may have come into play as the first half was only 4:45. Micah Wilson of St. Charles East got the lead on the fifth lap along with Luke Wiley (Warren) and Spencer Werner (Loyola Academy). Werner fell back a bit
110HH: The top hurdler all year including the indoor season has been Evanston's Kalil Johnson. Of course, winning the state title was the first order of business. He got it done in 14.01 [+1.4]. The second order was getting under the 14-second watermark and supplanting himself among the greats. Johnson said his block slipped and it hurt him badly as he had to recover to defeat Gabe Czako of Lockport who ran a personal best 14.10.
100: The state leader Tyler Colwell of Minooka would false start making Brandon Battle's road to the triple crown a bit easier. The first section winner Deshawn Willis of Oak Park-River Forest ran a strong 10.66 (+1.2). With the crowd buzzing after section two winner Reece Young of Wheaton-Warrenville South dropped 10.69 (+1.4), the thought of what could the final race of the day net was upon us. The wind coming in from the south was not a factor until just before the start of section three when the track was already reversed for competition. Battle, Marshall Ellis (Homewood-Flossmoor), and a surprising opponent from Wauconda in Javerius McGuinn of Wauconda. Battle and McGuinn hit the tape in 10.61 but Battle sensed the win immediately despite it taking some time to sort out. The raw score revealed 10.604 to 10.606 in favor of Battle and his first state title officially in the books.
800: Daniel Watcke has lived a cat's life with his racing tactics. The sophomore from Hinsdale Central does race the typical fast first lap and hold on method. Not only did Watcke trail after the 400 in a very slow 59.80, but the pace from the first section was over two seconds faster (Ryan Schreiner of Wheaton North- 4th 1:55.73). However, Watcke began to wound things up and push hard with 300 to go. Watcke finished hard as did Josh Delgado of Grant but the kick was too strong for the Red Devil who won in 1:54.24.
4x200: Hard to believe that only one team got under 1:28 this season, but Covid has hurt track and field in terms of depth. But kudos to Batavia for winning another title here and holding off Homewood-Flossmoor 1:27.80-1:28.06.
400: The moment of truth finally arrived and Brandon Battle was ready. Would he become the first Illinois boy to go under 46-seconds? Battle did not waste a moment from his block in lane 5 as he bolted out fast and quickly broke stagger on the field. He hit the first 200 in sub-21-seconds and clearly on his way to something special. Battle kept his poise as he was all alone coming up the homestretch and hit the line in 46.48. He did not get the all-time record but he re-established himself as one of the best to ever do it. The mark was IL#1, US#3, and IL#3 all-time.
300H: Johnson was back at it again and this time there would not be any coming back from a block slippage. Nursing a sore hamstring, Johnson crossed the finish line in 38.08 and just missing the top 50 nationally.
1600: Arthur Graham of Naperville Central won section one in 4:17.45 which meant that if anyone in section two wanted to medal, they could not afford to sit and kick. Nicolas Dovalosky, Luke Schildmeyer (St. Charles East), Jacob Myers (Lake Zurich), Griffin Pasha (Warren), and Spencer Werner were entact midway through a first half in 2:09. On the bell lap, Schildmeyer and Dovalosky kept the lead and appeared as though they would go 1-2. Myers had already reved up for this moment and scootched his way past them both for the win in 4:10.63.
200: The final piece of the triple crown puzzle was put into place as Battle dashed home in 21.65. The usually subdued Battle let out all of the emotion he could as he continued his victory jaunt for another 60m after his historic win.
4x400: The final race of the day would be a good one. Batavia, Plainfield South, Chicago Lane Tech, Neuqua Valley, Plainfield North, and Hinsdale Central would figure into the winning decision. Hinsdale Central made it a race for second after the second leg and Daniel Watcke closed the win out in 3:19.48. His split was timed in 48.34. The Red Devils are the only team under 3:20 this year.