Three local schools are likely to place in the Top 10 at the boys state track meet this weekend in Charleston and could even bring home some hardware.
Du Quoin may be the best bet as the Indians compete in Class 1A. Marion and Herrin are expected to be a tough out in Class 2A.
Indians coach Derek Beard said he is optimistic about his team’s chances of placing at state.
“We have a few experienced guys who have the potential to be on the podium,” Beard said. “Our kids have worked hard all season and really been a great group to be around. I’m proud of their accomplishments.”
Beard said talented upperclassmen are a key.
“Our seniors have been leaders for this group and you can see some juniors starting to take on leadership roles, as well,” the coach said. “I believe our best opportunity to get on the podium is with our sprint, sprint relays, and hurdles.”
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Senior Kameron Hugya has been dominant in the 110 meter high hurdles, turning in a time of 16.58 seconds at the Webber Township Sectional last week. The 4 x 100 meter relay group of Brayden Jokisch, Hugya, Malik Jones and Da’Marion Johnson is one of the best in the state in 44.37 seconds.
The 4 x 200 relay is also strong, placing first at the sectional in 1:35.03 led by Tiyon Bardo-Spiller, Jace Colvin, Jones and Nehring.
Jones was a sectional champion in both the 100 meters (11.11 seconds) and 200 meters (23.05 seconds), while Johnson was a first-place finisher in the 400 meters at the sectional. Jones also qualified for state in the long jump, placing second overall.
Jakob Eaton and Eli Nehring both qualified in the pole vault. Hunter Martin is a qualifier in the 300 meter hurdles.
Other Indians who qualified for state are: Dwayne Wilmington in the shot put; Conor Gross in the 800 meters; and Jokisch in the triple jump.
Another athlete to keep an eye on in Class 1A is Webber Township senior Chase Smith. He won the 800 meters and was a big part of two relays – 4 x 400 and 4 x 800 – that both placed first to qualify for state.
Others to keep an eye on include: Weston Hails-Webber Township in the long jump; Landon Webb of Vienna in the high jump; Trent Bliss of Fairfield in the high jump; Evan Sanders of Johnston City in the shot put; Hunter Danberrry of Webber Township and Nelson Rider of Carmi-White County in the discus; Dez Malone of Sesser-Valier in both the 100 and 200 meters; Bryce Conner of Carmi-White County in the 400 meters; Eason Comer of Pope County in the 800 and 3200; Tanner Spence of Carmi-White County in the 1600; Grant Jennette of Fairfield in the 3200; Trey Mason of Fairfield in the 300 hurdles; and Gauge Schlake of Christopher in the 110 hurdles.
Marion won their first sectional title since 1992 after earning the Salem Sectional championship last week.
“We are looking to build upon recent successes, including multiple PRs in all events,” said Marion coach Enrico “Chico” Castellano. “This spring, we’ve already broken three school records, won the South Seven Conference, and then the sectional last week.”
The 4 x 800 meter relay team of Benja Stone, Sean Hudspath, Mekye Lomax, and Hayden Lees qualified for state and is three seconds off a school record.
The 4 x 400 meter relay group of Max Wade, Hudspath, Lees and Lomax had a PR of 3 minutes, 26.15 seconds and is hopeful of placing at state.
Distance runner Dylon Nalley is shooting to run under nine minutes in the 3200 meter run. He already owns the school record in that event. He is also hoping to break the school record in the 1600 meters.
Hudspath and Lomax will likely both compete in the 800 meter run. Both have been clocked in under two minutes this spring at 1 minute, 56 seconds. A repeat of that performance at state will likely put them on the medal stand.
Jordyn Beverly would like to build on his school record in the discus throw with a fling of more than 177 feet.
And Elliot O’Keefe is hoping to add to his sectional glory in the triple jump with a strong follow-up performance this weekend. The graduated senior went 41 feet, 10 inches to win the Salem Sectional. It was more than two feet better than his previous best mark.
Herrin led Marion by two points going into the final event at Salem, so they can’t be ruled out of a high team placement at state.
“We’re going up there to compete, and I think we will do well,” said Tigers coach James Elliott. “I don’t think we have enough depth to win state, but I think we have a shot at finishing in the top three either this year or next year. Our goal is to do better than we did last year, which was seventh.”
Sophomore sensations Chris Nelson and Kyrese Lukens qualified No. 1 and No. 2 in both the 100 and 200 meters. Nelson broke his own school record in the 100 meters at 10.62 seconds. He also set a school record in the 200 meters at 21.64 seconds. Lukens checked in with a PR of 10.92 in the 100 and 22.23 in the 200.
Moreover, the two sprint relays for the Tigers are capable of winning titles at state.
The 4 x 100 meter relay team of Logan Clough, Exavier Williams, Lukens and Nelson set a new school record with a time of 42.0 seconds. They are also closing in on the school record for the 4 x 200 meter relay. The quartet’s best time to date is 1:27.48.
Also qualifying for state is sophomore Waylon Hall, who has a personal best time of 2:01.44 in the 800 meters. He is about two seconds off the school record.
Elliott said freshman Braden Davis did not qualify for state in the 800 meters, but his time of 2:03.63 is the second-fastest time among freshmen in the state.
THE GENISIO FACTOR
Benton junior Gavin Genisio could win the 1600 meter run at state. He ran a 4:09.65 last week to win the sectional. He figures to be pushed by Columbia's Ethan Hogan.
Genisio's Rangers teammate, Gabriel McLain, is also a contender for a medal as will be Luke Winkleman of Harrisburg.
Adrian Mann and Tony Keene of Harrisburg both qualified in the 110 meter high hurdles. Mann also qualified in the 300 hurdles.
Other area athletes who qualified for the 2A state meet include: Jaden Smith of Carterville and Henry Harsy of Carbondale in the shot put; Wyatt Pilson of Mount Vernon and Andrew Unthank of Harrisburg in the discus; Jacari Virden in the high jump; Jacob Morrison of Mount Vernon in the long jump; Karmello Downey of Harrisburg in the triple jump; Keene of Harrisburg in the pole vault; Anthony Lash of Mount Vernon in the 100 meters; Austin Dedecker of Carbondale and Judd Hicks of Mount Vernon in the 400 meters; Trey Mygatt of Mount Vernon and Matteo Vaca-Diez of Anna-Jonesboro in the 800 meters.