With the nearly full moon overlooking last Thursday night, the Neuqua Valley Sectional Meet began our final push toward the State Championship. As the only place where athletes can qualify for the State Meet, everyone knew that they needed to bring their best efforts. Neuqua Valley showed that we could compete with the best teams in the State with a 2nd place finish to a strong Minooka team by only 8 points.
The field events were underway early and with the best flight of the High Jump going first, the bar was quickly at the 6’ 3” qualifying height. To the amazement of many, Tyler Hughes (Sr.) would begin at this height even though his outdoor season best was only 5’ 11”. Hughes’ first attempt showed great promise and was well over the bar but knocked it off with his legs. The second attempt was not very strong but after working up the crowd, Hughes cleared 6’ 3” on his third attempt, leaving a steady, but wobbling bar behind him, taking 2nd place and becoming our first State Qualifier of the night.
In the Long Jump, Ife Oketona (So.) and Chris Muoghalu (Sr.) would both post up personal best marks and came within inches of qualifying. Oketona would finish 3rd with a jump of 21’ 6.5” and Muoghalu would finish 4th with a jump of 21’ 5”. This was the first time that Muoghalu had competed in the Long Jump this season! Look for big marks to come from Oketona in the upcoming years.
Later in the night, Neuqua Valley would continue to score big in the Triple Jump. McKenzie Mitchell (So.) and Fikayo Akinbo (Jr.) would place 2nd and 3rd respectively to put 14 points on the board. In the finals, Mitchell would break his own Frosh-Soph school record to jump 44’ 2” and qualify for the State Meet both on place and mark. Akinbo was only 6 inches from qualifying as well.
In the throws, Tom Cwiok (Sr.) threw 173’ 10” in the Discus to become Sectional Champion, qualify for the State Meet and break one of our oldest school records. The previous record was set in 2001 by Babatunde “OJ” Oshinowo, an athlete that would go on to play Football at Stanford and in the NFL. In the Shot Put, Tom Cwiok and AJ Cwiok (Jr.) double scored by placing 3rd and 6th with marks of 52’ 6” and 48’ 11”. Unfortunately, Tom’s mark of 52’ 6” was 2 inches shy of the State Qualifying Mark.
The running events began with the 4 x 800 m relay. Representing Neuqua Valley was the team of Caleb Ferguson (Sr.), Matt Milostan (Jr.), Danny Winek (So.) and Josh Mollway (Jr.). After three strong legs, including sub 2:00 performances for Milostan and Winek, we were in the lead. Soren Knudsen from Minooka would eventually catch us on the last leg despite a 1:58 split from Mollway. Regardless, the team would finish 2nd with a time of 7:54.81 and qualify for the State Meet with a season best time.
Connor Horn (Sr.) and Scott Anderson (Jr.) would be the next to qualify for the State Meet with strong runs in the 3200 m. After a rather controlled first mile, Horn pulled away from the pack and Anderson followed suit. The pair would see Horn as Sectional Champion in a time of 9:18.91 and Anderson as Sectional Runner-Up in a time of 9:22.77. This pair of distance runners is poised to perform well next week. Later in the evening, Horn would also qualify for the State Meet in the 1600 m by taking 4th with a time of 4:21.33.
While not State Qualifiers or Sectional Medalists, Ryan Dierking (Sr.) and Donovan Turner (Fr.) posted incredible personal bests in the 110 m High Hurdles with marks of 16.40 and 16.20. These marks are nearly one second faster than their previous bests and with Turner being a Freshman, we know that we have a bright future in this event. In the 300 m Intermediate Hurdles, Dierking ran an outstanding race and became a Sectional Medalist by taking 6th place in a time of 41.20.
In the 800 m, Isaiah Robinson (Jr.) took the pace out quick and was challenged in the second lap by Ottowa’s Seamus McGettigan and Plainfield South’s All-State 800 m runner John Partee. Robinson would charge hard to the finish to regain 2nd place with a mark of 1:54.92, which is a personal best. Patrick Wolak (Sr.) would also have a personal best with a time of 2:01.07.
In the spirit of redemption, our 4 x 200 m relay team of Dan Gaynes (Sr.), JaQuere Williams (Jr.), Kevin Sager (Sr.) and Ryan Lukas (Sr.) set out to erase the memory of an unfortunate dropped baton in the 4 x 100 m relay with incredible effort in the 4 x 200 m relay. The quartet had smooth exchanges and fast splits which totaled to 1:27.16 taking 2nd place. This time was .01 seconds away from our school record, was the fastest non-State Meet performance in team history and was easily under the State Qualifying Mark of 1:29.34.
Our 400 m runners had an outstanding night. In the open 400 m, Tanner Karbonik (Sr.) ran 51.52 and Josh Krajacic (So.) ran 52.49. While these marks are not fast enough to qualify for the State Meet, they represent large improvements on personal bests for both athletes. Given that Karbonik broke his leg earlier in the season and Krajacic was out for part of the season doing therapy on his hamstring, these are impressive accomplishments. In the last race of the evening, the 4 x 400 m relay team of Isaiah Robinson (Jr.), Kevin Sager (Sr.), Dan Gaynes (Sr.) and JaQuere Williams (Jr.) would battle with Minooka. Both teams would qualify in the end with amazing marks. Neuqua Valley would take 2nd with a time of 3:18.35, which is one of the fastest non-State Meet performances in team history.
Based on the initial seeds, Minooka should have run away with the team competition. However, for most of the meet, we were actually leading and the final score showed how strong of a team that we have. Congratulations to Minooka for taking the Sectional Title and now we move on to the State Championship where we have qualified 10 entries in 9 events.
Thank you to all of the parents and athletes that helped to make this meet a success by volunteering their time. Thank you to our Athletic Director, Barb Barrows, the Athletic Department and our Grounds Crew for the work that they put in behind the scenes to provide an environment where the athletes from all of the schools could be given the best chance possible to qualify for the State Meet.