Each season, the coaches refer to our Sectional as the “meatgrinder”. Regardless of the changes from year to year, our Sectional assignment is tough. There is not going to be a single event where getting to the State Meet is easy or straightforward. This year was no different, but did have the extra challenge of the wind. Throughout the entire meet, there was a constant 15 mph wind that only aided a few events and reduced the number of State Qualifiers enormously. As we entered the meet, we knew that some things would go our way and that some would not. However, our team came ready to compete and by the end, we scored an incredible 127 points to win the Sectional Meet over Plainfield North and Yorkville that both tied for 63. To score more than double the score of 2nd place, shows how good and how deep our team really is.
Throughout this season, our field events have pushed us forward in the point totals more than ever before and this meet continued the trend. In the horizontal jumps, we had our first State Qualifier of the evening when Ife Oketona (Sr.) put out a huge mark of 23’ 6” in the Long Jump to set a new school record and take 3rd place. Norman Dong (Sr.) started as a hurdler on our team and after only one year trying the Long Jump, became another qualifier and scorer with a jump of 22’ 5.75”, taking 5th place. Coach Cornelius had bet our Triple Jumpers that if Mac Mitchell (Sr.) jumped over 46’ that he would cut his hair like Coach Ricca’s new clean shaven look. Mac surpassed this mark and jumped 46’ 5.25” and was the Sectional runner-up, qualifying him for the State Meet. Mac also broke the school record by over half a foot! It looks like we need to bring some clippers to practice on Monday! Danny Osafo (Sr.) was a late addition to the lineup considering that we have five Triple Jumpers that could have made the State Qualifying Mark. However, Danny got the job done with a jump of 44’ 8” to qualify and took 4th place. This is the first time in these events that we have had double qualifiers and considering that we do not have an indoor facility to practice these events, this is quite an accomplishment of coaching, even if that coach will have a little less hair soon. Watch out for these athletes to put up some great marks at the State Meet.
The Pole Vault saw the return of Alex Kiefer (Jr.) to the Sectional Meet where he qualified for the State Meet last season. Despite nursing an injured back, Alex jumped 13’ 6” to tie for 3rd place and add to our growing list of State Qualifiers. Alex unfortunately, bottomed out the pit on one of his jumps at 14’, tightening up his back but he will be ready to go for next weekend.
Rounding out the field events were a great pair of performances from Matt Appel (So.). Matt first put up a huge throw in the discus of 163’ 6” which broke the Frosh-Soph school record. This is another Babatunde “OJ” Oshinowo record to fall this season. Matt’s mark was big enough to capture the Sectional Title, break the stadium record and was over 6 feet further than 2nd place. In the Shot Put, Matt put his stamp on the Sectional as the top thrower as he threw 53’ 3” to win this event as well. Throughout this season, our throwers have made tremendous progress and Matt is ready to put up some big throws at State.
Turning to the track, we began the night of finals with the 4 x 800 m relay of senior distance runners Tyler Bombacino (Sr.), Ryan Kennedy (Sr.), Danny Winek (Sr.), and Dakota Getty (Sr.). The race went out faster than expected considering the wind and Oswego opened up a lead even with a strong leg from Tyler. Ryan took the baton and chased in an even and controlled way to take over the lead. When it was Danny’s turn to race, he pulled us away from 2nd place and gave Dakota quite a bit of room. Despite some strong legs from other teams, Dakota had no problem holding the lead with a solid leg. The team won the Sectional in a time of 7:57.94, qualified for the State Meet, and broke the stadium record.
The 4 x 100 m relay was a heartbreaker. Donovan Turner (Jr.), Kai Larson (Sr.), Patrick Hoffman (So.), and Myles Gascon (Sr.) took 4th in a time of 42.92, just missing the State Qualifying Mark by 0.19 seconds. Without the strong wind, we would have easily qualified for the State Meet.
Zach Kinne (Jr.) and Alex Johnson (Sr.) took to the track for the 3200 m and after about 2 laps, Zach had taken over the lead of the race and was trying to keep his pace despite the wind. Coming through the 1600 m in 4:32, it looked like Zach would be able to hold the pace and have a personal best. However, the relentless resistance on the backstretch was affecting everyone and despite an outstanding performance from Zach, the personal best will have to wait until next weekend. Zach easily captured the Sectional title, qualified for the State Meet, and broke the stadium record with his time of 9:13.72. During the race, Alex fought hard against the wind and the competition to take 5th with a time of 9:39.24. Some estimates of the effect of the wind were around 12 seconds in this race. This could have meant that on a calm night Zach would have been right around the 9 minute mark and Alex would have been a State Qualifier. While Alex ended his high school career with this meet, his improvements and efforts will not soon be forgotten.
The 110 m High Hurdles would see Donovan Turner (Jr.) take to the track for the second time of the evening and despite a less than perfect start, he reeled in and passed Yorkville’s Peyton Frankenreider with authority to take the win. Donovan’s time of 14.08 broke the school record, the stadium record and is nearly a second faster than the State Qualifying Mark. A number of coaches from other schools were excited to see what Donovan can do next week and want him to break the FAT 14 second barrier. Donovan has already broken 14 seconds for a hand timed mark.
After a disappointment in the 4 x 100 m, Myles Gascon (Sr.) took to the line in the 100 m dash with some of the fastest sprinters in the State. Myles would get himself in the mix and run 10.92 to qualify for the State Meet and take 4th place, further adding to the number of qualifiers and points for the team.
The 800 m would have us try out Freshman Nicolas Dovalovsky in the second spot while Dakota Getty (Sr.) attempted to double after the 4 x 800 m. The wind made this a tough double for sure, especially as it seemed to pick up throughout the night. However, Nicolas showed that he will be a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming years by taking 6th in a time of 2:02.21.
With the steady winds, our relay exchange timing was certainly a little off as incoming runners either came in a little fast or a little slow. Unfortunately this caused the 4 x 200 m relay team of Kai Larson (Sr.), Ife Oketona (Sr.), Patrick Hoffman (So.), and Myles Gascon (Sr.) to fall about 1 second short of qualifying. The team did manage to run 1:30.72 and take 4th, adding 4 points to the total.
By the time that the 400 m went off, the winds were really starting to take their toll. In the 400 m, no one made the State Qualifying Mark. This is normally unheard of in such a tough sectional. While we did not have any state qualifiers in this event, we do have two stories to tell. First, Michael Dy (Sr.) took 3rd in a time of 52.51, only .19 seconds from 2nd place and an automatic qualifying position. Michael showed both patience and strength in this race and ran it perfectly. The first 200 m was not too fast and the second 200 m showed his strength and tenacity. The second story here belongs to Kaden Smith (Jr.), who made a huge leap in effort in this race and truly “went there”. Kaden charged hard at the beginning and set the pace of the race early as he pushed to qualify. Then Kaden held on and fought through every last inch of the race. Kaden finished 9th in 53.53, but it was the effort that showed that his best races are ahead of him.
The 300 m Intermediate Hurdles would be a rematch between Donovan Turner (Jr.) and Peyton Frankenreider from Yorkville. Frankenreider took the lead early only to be caught by Donovan who raced the back half of the race with smooth form over the hurdles and incredible endurance. Donovan would be Sectional Champion for the second time of the night, running 38.52, and achieving another school and stadium record. Donovan then became the first Neuqua Valley hurdler to qualify in both hurdle events in the same year. Mitch Donahue (Sr.) would have another story to tell in this race. Mitch, determined to qualify for the State Meet, was working on form all week. He would go on to set a huge personal best of 40.53 and took 4th place. How Mitch and Donovan were able to run faster than ever before while starting into a headwind is still a mystery.
In the 1600 m, we had Danny Winek (Sr.) and Ryan Kennedy (Sr.) returning after previously qualifying in the 4 x 800 m. The duo fought hard with a pack of runners that were determined to make it to the State Meet despite worsening conditions for the night. With 600 m to go, Danny pulled up into the top group and charged ahead, taking 2nd place in a time of 4:22.24 and qualifying for the State Meet. Ryan took 6th place in 4:30.51 and added to the point total that was now beyond reach for any other team.
In the final event of the evening, the 4 x 400 m relay, the winds continued to blow and we knew that it was unlikely that any relay teams would make the State Qualifying Mark. We were running for the top 2 positions. Kel Foley (Jr.), Kai Larson (Sr.), Patrick Hoffman (So.), and Donovan Turner (Sr.) made it happen with strong legs from everyone. The team finished 2nd in a time of 3:27.54 and true to prediction, no team made the State Mark.
While not everything went our way, we showed up as a team at the Sectional Meet. We were able to get enough athletes and relay teams through so that we could make a solid run for the State Championship with the largest group making the trip in team history. If we focus on ourselves and compete the best of our ability, we will be able to look ourselves in the mirror one week from today with pride.
Complete results can be found at the link below.