The IHSA State Track and Field Meet is an event where you can rarely predict what is going to happen. The weather can be rainy, sunny, windy or all of the above. The time schedule can be shifted more than once. Basically, you always need to be ready to compete. That is where Neuqua Valley Track and Field shines. We may not always come out on top, but we prize our competitiveness above all else when get to a meet. This past weekend, our team tied for 8th Place and scored ahead of some great teams in what was an intense team race.
Day 1 – State Preliminaries
With storms pushing the field events inside and the meet to a running schedule, Neuqua Valley stepped onto the track for our first event of the preliminaries, the 4 x 800 m relay. The team of Josh Mollway (Jr.), Connor Horn (Sr.), Matt Milostan (Jr.) and Danny Winek (So.) ran strong for a total time of 7:54.42, a mark which was only .3 seconds and one place away from making it to the State Finals. We return three of these athletes next year and they are already hungry to compete again. After having Horn run the 4 x 800 m, we made the decision to scratch him from the 1600 m so that he would be more fresh for the 3200 m on Day 2.
In the 800 m, Isaiah Robinson (Jr.) would take 4th Place in his heat with a time of 1:54.42 to advance to the State Final as Tyler Hughes (Sr.) was warming up in the High Jump. Hughes would attempt to clear 6’ 4” as his opening height to recreate the magic of the Sectional Meet, but came up short. In the Discus, Tom Cwiok (Sr.) easily qualified for the State Final with a throw of 170’ 8”.
Our sprint relays showed some flash on Day 1 with the 4 x 200 m relay team of Dan Gaynes (Sr.), JaQuere Williams (Jr.), Kevin Sager (Sr.) and Ryan Lukas (Sr.) running 1:27.37. The team won their heat by over a second and were headed to the State Finals automatically. The 4 x 400 m relay team of Isaiah Robinson (Jr.), Dan Gaynes (Sr.), Kevin Sager (Sr.) and JaQuere Williams (Jr.) would run away with their heat, winning by nearly 5 seconds and qualify for the State Finals.
The Triple Jump took quite a bit of time with only one indoor runway, but McKenzie Mitchell (So.) kept his cool and jumped 43’ 4.25”. While it was not enough to make Day 2, Mitchell would have broken the indoor record in the Frosh-Soph Triple Jump if this were not considered an outdoor meet. With State Meet experience under his belt, Mitchell is another athlete that is ready to return.
After the first day of competition, we had 5 events competing in the State Final and in one event, the 3200 m, we had 2 athletes competing. We were off to a great start!
Day 2 - State Finals
The State Final saw strong winds and another chance of thunderstorms that caused meet officials to put the meet on a rolling schedule right from the start. Scott Anderson (Jr.) would start us off in Heat 1 of the 3200 m. The pace was unexpectedly slow and Anderson took 3rd in his heat with a time of 9:36.01 to finish 15th. In Heat 2 of the 3200 m, Connor Horn (Sr.) would run smart in a tactical race by making a move with just over 800 m to go and kicking hard in the last lap. Horn would finish 5th with a time of 9:15.51, earning All-State Honors. Horn put in such an effort that he spent some time after the race recovering with some ice bags packed around him.
The field in the 800 m was one of the toughest of all of the events and Isaiah Robinson (Jr.) got out strong from the gun to get right to the front of the pack. The race shifted back and forth and Robinson put up a good fight and with a strong move in the last 150 m to take 9th and a place on the All-State podium.
In the Discus, Tom Cwiok (Sr.) continued his streak of strong throws with a mark of 170’ 9”. This was enough for 8th Place and All-State Honors. Cwiok became only the third Neuqua Valley athlete to be named All-State in the Discus.
The 4 x 200 m relay of Dan Gaynes (Sr.), JaQuere Williams (Jr.), Kevin Sager (Sr.) and Ryan Lukas (Sr.) would amaze everyone with their fast splits and near perfect exchanges. As the baton came into Lukas’ hand, he charged hard to keep our lead over Minooka and to catch and pass East Saint Louis Sr., capturing the State Title with a school record time of 1:26.72! This mark is just outside the top 20 times ever run in this event.
Returning most of the 4 x 200 m relay team for the 4 x 400 m relay, the team of Isaiah Robinson (Jr.), Dan Gaynes (Sr.), Kevin Sager (Sr.) and JaQuere Williams (Jr.) were ready for the final running event of the day. Robinson led off with a strong leg and charged hard until the baton was in Gaynes’ hand. Gaynes would take over and run a 48.3 split to pull us into a slight lead. Sager would continue the pattern with a sub-49 second leg and a strong move in the last 150 m to keep us close to East Saint Louis Sr., who had run 3:15.97 earlier this season. Williams would take the baton as East Saint Louis Sr. took over the lead. However, on the backstretch, Williams responded and brought us back into first, fighting hard until the last stretch when East Saint Louis Sr. took the win. Williams ran a courageous sub-49 split as he fought to keep our lead. In the end, we would take 2nd, be named All-State and destroy our school record by nearly a second with time of 3:16.00. This time is ranked 13th in State Meet history!
The 4 x 200 m and 4 x 400 m relays are a great testament to our strength as a team and our competitiveness. No one thought we could keep up with the likes of East Saint Louis Sr. and Minooka, but we did.
Thank you to all of the fans that came out to support us! As we look toward next year, the road to the State Meet begins again tomorrow!