CHARLESTON -- Immaculate Conception senior Dan Vatch has this boys track state finals thing down.
In the Class 1A preliminaries Thursday at Eastern Illinois University's O'Brien Stadium, Vatch was among 16 high jumpers to advance to Saturday's finals. Vatch made the cutoff of 6 feet, 1 inch. Eight jumpers made 6-3, including reigning champion Oumaru Abdulahi of Mooseheart.
A two-time state qualifier, in 2011 Vatch did not clear the opening height. His familiarity with the surroundings helped him this time.
"It helped me because I knew what to expect," said Vatch, perfect at both the opening height of 5-11 and at 6-0 but unsuccessful in three attempts at 6-3.
"When I stayed in the dorms I'd get up early in the morning and go straight to the track. So I was more organized this year."
Vatch was the highlight among local Class 1A qualifiers.
Timothy Christian brought down 1,600 runner Alex Sweatman, its 400 relay of Luke Washington, Jake Hooker, Rich Medina and Joel Brouwer and Hooker in both the 110- and 300-meter hurdles, but none advanced past Thursday.
At 43.75 seconds, the relay was .08 behind heat winner Rockford Christian, and 11th overall, aiming for a finals heat of nine. Ninety-degree heat and a brisk wind addled Sweatman.
Hooker had run the fifth-fastest sectional time in 1A at 15.26 seconds, but he clipped two hurdles en route to a time of 15.91 and five places away from the final field of nine.
Hooker brought in the third-fastest 300 time but again tripped over a hurdle, went down hard and finished deep in the field.
The positive is that Hooker, who qualified in the 300s last year as a sophomore, will have another chance next year.
"That's right, we're already talking about it," said Timothy Christian coach John Vander Kamp. "We're going out to dinner and talking about it."