Burlington Central's Lucas Ege looks smooth as silk running hurdles. His technique and foot speed helped settle an old score.
As a freshman Ege had faced Kaneland all-state hurdler Dylan Nauert several times and beat him once, in the 110-meter race at last year's Class 2A Rochelle sectional.
Ege got him twice Saturday at Kaneland's own Peterson Prep Invitational in Maple Park, once in Nauert's trademark 300 hurdles. In that race, Ege dramatically lowered his personal-best to 40.45 seconds from 42.9.
Coming from the pack into the final 100, Ege remained focused even as another runner banged into a hurdle.
"I think I was third, or somewhere around there, and then I just kind of realized that I could win it and that Dylan from Kaneland was slowing down," said Ege. "So I just started to pump my legs and get over the hurdles fast. I had good steps and everything. It all worked perfectly."
Ege ran the fastest preliminary time in the 110s and in the finals ran another PR of 15.44 seconds to win. Teammate Sean Kisch placed fifth -- same as in pole vault.
"Lucas has really good technique," said Burlington Central coach Mike Schmidt, whose Rockets placed fourth behind decisive champion Kaneland, DeKalb and Oswego East. Schmidt acknowledged Nauert was "a little banged up" -- and the Kaneland junior was running the third of his four events -- but that didn't diminish Ege's achievement.
"He's learning how to work really hard, especially in those 300s, to be able to have the endurance to finish that race. And you saw it today -- he came from behind to win," Schmidt said.
Burlington Central got a sixth-place finish by Casey Matthews in the 200 and a lot of mileage from sprinter-jumper Jason Berango. Rockets senior Ryan Olsen also came within a whisker of a new program 400-meter record.
Last week Olsen ran a personal-best 50.5 seconds at Geneva. Saturday he cut it to a first-place 50.27, just off Clay Kliem's 2007 mark of 50.19. Part of the Rockets' Class 2A second-place 1,600 relay in 2012 and joining Berango, Matthews and Trevor Davison on a fourth-place 400 relay Saturday, Olsen credits diligence and patience.
"It's working hard every day," he said. "Every day after practice, you say it (stinks) then, but by the end of the season you're like, 'This is awesome.' It all pays off."
Olsen utilized Kaneland's usual wind tunnel effect.
"Since we got the headwind my strategy is just dig through it on the backstretch and then let it push you on the final stretch. It worked out pretty well," he said.
Dundee-Crown's Austin White also worked out well. Veteran Chargers coach Tom Smith called the sophomore "very coachable" and it showed with a fourth-place finish in the 100, second in the 200 and running anchor for Sean Battin, Tavares Fowler and Sam Frankowiak in a fifth-place 400 relay.
White said he "choked a little" in the 100 after running the fastest preliminary time of 11.34 seconds. More likely another lesson on getting a fast start. White didn't have high expectations after taking up the sport in eighth-grade.
"No, not really, because I'm kind of bad on (starting) blocks," said White, who now eventually hopes to run in college. "I thought I was going to do pretty bad, but I guess I did pretty good today."
Smith's Chargers got a fifth-place finish in discus by Joe Meixner at 130-feet, 4 inches, plus a yeoman's effort by senior R.J. Schmidt. He ran the 300 hurdles, improved his triple jump PR to a fifth-place 40-3½, moved from the sixth-fastest 110 hurdle prelim to third in the finals at 15.96, and ran a leg of Dundee-Crown's 1,600 relay.
All the better to stay loose this spring.
"I wouldn't even call it a spring, really," said Schmidt, a Western Illinois football commit who by then was hobbling just a bit.
"I PR'd in the 110s, got third place," he said. "I still have a lot of improvement to come, but it's good for now."
Highlights for Elgin included top-half finishes in discus and shot put by Zachery Lindstrom and triple-jumper Eduardo Perez, Emilio Mancha winning his heat of the 3,200, and Chris Porras' sixth-place 800. Porras also ran on the 1,600 relay and joined Mancha in the 3,200 relay.
"Chris Porras ran real good, he ran the best time of his career in the 800," said Maroons coach Kevin Cleveland. "Despite the weather they're getting better."
D-C at Lake Park: Emily Michalski finished sixth in the high jump (4-10) and eighth in the long jump (15-2) at the Lake Park invite. Kayla Lawrence was seventh in the 100 hurdles for the Chargers in a time of 17.6 and Natalie Himmel took eighth in the 800 in 2:26.61.