Grant's repeat plan succeeds
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It started in the field and ended up on the track, and that's the formula that led to another conference championship for Grant.
It was that formula that the Bulldogs and their coaches met about back in November, and every week since — not losing focus on the ultimate goal, another North Suburban Conference title.
Thursday night, on a cool and very soggy night at Libertyville, the Bulldogs, who shared the conference title with Lake Zurich a year ago, showed their dominance in all facets to win their second consecutive NSC crown. Grant, which also captured the NSC Prairie Division title, amassed 115 points to 96 for runner-up Lakes.
Zion-Benton (73.23) and Stevenson (68.46), who shared the NSC Lake title, finished third and fourth, respectively.
"We met in November and set our seasons goals," said Grant coach Tom Evans. "We wanted to win the division and the conference, and we met each week after that to keep the focus on what we wanted to accomplish. And the kids set out and did what they set out to do."
The field was as big as the track for the Bulldogs but few were bigger than senior Brandon Lombardino and junior Jonathan Wells.
Wells took home top honors in the high jump (6 feet, 1 inch) and the long jump, where his 21-8.25 was a personal best and a conference best. Wells later won the 110 high hurdles in 15.1.
"Jonathan was just huge for us in everything we asked him to do," Evans said. "I mean, for him to win the hurdles after just starting that event earlier this season is impressive."
Speaking of impressive, there was that Lombardino guy again. The defending conference champion proceeded to leave an indelible mark on the conference for good. On third throw of the preliminaries, the Arkansas State-bound Lombardino became just the sixth thrower in state history to throw the disc over 200 feet. His toss of 201-3 was only topped by his first throw in the finals, 201-7. His conference record is also the top throw in the state and the second best in the nation so far this spring.
"The disc I was using had a lot less rim weight than what I have used, before so I didn't think it went that far," Lombardino said. "My throw in finals didn't feel that great and I felt like I could throw much farther."
Lombardino closed his record setting day by breaking a 36-year-old conference record by winning the shot. His toss of 60-7.25 bested the previous mark held by David Lenzini of Libertyville. Teammate Brad Wasilewski also set a personal best, finishing third with a toss of 54-10.5 and contributing valuable points.
Other conference champions for the Bulldogs included Keion Miller in the triple jump and the 1,600 relay team, which ran a season-best 3:29.04.
Grant wasn't the only team to take down a record or two. Stevenson, led by senior Danny Gardiner broke yet another meet record in the 800-meter run. In what turned out to be the best race of the evening at Libertyville, Gardiner broke free from a crowded field with 300 meters to go, then held off a hard charge from Mundelein's Bryce Richards and Lake Zurich's Trevor Kuehr to win in a conference record 1:55.11.
"I learned a lot from running downstate last year," Gardiner said. "I feel like the more I stick with the race like I did, the better I race."
Gardiner started his evening teaming with Jared Borowsky, Sam Oh, and Noah Ralston for a season-best 7:58.65 clocking in a winning effort in the 3,200 relay. Lake Zurich, led by seniors John Ramirez and Will Llanos, also ran a season-best of 7:59.21.
One runner that faced a huge challenge Thursday night was Warren senior Martin Martinez. Running the 3,200 and 1,600 distance double, the Brown-bound Martinez showed why he is one of the top distance runners in the state. He took control with just over 1,000 meters to go in the 2-mile to win in a season-best 9:22.90. He followed that with an impressive win in the 1,600; his 4:24.46 finished just ahead of Borowsky. Browosky took down the frosh/soph record held by the legendary Mark Deady, running 4:25.86 and finishing second.
Other conference champions included Corey Hertz of Lakes in the 200 (22.28), Max Roberts of Libertyville in the 300 hurdles (39.83), Leroy Chapman of Antioch in the 400 (49.83), and Nick Foley of Vernon Hills in the pole vault (13-0).
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