The teams and competitors at the Class 3A Buffalo Grove boys track and field sectional learned quickly Thursday night what the North Suburban Conference, and in particular Mundelein, has known for some time.
There really isn't anything Mustangs sophomore Bryce Richards can't do on the track.
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Take, for example, the third heat of the 800-meter run. With one lap remaining, Richards took command, but looked to be losing his grip on the race with 100 meters left. Instead of folding and falling out of the pack like many underclassmen before him might have done, Richards stormed back into the lead and won it.
His school-record time of 1:55.33 is among the 10 fastest in the state this spring and earned Richards his first trip downstate. But he was hardly done there.
In the 1,600-meter run, the most anticipated race of the night, Richards again battled and jockeyed with some of the top distance runners in the state before crashing across the finish line with an impressive 4:20.63. Though he finished sixth, his time earned him another trip downstate.
"Coach (Kevin Shifley) told me right after the 800 that I don't have any pressure. I already made it in one event so have fun in the mile and I did," said Richards who also broke the school record in the 1,600. "After the second lap or so the pace was good and I felt fine so I really felt like I could do it in the mile."
The effort by Richards highlighted a banner night for underclassmen at the Buffalo Grove sectional.
Fremd, fresh off its second consecutive Mid-Suburban League title, won the team race with 82 points to 76 for runner-up Barrington.
Of all the qualifiers to make it to next week's state meet at Eastern Illinois and O'Brien Field, 8 sophomores and freshmen earned spots downstate for next weekend's finals.
"I can't remember a sectional with this many great underclassmen and great performances by underclassmen like this one," said Fremd coach Jim Aikens. "You look at what Jawan Gaines and Ryan McMahon did for us stepping up -- it was a great night all the way around for us."
Fremd qualified three relay teams and seven individuals for the state finals. The 800 relay team of Kyle Lewis, Jake Lewis, Gaines and McMahon was a group that was formed at the last minute due to injury; McMahon stepped in to help the Vikings to their fastest time of the season, 1:29.37.
Aaron Harris, Harry Winter, Nick Macius and Nick Vucovich ran to a sixth-place finish and a state-qualifying time of 7:59.32 in the 3,200 relay. The Vikings then closed the evening with a second-place finish in the 1,600 relay. Derrick Gaines, Jawan Gaines, Garret Groot and Joshua Yamamoto ran a season-best 3:24.58 to earn the trip to state. Yamamoto also qualified in the 300 hurdles won by teammate Matt Konopka (38.88).
Konopka qualified earlier in the 110 high hurdles, winning in 14.74. Kevin Winberg qualified for the Vikings in the high jump, clearing 6-5, and Tom Mayer and Pawel Klimek finished 1-2 in the pole vault with both clearing 12-9.
Sophomore Scotty Miller of Barrington bounced back from heartache in the 100 and 400 relay to help the Broncos earn a spot in the state meet by anchoring a blazing 800 relay. Parker Deloye, Brendan Melynchuk, and JP Brooks joined Miller for a winning effort of 1:29.04.
Miller finished his night with a second-place finish in the 200, qualifying in 22.19. Barrington also qualified its 3,200 and 1,600 relays. Konrad Eiring, who also earned a spot in the 400 (50.38), teamed with Adam Phillips, David Cerney and Ryan Perkins to win the 3,200 relay in a season-best 7:50.56. Lake Zurich, Stevenson, Palatine, and Hersey also ran qualifying times in the event.
The Broncos' other state qualifiers included Deloye in the high jump (6-5) and the 1,600 relay that won in a season-best effort of 3:23.98.
With every sectional qualifying meet, the occasional surprise can be found. Not that Stevenson senior Jordan Fobbe was surprised that he qualified in two events, but the qualifying throw of 53-8 in the shot put was a personal best by nearly 7 feet.
"My first throw was a PR and once I hit 50 feet I just kept going from there," Fobbe said. "After I threw 52-9 on my first throw, just 2 inches from state, I knew I had to go for it."
Fobbe will be joined at state by teammate senior Michael Dolan, who qualified for the second year in a row in the disc. His final throw of the meet yielded a throw of 163-0. Junior Kiwhan Kim shattered the school record at Stevenson in the long jump with a leap of 22-10.5 earning his third state qualifying berth in three years. Freshman Jared Borowsky continued his amazing season by breaking his own freshman record in the 1,600. This time, his 4:21.73 effort earned him a trip downstate.
Earning first time-trips to state at Grayslake North were sophomore Titus Booker and senior Alex Shulga. Shulga raced out away from the pack in the 400 to win it going away in 49.30. Booker rode a great start in the 100-meter dash and won the event in a personal best 10.86. Lake Zurich sophomore Ben Klett (10.99) was second. Senior Dylan Toole cleared 6-5 to earn his first trip to state in the high jump.
Martin Martinez of Warren took top honors in the 1,600. The Brown-bound Martinez won in 4:18.12. Palatine's duo of sophomore Graham Brown and senior Christian Zambrano finished 2-3 respectively in a field that saw seven runners qualify.
Matsen Dziedzic of Libertyville earned state meet berths by winning the shot put (59-8) and the discus (174-10).
Hersey had individual qualifiers in the discus event (Ed Beyer 168-6), and the 3,200 from junior Andrew Philipose (9:23.25).
Joining the Palatine 3,200 relay team downstate were senior Cam Kuksa, in the triple jump (45-4) and the 110 high hurdles (14.94), and Adam Poklop in the high jump (6-5).
Buffalo Grove junior Steven Salvano won the 3,200 in a best time of 9:19.99 and teammate Nick Bernardo took second in the 800 in 1:55.65.
Ryan Burgoon of Barrington and Alex Milner of Lake Zurich also earned state meet spots in the 3,200-meter run and sophomore Max Roberts of Libertyville earned his second trip downstate in the 300 hurdles.