CHARLESTON -- The pressure's on, but Lake Park's Antonio Shenault doesn't feel it ... much.
In the preliminaries of the 119th boys state track meet Friday at Eastern Illinois University, the sophomore reached Saturday's finals of both the 110- and 300-meter hurdles.
It helped the three-time defending Class 3A champion Lancers send 11 qualifiers into Saturday's finals, four more than Lyons Twp. and O'Fallon and one more than 2012 runner-up Edwardsville. Wheaton North, Naperville Central and York each advanced four events.
"I came out a little bit nervous because of the crowd, first time running in front of such a big crowd, but I think I calmed down a lot since then," Shenault said.
He joins Naperville Central's Michael Jopes and Downers Grove South's Jalen Lewis in the 300 finals on the blue track of O'Brien Stadium.
"I try to keep a clear mind," Shenault said. "If I'm thinking too much it messes with me. But if I keep a clear mind I run well."
Along with eight qualifiers in field events Lake Park will get needed points by advancing its 400-meter relay of Mike Amerlan, Tim Ehrhardt, Scott Filip and Marcus Jegede -- all but Amerlan also advancing in at least one field event.
Lake Park got its 400 relay into state by .01 seconds at sectional, Amerlan taking blame for what he felt was a slow start in the leadoff leg. Friday he made amends.
"I just wasn't there for them that day," Amerlan said, "and so today I had to be there for them."
Neuqua Valley's Carlos Varela-Hernandez led the discus field at 166-10 out of the third of four flights until Waubonsie Valley's Riley Kittridge and Grant's Brandon Lombardino heated up on their final throws.
Kittridge came to discus after failing to advance in shot put despite having thrown the state's best sectional mark. Slick throwing circles ("like ice," he said) at Eastern's newly reconstructed facility did many competitors no favor.
"I just had to put it behind me and just focus on disc," Kittridge said. "I still have a chance to score, maybe win. We'll see. Try my best."
Defending 3A long jump champion Zach Gordon of Wheaton North was pulled from the event, a decision made since sectionals to rest an ankle injury.
"This is a team thing. I'll do anything for my team. If that means scratching long jump, I'm scratching long jump," Gordon said.
Gordon qualified in the 100-meter dash and anchored a qualifying 400 relay with Marcus Charles, Matt Biegalski and Patrick Sharp but later was removed from the 200 dash and a leg of the 800 relay, which Wheaton North did not qualify. When Falcons coach Don Helberg said the senior was on a "race-by-race" basis, he meant it.
Defending 100-meter champ Tavaris Binion of Hinsdale South has his own injury, an ingrown toenail causing anguish every stride. His doctor could remove it, but Binion wasn't going to mess with his title defense.
"I'm a fighter," said Binion, who will run the 100 and 200 finals with friendly rival Odell McFarland of Hinsdale South.
Glenbard East's Jack Peters (800-meter run), Willowbrook's Matt Burns and Naperville Central's Sam Bransby (400-meter run) and the 1,600 trio of Naperville Central's Ethan Brodeur, Wheaton Warrenville South's Nolan McKenna and Downers Grove North's Zach Smith all advanced to Saturday's finals.
In Class 2A, Cahokia fairly locked up a third straight state title, advancing 17 of 18 spots.
Glenbard South's Matt Loos advanced in discus from the second of four flights. Raiders triple jumper Jeremiah Ratliff made it, and John Wold finished second in his heats of the 800 and 1,600 to reach the finals.
Benet's Saturday athletes include 110 and 300 hurdles qualifier Austin Dzic, 800 runner Bobby Svoboda and discus thrower Stephen Hubona.
"It's a great way to end senior year," Dzic said. "We have graduation next week, it can't get much better than this."Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.