CHARLESTON -- Stevenson senior Jordan Fobbe has added a lot to his shot put style over the last few weeks, and with everything he has added, the shot just keeps going farther.
So in time for his first throw in the Class 3A shot put event in boys track and field state preliminaries at O'Brien Field on the campus of Eastern Illinois University, Fobbe added a loud grunt that has become ever-so-popular among shot put throwers.
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Whether it actually adds distance to the outcome remains up for debate, this much isn't: it worked on Friday for Fobbe. His first throw in the prelims was the best he has ever thrown the shot. The loud grunt was accompanied by an equally loud thud as the shot landed 56 feet, 7 inches from the ring. Another personal best throw marked an improvement of 10 feet over the last two weeks and a spot in the finals with the second-best toss from prelims.
"I felt really relaxed in the ring, and for warm-ups I was able to keep my release down and I added the effort to go with it," Fobbe said. "And the grunt . . . "
Fobbe will have plenty of local company in the shot put finals as the top three spots after the prelims are all from the North Suburban Conference. Arkansas State-bound Grant senior Brandon Lombardino is third at 55-9.25, and leading the pack is Libertyville senior Matsen Dziedzic.
Dziedzic, who put on a show in warmups with throws well over 60 feet, landed his first toss in the competition at 61-11.25 for a commanding lead into the finals.
"That first one was a nice clean release," Dziedzic said. "I was unhappy with the next two, as they didn't come off my hands well. But I've got more for tomorrow."
While Dziedzic and Fobbe struggled in the discus, Lombardino settled in and got better with each toss. His last throw of 179-10 is 10-feet better than the next thrower, leaving Lombardino comfortably ahead and wanting more on Saturday.
"Today was kind of a rough day and I wasn't real happy with my throws," Lombardino said. "I'm happy that I finally got a halfway decent one at the end out there."
Lombardino and the Bulldogs will be well represented in the finals. Junior Jonathan Wells cleared 6-4 in the high jump prelims to earn his second consecutive spot in the finals. And senior Kyle Hatton continued his assault on the 800-meter record book with an impressive showing.
After breaking the school record at the conference meet two weeks ago, Hatton broke his own record again Friday with a 1:55.20 effort earning him a spot in the finals as the seventh fastest out of the prelims.
Hatton will look over and see a familiar face in the finals as Mundelein sophomore Bryce Richards continued his late season tear. As the 800-meter race unfolded Richards bounced from third, to the back of the pack, to near the front all in less than a lap.
With 300 meters to go, Richards made a move to the front then hung on for a second place finish in his heat and a personal best time of 1:54.34. His time is fifth fastest out of the prelims.
"The race was a lot quicker than I expected," Richards said. "I have practiced at this type of pace before so I knew I could handle it."
Two teams that showed they were more than ready for the Class 2A prelims were Grayslake Central and Lakes.
The Rams 400 and 800 sprint relays looked finely tuned and even turned a few heads during the morning session.
In particular, the 800 relay, which included Kacey Adams, Jourden Swopes, Davonta Jennings and Matt Weatherhead, stunned the field and heavy Class 2A team favorite Cahokia by winning their heat in 1:29.31. The same group earlier took the top spot in the 400 in 43.42.
"We have been stuck on 1:30 for a while so it was nice to see us get off that mark," said Grayslake Central coach Brent Pitt.
The Rams are seeded fifth into the finals in the 400 relay and second in the 200.
"We knew Cahokia and Troy Triad were in our heat," Jennings said. "We just tried to go out and pace ourselves with them and see what happens, and we rose up."
Lakes also rose to the challenge on Friday, advancing seven individuals and a pair of relays into the finals to set the Eagles up in position to win a team trophy. The 800 relay team of Corey Hertz, Ayman Reffat, Jake Balliu and Shaun Beutlich are the fourth seed into the finals after running 1:29.80. Beutlich also qualified individually in the 100 meters (11.09), in seventh position.
Troy Swindle and Max Savinkov did their parts in the high jump with both clearing the necessary 6-3 to make the finals. Antioch senior Tyler Facey also cleared 6-3 to earn his spot Saturday.
In Class 3A, Grayslake North senior Dylan Toole cleared 6-4 to earn his first finals spot as did Kihwan Kim of Stevenson in the long jump. Kim leaped 22-1.5, qualifying 11th. Leroy Chapman of Antioch also earned a finals berth with a 49.91 effort. His time was good for fourth overall. Oleg Babin was a qualifier for finals after clearing 13-9 in the pole vault for Vernon Hills.
Lakes closed the afternoon by earning a finals spot in the 1,600 relay. The team of Trevor Ray, Mark Gerritts, Ryan Prais, and Balliu are fifth after prelims with a time of 3:23.84. Prais also qualified individually with a 1:59.22 run in the 800 meters taking the final spot. Rodolphe Boyer qualified for the Eagles by placing eighth in the 110 high hurdles (15.16).
Vernon Hills senior Gabe Cotton also took the last spot in a very fast 200 meters. His time of 22.35 was ninth and good for his first trip to finals.
Other competitors on Friday included Noah Agnew, Nick Foley and Ben Mohrdieck of Vernon Hills; Alex Shulga and Titus Booker of Grayslake North in the 400 and 100; Brad Wasilewski, and Luis Echeverria of Grant in the shot and disc; Ben Klett in the 100 and the 3200 relay team of Will Llanos, Jared Ripoli, Trevor Kuehr, and John Ramirez from Lake Zurich; Jared Borowsky of Stevenson in the 1,600 and the 3,200 relay team that included Sammie Oh, Danny Gardiner and Brendan Wood, Max Roberts of Libertyville; Chris Bednarski of Wauconda; Michael Dolan of Stevenson; Ty Summers, Devyn Cedzidlo, and Caleb Arnwine of Lakes; Jacob Kraft and Alan Taylor of Antioch; and Martin Martinez of Warren.