There's the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. And there's whatever Neuqua Valley junior Michael Widmann endured Thursday at the Class 3A Joliet West boys track sectional.
"He went all the way down to the bottom of the well," said Wildcats coach Mike Kennedy, as good a way as any to describe it.
Eyeing the finish line in the 3,200-meter race, and with it a trip to next week's state meet, Widmann's legs gave way and he fell splat just 10 meters before the end. As crucial tenths of seconds ticked he picked himself up and completed the mission, collapsing across the line.
His time, 9 minutes, 28.41 seconds, was sufficient to join teammate Nick Bushelle and Naperville North's Jake Pecorin among the qualifiers.
He was the last of eight to do it in the 3,200. But he was in.
"I just knew I had to get back up," Widmann said after emptying the contents of his stomach. "At that point there was a bit of doubt in my mind that I wasn't going to qualify, but I've worked too hard not to do it, so I got up as fast as I could and got to the finish line.
"My legs were just gone. The last 50 meters it was literally like I had no legs."
Neuqua Valley will have legs in Charleston. Bushelle and Widmann were among nine positions able to advance, including the Wildcats' first downstate triple jumper, event winner Austin Parks; and Ty Moss, who anchored a third-place 3,200 relay, ran second on a first-place 1,600 relay and qualified individually in the 800 at 1:54.72.
"We're going to rearrange a couple of things when we get down there, but we've got some guys in some real good positions," said Kennedy, whose club trailed only Class 3A title contender Minooka in the team standings, 88.5 points to Neuqua's 67.
If Neuqua had a good meet, Waubonsie Valley had a lot of back luck. James Travis, eighth in triple jump a year ago and also downstate as a sophomore, was seeded first in both long and triple jump. On his first long jump attempt he pulled his left hamstring, scratching him from both events. Teammate Tony Durns qualified in the 100 dash but in the 200 finals his hamstring felt tight and he pulled up with 80 meters left of what appeared to be a qualifying sprint.
The Warriors qualified Jon Harris in discus -- but not shot put -- and advanced the deliriously happy Tyler Kirkwood in high jump with a 3-inch personal-best of 6 feet, 5 inches.
"That's not the event I thought I'd make it to state in," said Kirkwood, a hurdler, who quickly phoned his mother the news.
Naperville North's distance strength produced three qualifiers. Along with Pecorin in the 3,200 the Huskies advanced both Ryan Hanselman and Kerry Gschwedntner in the 1,600. The latter two were in the middle of the lead pack but Gschwedntner knew the score.
"I trust myself to know how I ran," said Gschwedntner, whose sister, Ellie, ran on the Huskies girls eighth-place 3,200 relay in 2012.
Naperville Central's Nate Teske bellowed after his qualifying shot put heave of 53 feet, 8 inches. He'll join 300-meter hurdler Michael Jopes, two Redhawks relay teams and Sam Bransby in the open 400 in Charleston.
The defending Class 3A runner-up to Willowbrook's Matt Burns in the 400, Bransby has put February's hamstring pull in the rearview mirror. He was barely edged by Moss in the anchor leg of the qualifying 1,600 relay.
"Half of rehabbing for an injury," Bransby said, "is all psychological."
West Aurora coach Cortney Lamb was hoping to send Joe Chavez downstate in the 1,600, but despite running a nearly 5-second personal best at 4:22.97, which drew praise by Lamb and distance coach Tony Rizzo, that was .93 seconds off the mark.
Still, the Blackhawks advanced what Lamb thought were his best bets -- brothers Connor and Brady McCue both in the 800, and the frosh-soph triple jump duo of DaVion Cross and Chris Walker.
While freshman Cross left to do homework after his third-place skip of 45 feet, ½-inch ("I was excited," Lamb said, of that news), Walker was around to explain how he joined track for the first time this season.
From Aurora but moving to Georgia, then Texas, then back to Aurora over three years, while in Georgia he raced an older cousin, a military man.
"I won by a lot, so he said, you should go out for track," Walker said. "Triple jump is pretty much my passion now."
Yet he had no clue he'd qualify for the state meet.
"Coach Lamb, he tole me I'm a really good jumper and if I keep it up I could possibly qualify for state, and it happened," said Walker, who went 45-6½.
Senior Brady McCue and sophomore brother Connor were 1-2 in the 800 until passed late by Neuqua Valley's Ty Moss, but both qualified with a second to spare.
"We both knew we had a high possibility of qualifying in this," Connor McCue said.
"Basically our whole life, we basically do everything together, train together, everything," said Brady, who now has one more week of this season left to do just that.