Conant's Zach Dale finished the Class 3A Lake Park boys track sectional as he entered it -- ranked first in both the 1,600-meter run and the 3,200.
The junior, fourth last fall in cross country and 15th in the 3,200 at last year's state meet, doubled his success from last year's Glenbard North sectional, when after diminishing returns from conference to sectional meets he scratched out of the 1,600.
"I haven't really had a double like that this year with this competition," he said after taking the 1,600 in 4 minutes, 15.34 seconds. "I'm very happy. It certainly is a boost for my confidence going into next week."
Dale's dominant 3,200 essentially made it a race for second place. He won in 9:11.20, more than 16 seconds ahead of his closest pursuer, York's Kyle Mattes.
Dale initially was pressured by Wheaton Warrenville South's Nolan McKenna, but an ankle injury to McKenna, which eventually caused him to be pulled from the race, made it Dale's race alone.
"I wanted to go off of what he was doing," said Dale, who in April ran the 3,200 in 8:56 at California's Arcadia invite. "It felt like the pace was slowing down, so I decided to pick it up a little bit. I didn't realize he was injured."
A while later Dale realized his goal of a sub-4:20 time in the 1,600.
"I just wanted to qualify," he said. "I'd like to get a good 'double.' I really wasn't feeling it during the race and then on the last lap I felt really good."
Elk Grove coach Brian Bucciarelli also felt really good. He said the Grenadiers' four qualifiers into next weekend's state meet in Charleston were the most Elk Grove had advanced in at least seven years.
First to punch his ticket was Billy Heffley in discus at 157 feet, 1 inch. The big boys moved over to shot put where Brandon Soriano clocked in with a qualifying heave of 54-7½. In triple jump, Keyshawn Brown placed second overall with a qualifying distance of 45-3.
Solidifying the Grenadiers' quartet, junior Paul Ifianyi won the 400-meter dash, in 50.26 seconds. Seventh last year in 3A, this marks Ifianyi's third straight state qualification.
That didn't mean he believed this year's trip to Charleston was a given. Ifianyi said he hadn't been putting up his usual quality times, and he had to "suck it up a little bit in practice."
The main aspect?
"My mindset," he said.
"I need four years," he said of his downstate goals, "and hopefully a state championship."