Schaumburg won its first boys track and field sectional title since 1983 by prevailing when pushed.
Take the 800-meter relay, for instance. The Saxons entered Friday's Class 3A Bartlett sectional held at Memorial Field in Elgin as the clear favorite with the best seed time, but a bad handoff tested their composure and their coach's nerves.
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"The sprint guys put me through a heart attack," Schaumburg coach Ryan Senica said. "We come in all year running 1:27, 1:26 in the (800 relay) and we have a completely botched first exchange. We almost go completely out of the zone and come to a dead stop."
Yet, the team of Stacey Smith, Shandall Thomas, Tom Ciupka and Jarman McCmillon overcame its early mistake with pure speed and won the sectional title in 1:28:40, thanks largely to a low split from Ciupka, who made up ground on the third leg.
Later, Smith found himself up against it at the triple jump pit. Having already won the long jump (22-1½) ahead of McMillon (21-5), Smith's best triple jump attempt was an inch shy of the state qualifying mark until his final attempt. Facing elimination, he soared 45 feet, 5¼ inches to overtake teammate Eddie Kelly (45-3¼) and South Elgin qualifier Kyle Kumerow (44-10) and win the event.
"What Stacey did in the triple jump sort of sums up our season," Senica said. "When the pressure is on the line, their talent comes out and that's what they've done for most of the year. We're excited to see what's going to happen next."
Batavia led the meet through 17 events, but Schaumburg's 1-2 finish in the triple jump put the Saxons over the top with 94.5 points. Batavia finished second (79), followed by Bartlett (63), Geneva (61) and St. Charles East (51).
Schaumburg junior Shandall Thomas won the 100-meter dash (10.80), finished third in the 200 in a qualifying time of 22.14 and took part in the winning 400-meter relay (41.59) as well as the 800 relay.
"I'm right on track where I want to be," Thomas said of his career. "Last year as a sophomore I qualified and got to state. This year, I want to get to the finals and compete. And next year, I want it all."
South Elgin sophomore Shawn Griffin qualified in second place in the 100 meter dash.
"I'm real surprised," Griffin said. "This is my biggest accomplishment so far. I still can't believe that it happened."
Batavia won the 3,200-meter relay as the team of Jorden Berendt, David Curnock, Chris Orlow and Ryan Wieties finished in 7:53.16, good enough to outdistance the second-place qualifiers from St. Charles North: Jack Feeney, Steve Lewandowski, Chris Suda and Nathan Klair.
Batavia also won the 1,600-meter relay as Blake Crowder held off Larkin anchorman Jarelle Shipp in the final 100 meters.
"I just had to give it all I had left," Crowder said. "State was on the line, so you push it and give it all you got."
The Larkin 1,600-meter relay team qualified for Charleston for the second straight year, thanks to perseverance.
"I cramped up a little," Larkin senior Dante Bonds said, "but I had to finish because I wanted to go to state again."
Bartlett two-miler Dan Cotton broke away from a pack of four runners at the top of the final backstretch and pulled away to win comfortably in 9:23.92. Billy Thomas from Hoffman Estates finished second (9:26.60) and Batavia's David Morrison qualified on time (9:27.39).
"My coach told me to shoot for a 9:20 because there were going to be a lot of guys out there after me," said Cotton, a repeat state qualifier. "I wanted that 70 (second) split each lap to get that 4:40, and then just gut out the rest of it. And that's what I did."
South Elgin senior miler John Danner, a transfer from St. Edward who previously qualified for the Class 1A meet as a sophomore and junior, won the 1,600 in 4:25.34. He came out of the final curve in second place but pushed ahead in the final 100 meters. St. Charles East sophomore Mark Sciurba finished second (4:25.50).
"Once we hit the straightaway at the end my legs felt great," Danner said. "This feels better because it was 3A. I wasn't even that serious about it. I was just going out there to have fun and I felt great, so I went after it and it just happened."
Geneva's Blaine Bartel won the 800 (1:54) and Batavia's Wieties took second (1:55.27), but four other runners qualified on time: South Elgin's Danner, Marmion senior Kevin Grahovec, Hoffman Estates sophomore Bryan Gamboa and Batavia senior Mitch Voellinger.
St. Charles North's Feeney won the open 400 (49.46), followed by qualifiers Sam Urben of Geneva and Alex Escobar of Hoffman Estates.
Geneva's Tim Roels was the sectional champion in the 200-meter dash (21.99). Junior Austin White of Dundee-Crown finished second (22.13) to become his school's only state qualifier of the evening.
Junior Kyle Decker of St. Charles East won the 110-meter intermediate hurdles (15.28), just ahead of Schaumburg senior Adam Maslowski (15.51).
"I was pretty clean," said Decker, a first-time state qualifier. "I nicked the second hurdle but I just kept going from there and used my momentum. I'm so excited. This has been my goal since June of last year. This feels incredible."
Batavia junior Petyon Piron was likewise thrilled to win the 300-meter intermediate hurdles in 39.79, just ahead of Bartlett sophomore AJ Santori (40.45).
"When I was a kid I would watch (Batavia's state qualifiers) and think, 'How are they doing this?'" said the son of Batavia track and football coach Dennis Piron. "Now I'm going. I can't even believe it. It's awesome. I'm so blessed."
Geneva senior Jason D'Amico won the discus with a throw of 155 feet, 1 inch, enough to top Bartlett junior Dan Danek (151-6).
"Coming in, I was second in disc and ended up winning it," said D'Amico, who makes his first state trip. "I was two feet off last year. It feels good. I like going down to EIU. Hopefully, I can do well there."
The pole vault competition was won by West Chicago senior Nate Wesolek (14 feet). Also qualifying were JT Grill from St. Charles North (14-0), James Kubik of West Chicago (13-9) and Batavia's Tyler Mansfield (13-9).
Marmion senior Tyler Maryanski won the high jump (6-7) ahead qualifiers Erik Miller of Geneva and Mark Rudelich of Batavia, and Marmion junior Luke Juriga took the shot put crown (51-6) ahead of Bartlett senior Dan Brainard (50-7½).
The meet was delayed for 20 minutes near the outset when a Marmion throws coach was struck in the head with a shot put. The unidentified coach was conscious and eventually got to his feet, but he was taken to a hospital via ambulance.