The Burlington Central boys track team is doing some medal prospecting this weekend.
The Rockets feel they have a chance to be in the hunt for the third-place trophy at the Class 2A state finals at O'Brien Stadium on the campus of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
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"We have a shot at the third-place trophy along with three or four other schools," said Central coach Mike Schmidt. "Kaneland and Cahokia are the clear favorites."
Central has five individuals or relays that hold top 10 seeds going into today's preliminaries headlined by junior standout Lucas Ege, who will compete in four events.
Ege is the top-seeded performer in the 300 hurdles (37.99) and also is seeded second in the 110 highs (14.58).
"I think what really motivates me is I am close to the top in my events going in," said Ege. "If I get a personal record I could possibly be in contention for a state title. I'm going to focus on getting PRs."
Ege said he's made the greatest strides in the 300s. "The 300s is definitely my better event," he said. "The 110s feel like I could get a PR because of the competition that will be there, but the 300 is my better face. I've improved a ton this year in that race."
Ege also is part of two Central relay teams that are seeded high. The 1,600 team of Ege, Kyle Neubauer, Casey Matthews and Matt O'Connor is seeded fourth, while the 400 relay team of Ege, Travis Panariello, Jason Berango and Matthews is seeded sixth. Central also qualified its 800 team of Trevor Davison, Panariello, Berango and Matthews.
O'Connor also is seeded fourth in the 800 (1:56.69), while Clay Musial will compete in the 3,200.
"We've heard about being in contention to possibly get a trophy," said Ege. "We're stoked and excited about that. It's a rare opportunity for us. If we can get a couple PRs we could have a chance. If we're focused and motivated and run our best races, we'll do fine."
Central has two top 3 team finishes to its credit. The 1995 team took third in Class A under former coach Jim Woodward, while Schmidt's 2001 team was the Class A runner-up.
Also in Class 2A, Hampshire's Will Hempel will compete in the 300 hurdles.
The Fox Valley area has no shortage of Class 3A competitors in Charleston, but only six individuals are seeded in the Top 10 in their particular events.
Cary-Grove senior Ricky Hurley is the top seed in the discus (180-4) and also qualified in the shot put where Crystal Lake South's Kyle Hedge (54-5½) is the ninth seed in that event.
South's David Lenzini is the No. 6 seed in the 800 (1:55.24). He's also part of the Gators' 3,200 state-qualifying relay with Drew Kopfman, Kyle Radosevich and Jon Prus.
Huntley's Connor Boos is the seventh seed in the 200 (21.91) and is seeded 15th in the 100 (10.88). Boos also qualified for state on two Red Raider relay teams. He's part of the 400 relay team with Brennan Bell, Tim McCloyn and Aasem Awwad and the 800 with Ben Marsh, McCloyn and Awwad.
"Nobody on these relay teams likes to lose," said Boos. "We push ourselves and keep running. We never quit."
Boos isn't fazed in the least bit by having a full dance card in Charleston.
"Usually it's adrenaline that helps me get ready," he said. "I get pumped up and amped doing this. I make sure I take Gatorade before races and that helps as well."
Boos said he's had confidence in his 200 race throughout the year.
"I had run 22.4 at the end of last season so I knew I could get down to under 22 this year," he remarked. "I didn't think I would make it in the 100 for state. It was a little surprising. I've had a big improvement there since last year. I've been working on my starts in practice and in the off-season. I've been working hard on the blocks and working on exploding and getting my arms coming out."
Also competing at state for coach Jim Rolando's squad are Isaac Jimenez (discus), Seth Conroy (3,200), Keegan Smith (1,600) and Brennan Bell (300 hurdles).
Another seeded local entrant is South Elgin's John Danner, who has the eighth-fastest 800 sectional time (1:55.64) heading into state. He'll also run the 1600. Danner finished third in the 800 at the Bartlett sectional. The other higher place-finishers at Bartlett are seeded third and seventh at state.
Danner is no stranger to Charleston. He qualified for state at St. Edward as a sophomore and junior.
"I've been able to get in a lot of good work this year," said Danner. "I've worked a lot on our track and in our weight room. We have good facilities. I've worked on interval work a lot and race strategy and both of those have helped a ton."
Danner said he's encountered constant tough competition this year that has helped him prepare for this weekend.
"I've been racing against some very good people and that's definitely got me pumped up," he said. "But I've learned how to stay relaxed before races and not get too pumped up and die at the end of a race. I've grown as a racer."
In addition to Hurley, Cary-Grove's Brad Wolter is the 10th seed in the 400 (49.37), while Michael Saxon in the 110 and 300 hurdles and is part of Cary-Grove's 1,600 relay team along with Robbie Gleeson, Daniel Speer and Wolter.
Saxon qualified for state last year in the 300 hurdles and 1,600 relay.
"I've gotten better this year at the 110s," he said. "Last year I was trying to get my form down. This year I've been more successful in the 300s and have fared a lot better and am able to compete in the 110 and I know I have a lot more room to improve so far."
Saxon said he's been working on his steps in the 300s and also is focusing on the mental part of the race.
"You can almost worry too much about the steps," he said. "Instead you focus on training your brain to sprint instead of worrying about where you are at on the track or where the hurdle is."
Saxon said this year's been a trying one in the wake of the death of popular Cary-Grove hurdles coach Jim Miller. "The season has been hard," he said. "It was tough when he passed away. Earlier in the season I was thinking about too many things and not focusing and I kept coming up short in meets. Now I'm where I want to be and I've had a couple good races and have accomplished some goals and I have some other goals I want to achieve."
Jacobs' Josh Walker qualified in the 100 and is part of the state-qualifying 800 relay team with Nick Gierlak, Patrick Shannon and Brett Mooney. Jacobs' 3,200 relay team of Matt Goldby, Corey Albrecht, Zach Johnson and Jon Godinez also will compete on the trademark Eastern blue track.
South Elgin also qualified Kyle Kumerow in the triple jump and Shawn Griffin in the 100.
Bartlett's 400 and 800 relay teams qualified as did Dan Brainard (shot put), Dan Danek (discus), Dan Cotton (3,200) and AJ Santori (300 hurdles). The 400 and 800 teams feature Nolan Bernat, Bryce Petty, Hurshel Ross and Santori.
Larkin qualified its 400 and 1,600 relay teams. The 400 features Jarelle Shipp, Aaron Campbell, Dante Bonds and Keiren McKenzie, while the 1,600 is comprised of Alex O'Claire, Dom Dorantez, Bonds and Shipp.
Dundee-Crown's Austin White will compete in the 200.
Class 1A: Harvest Christian sophomore Brett Cramer high jumped 5-11 Thursday but failed to qualify for Saturday's finals during the Class 1A prelims in Charleston. The Lions' 3,200 relay team of Jacob Schott, Zach Harbaugh, Dorian Frederick and Jake Adams ran an 8:33.25 but also failed to qualify, as did St. Edward's 800 relay team of Eduardo Carachure, Albert Lopez, Michael Kelly and Devontae Elam, who ran a time of 1:33.26.