Despite outward appearances, Hoffman Estates senior Declan Rustay has made a habit of thinking big.
Standing all of 5 feet, 7 inches, Rustay has made a big impact on the turnaround of the Hoffman Estates track and field program. He led the Hawks last season to their first conference title since 1998 and propelled the program back to big-picture prominence by earning state titles in the 100- and 200-meter dashes last spring.
And now Rustay is looking to go big with his own future.
On Friday morning, the Hawks track star signed his National Letter of Intent with the Illinois.
"I am really looking forward to starting something big there," Rustay said shortly after his signing ceremony at the Hoffman Estates. "(Illinois) has really built a great program and I really look forward to being a part of that and building into something even bigger."
It was a breakout season for Rustay last spring. He captured MSL titles in the 100-, 200-, and 400-meter dashes as well as the 400 relay. At the state meet, Rustay became the first Hoffman Estates runner to win a state title individually since Pierre Leinbach won the 300 hurdles in 1997.
"I just can't put into words what this all means to me," said Hoffman Estates coach Tyrone Jones who ran for Illinois from 1996-2000. "Declan will be a great fit at the next level and his best days are absolutely ahead of him."
Rustay had a short list of other schools he was looking into that included Illinois State and Nebraska. But in the end, Illinois was the right fit.
"When I walked on the campus I just had a good feeling that it was the right fit," Rustay said. "I just knew, and in the end when I talked with coach, I knew that if it felt right that I needed to take that next step, and this is the right spot for me."
As the 2018 season approaches, Rustay will be favored to recapture state medals at the end of May. He currently sits just one medal behind Leinbach for the most decorated individual track medalist in school history. Rustay also won a pair of medals in the 100 and 200 as a sophomore.
"We talked about it on the way home from state last year," Rustay said of the team chase that saw the Hawks finish fourth overall -- just 3 points away from a trophy. "We have a lot of guys coming back and some very talented sophomores and juniors coming up. I can't wait to keep building on what we did last season."