His back peppered with black specks from Grayslake North's track, Barrington senior Nick Laning was nicked up but not bloodied following a furious finish in the 1,600-meter run.
As Laning and Waukegan's Marcos Garcia chased leader Alex Tam of Libertyville in the final meters, Garcia leaned in at the finish line with his arms out wide. He clipped Laning, who crashed hard to the track.
Garcia, who earlier cruised to victory in the 3,200 run, was disqualified. He apologized to Laning after both runners had a chance to catch their breath.
"His arm just hit me," said Laning, who finished second (4:18.86) to Tam (season-best 4:18.34).
Laning told Garcia, "It's all good" and, yes, it was "all good" for several other runners Thursday night in the Class 3A sectional in Grayslake.
Fremd's Jaden Jackson capped a terrific night for his teammates by overcoming a significant deficit on the final lap to win the 1,600 relay in 3:23.83, just ahead of second-place Barrington (3:24.01). That's how the final standings ended up as well, as Fremd's 104 points gave the Vikings the championship. Barrington (100) settled for second, Warren (61.25) was a distant third, Stevenson (48.25) was fourth, and Zion-Benton (44) rounded out the top five.
When Jackson got the handoff from teammate Kyle Johnston, the University of Illinois-bound senior trailed by 15-20 meters.
"I've been in that position before," Jackson said. "I tell my team, 'Just give me 30 meters and I'll make it happen.' This is my last 4 by (400) for the Fremd Vikings. I gave it my all. I'm proud to say I'm able to bring more of my teammates downstate with me."
Zach Balis and Justin King ran the first two legs on Fremd's 1,600 relay. Jackson also anchored the winning 400 relay (43.41), which also included Balis, Ben Konopka and King. Jackson (first, 14.80), Barrington's Kevin Curet (14.65) and Konopka (14.71) all advanced in the 100 hurdles. Konopka (38.75) and Jackson (38.81) went 1-2 in the 300 hurdles.
Like he did in the 1,600 run, Laning took second in the 3,200 run, which saw a whopping nine runners qualify for state. Six came in with a seed time that was better than the state-qualifying standard of 9:29.48.
"It was crazy," Laning said. "It was great to see that many guys qualify to state. I was just trying to hit right around 9:20 to just qualify solidly and try to get in that first heat down at state. It just ended up working really well, and it was great to have a ton of other guys qualify too from our sectional because the more the merrier."
Seeded eighth in the loaded 3,200 field, Mundelein sophomore Dillon Blake figured all he had to do was keep up with the older guys for all eight laps. He did just that and, as a result, was one of the nine state qualifiers in the race.
"I had planned to just stay with the guys in front of me," Blake said after finishing eighth in a season-best 9:23.82. "I knew they were going to bring me through. That was the plan the whole time."
Garcia won easily in 9:11.97, nearly seven seconds ahead of runner-up Laning (9:18.60). Also advancing downstate were Libertyville senior Alex Tam (9:21.71), Stevenson senior Nikita Smyrnov (9:21.99), Lake Zurich senior Pat Burns (9:23.15), Stevenson senior Brett Lucas (9:23.21), Lake Zurich senior Sean Ginn (9:23.60) and Palatine sophomore Richie Jacobo (9:27.02).
Blake cut nearly 11 seconds off his seed time.
"I really thought I had a chance to go under the qualifying time," Blake said. "I was really happy with my performance. I didn't think I'd get to (9 minutes) 23 (seconds). I just thought I'd be pretty close to the qualifying time, so I was a little nervous."
Mundelein senior Bobby Nuzzo won the 100 in 10.56, breaking his own school record, and edging Zion-Benton's Cortez Sawyer (10.85). Nuzzo captured the 200 (21.61), with Sawyer (22.00) finishing second again.
Defending 400 state champ Luis Cossio of Barrington won the 400 in 49.30, just ahead of Vernon Hills' Tyler Gonzalez (49.94).
Warren's Braden Ellis advanced downstate in the high jump (first, 6-7) and triple jump (second, 44-10.25). Ellis' teammate Brian Holland anchored the Blue Devils' winning 3,200 relay (7:58.33), which also featured Hunter Subry, Cyrus Braza and Jason Langevin. Mundelein was second (state-qualifying 8:00.84) with Kaleb Carlson, Aidan Afonso, Carter Schorr and Mikey Parduhn.
Barrington captured the 800 relay in 1:27.83 with Alec Andrea, Ray Niro, EJ Darlington and Cossio. Stevenson (1:27.88) also advanced thanks to the foursome of Jaheel Perrin, Shane Johnson, Ahmad Dinkins and David Smolensky.
Fremd's Brian Chindblom (22-7.25) and Buffalo Grove's Zach Sheasby (22-4.25) finished 1-2 in the long jump. The pole vault saw Fremd's Jim Leahy (14-7) and Vernon Hills' Patrick Sear (13-6) earn state berths. Buffalo Grove's Isaac Suh advanced in the high jump (6-2).
The shot put had six hit the state-qualifying mark: Barrington's Brad Warman (61-1.75), Fremd's Matt Bilek (56-4.50) and Chris Rydberg (53-10.50), Zion-Benton's Jamir Gibson (53-10.50), Grayslake Central's Jack Chum (52-7.50) and Barrington's Geoff Frenk (52-7). Buffalo Grove's Zach Sheasby won the triple jump (44-10.50).
Gibson (166-00) and Bilek (162-07) finished 1-2 in the discus, with Stevenson's Maema Njongmeta (158-7) and Barrington's Mark Di Iorio (156-6) also advancing.
Stevenson's Aaron Portman (1:56.87) and Lake Zurich's Drake Heisterkamp (1:57.69) qualified in the 800.