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updated: 5/25/2018 8:15 PM

Boys track and field: Marmion's Groom sitting pretty at state

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  • Batavia's Sam Conger competes in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles during the Class 3A boys state track and field prelims in Charleston Friday.

      Batavia's Sam Conger competes in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles during the Class 3A boys state track and field prelims in Charleston Friday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Batavia's Shane Knanishu carries the baton for his team in the 3,200-meter relay during the Class 3A boys state track and field prelims in Charleston Friday.

      Batavia's Shane Knanishu carries the baton for his team in the 3,200-meter relay during the Class 3A boys state track and field prelims in Charleston Friday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Kaneland's Clayton Hannula competes in the shot put during the Class 3A boys state track and field prelims in Charleston Friday.

      Kaneland's Clayton Hannula competes in the shot put during the Class 3A boys state track and field prelims in Charleston Friday.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
By Kevin McGavin
Daily Herald Correspondent

CHARLESTON -- Unlike the 12 running events at the boys state track and field meet, the leader after the Friday preliminaries in the triple and long jump has an inherent advantage.

The first-day marks carry over into championship Saturday.

Iowa-bound Marmion senior Seth Groom is sitting pretty as a result.

"I am definitely not going to take all three jumps (Saturday)," Groom said.

Groom was the Class 2A state runner-up in all three jumping events last year.

Friday at Eastern Illinois University, Groom triple-jumped -- on his only attempt -- 48 feet, 1.25 inches.

Earlier, Groom soared 23-5 in the long jump.

Groom has the lead in both events by more than a foot entering the final day of the season.

"I don't know if Marmion has ever had a state champion," Marmion coach Dan Thorpe said.

Dwight Eisenhower was president, but the Cadets can claim one state champion in program history: Bob Shapenter in the discus in 1958.

Groom is also not only a leading contender in the high jump but also the third-fastest runner in the 200 dash (22.21 seconds).

"It's a huge advantage in the high jump," Thorpe said of Groom holding sizable leads in the long and triple jump. "The bigger the meet, the bigger the competition."

The jumps were almost a personal domain for Fox Valley area athletes on Friday at O'Brien Stadium.

West Aurora superstar Camron Donatlan, the two-time defending Class 3A high jump champion, will be a prohibitive favorite for a third title after clearing 6-3 in the high jump without a miss to advance to the finals.

St. Charles North reigning runner-up Peter Willis is also in the finals field, as is St. Charles East junior Alec Crawford.

But Donatlan also has a second title on his mind as the Wyoming-bound senior had the second-best mark in the long jump at 23-4.5.

"I was shooting for 23 feet," Donatlan said. "Looking ahead to (Saturday), high 23 or 24 will win it."

Neuqua Valley senior Ife Oketona leads Donatlan by less than two inches; West Aurora sectional champion Kevin Sylvester is fourth after a first-day best of 22-11.

The Fox Valley area was also well represented in the Class 3A throws.

Cary-Grove junior Jason Petko is fifth in the discus at 165-5.

Two-event reigning Class 2A all-stater Clayton Hannula of Kaneland stands third in the shot put at 57-8.5 and ninth in the discus in his first Class 3A meet.

Huntley senior Ben Litwin in eighth in the discus after his first three throws.

Andrew Stokes' 57-foot throw in the shot is worth fifth heading into second-day action.

But there are no guarantees when it comes to first-day marks, with the notable exception of Lockport defending shot put state champion John Meyer, who uncorked a state-record throw of 68-8.

"I really don't know who is seeded below me," Stokes said.

"It was my third (attempt)," Petko said. "This was the second-best throw I ever did in my life."

"I made it to (Saturday)," Hannula said. "I was pretty happy with the shot put. The discus, I just have to work on something with my hands."

On the Class 3A track, Batavia senior Sam Conger -- barring a false start -- is guaranteed all-state medals after winning his 110-meter high hurdles prelim and finishing runner-up in the 300 intermediates.

"I don't think it was expected, but I thought I had a good chance," Conger said of his automatic entry into the 110 finals by winning his Friday heat. "(Winning state) would be all my track dreams come true."

The Burlington Central 1,600 relay is much closer to the prediction of its coach, Mike Schmitt, of contending for a state championship after winning its prelim in 3:22.42.

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