Boys track and field: Close helps Neuqua Valley edge Naperville Central to win sectional

Lemont’s Quinton Peterson accomplished a notable triple on Friday.

First, he ran the 110-meter hurdles in 14.27 seconds for an easy victory and 3A state track finals qualification.

Then, he zipped around in the 300 hurdles in 39.22, good for second to grab an additional berth in next week’s 3A championship.

Finally, he raced out of Joliet Central’s track to get back to Lemont to complete a fulfilling hat trick by accepting his diploma.

“I had a rough start at the beginning of the season,” Peterson said. “I got used to more hurdles (in the 110). The only thing I have to work out is not hitting my knee so much. I just try to hustle to that next hurdle.”

Zac Close of Neuqua Valley, running without his coach shouting out split times, ran his best time of the season and career second-best, a blistering 9:09.28 in the 3,200, five seconds better than his state final time last year, winning the race by over 100 meters. He kept time in his head and it paid off, with his final lap of 1:05.99 his best 400-meter split.

“Recently I’ve been trying to hit split times and today I went for it, and I think that’s what made the difference,” Close said. “I definitely think I could have run faster. I’m excited for state.”

Close’s result helped Neuqua Valley to the sectional title with 81.5 points to Naperville Central’s 76.5. Oswego East was third with 74.5.

Hinsdale South’s Amari Alexander took the 100-meter dash in 10.61 seconds, then came back to win the 200 in 22 seconds.

Lockport Township’s Nolan Lamoureux pushed himself to the limit to take the 400 in a personal-best 48.48 seconds.

“I knew I could PR,” Lamoureux said after beating his time by two-tenths of a second. “I’ve been downstate twice, and hopefully this time I can stay up there all the way and maybe even win it.”

The relays were especially productive state qualifier incubators.

Eight teams, led by Plainfield North at 7:51.04, advanced to Charleston in the 4x800 relay. Four quartets, paced by a dead heat by Oswego East and Neuqua Valley at 42.301 seconds, advanced from the 4x100 relay. The 4x200 saw eight teams move forward, led by Oswego East (1:28.29). And the concluding 4x400 moved 10 teams to the finals, led by Plainfield North’s state-best 3:17.42. It was a state final preview, as Naperville Central, Neuqua Valley and Hinsdale Central grabbed the second, third and fourth times this season.

The host Steelmen went 1-2 in the triple jump, with Zion Kostyra (13.86 meters) winning and Jamari Straughter (13.67) taking second, with five jumpers qualifying in all, including Romeoville’s Shaun Alexander and Plainfield North’s Treycen Bownes and Kwame Amoo-Otoo.

A quintet qualified in the long jump, led by Bolingbrook’s Devin Cathey (7.11). Daniel Robinson of Neuqua Valley (7.1) was second.

Naperville Central’s Maverick Ohle doubled in the shot put and the discus, leading the shot put with a put of 17.01, followed by Hinsdale Central’s Mark Ortiz (16.04) and Lockport’s Chase Creed (15). Ohle, a senior headed to Ohio University as a defensive end, then won the discus with a throw of 51.45, followed by Zach Morrisroe of Oswego East (49.55).

Michael Prieto of Hinsdale Central took the high jump at 1.95, while the Naperville Central pole vault duo of Henry Kane and Jordan Hanford (each at 4.46) paced six vaulters qualifying for the state championship.

Peterson hopes for a better state scenario than last year, when he caught the flu and was limited in his activity. This year, he said, “I want to go down there and I want to win.”

Marcellus Mines of Joliet West didn’t have a ceremony to go to, but upstaged Peterson by winning both the 800 and 1,600, plus ran the anchor leg of the Tigers’ state-qualifying 4x800-meter relay, which finished sixth in 7:57.87. The plan was to run those three races last week in the Southwest Prairie Conference meet, but Mines developed a headache after the relay. On Friday, he was the headache for others, which bodes well for next week in Charleston.

Mines won the 800 in 1:55.82. An hour later, he and Neuqua Valley’s Robert Glenn traded the lead on the last two laps of the 1,600. Mines took it back with 300 meters left and held off Glenn’s final charge with 80 meters to go, finishing in 4:14.31, the first of six runners to qualify.

“It was a battle of pushes,” Mines said. “He really wanted it, but I wanted it more. He ran his race but I’ve been through a lot of injuries, and this is the most healthy I’ve been all year. All glory to God – I’m thanking him because I wouldn’t be here otherwise.”

Joliet Central’s new track and the best running day of the year conspired to send a battalion of runners, jumpers and throwers to next weekend’s 3A state championship.

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