Octavian adding to the Wells legacy for Grant
CHARLESTON -- Very quickly, Grant junior Octavian Wells is making a name for himself.
In a family of track and field royalty, Wells had so far existed in relative obscurity after the standout careers of his older brothers Sean and Jonathan.
But on Friday, during the preliminary session of the Class 3A track and field state championships at Eastern Illinois' O'Brien Field, Octavian left the sun-soaked crowd in awe of yet another great Wells performance.
In his prelim heat of the 400-meter dash, Wells stayed stride for stride with defending state champion and Missouri-bound senior Kahmari Montgomery, ultimately finishing second but in a school-record 47.73. Wells' time was the third-fastest in the event, setting him up in prime position for Saturday's finals.
But Wells was just getting warmed up. As the anchor leg of the Bulldogs' 1,600-meter relay team that featured Kemar Miller, Jeremy Bredwood, and Chris Hatton, Wells took the baton with Grant deep in fourth place.
Through the first 250 meters of his leg, Wells held his spot while slowly creeping toward the front. Into the final 100, and seemingly out of nowhere, Wells weaved his way through runners from Plainfield East, Bloomington, and Edwardsville to win his heat in a school-record effort of 3:18.52.
"That's the Octavian Wells I know, right there," Miller said. "That's all heart right there. He has more, I know he has more."
Wells and the Bulldogs have the second fastest-time from the prelims for the finals.
"I just had to get my guys into the finals -- that's all," Wells said. "It's just about running your race and not thinking about where you are or what you need to do."
The Bulldogs' joy of making the finals meant that someone didn't get a spot, and that team was Lakes. The Eagles, who have flown well above the competition so far this season, had a rough prelims day, all but eliminating their chances for a trophy on Saturday.
Senior Corey Hertz, though, looked like he has all year in winning his heat in the 400. His time of 47.59 was second best in prelims, and another school record.
"It felt good -- a little hot, but felt good," said Hertz of the near 100-plus degree temperatures on the track Friday.
In the field, the Eagles earned three qualifiers for the finals. Junior Cooper Jazo cleared 14 feet, 3 inches in the pole vault to advance, and sophomore Cameron Ruiz earned his second straight trip to the finals with a long jump effort of 21-10, tying him for 10th overall with Chico Jackson of Wheaton North.
Senior Ryan Mullen had one of his best days of the season in making the finals in the shot put. Mullen tossed the lead ball 56-2.25 and sits fifth headed into the finals. Stevenson senior and Villanova-bound Henry Sise qualified ninth (53-8.75) and Matt Sladek of Warren became the first Blue Devils competitor in the shot put finals in school history, as he is currently in seventh place (54-7.5).
Joining Sladek in the finals from Warren is the Blue Devils' 800 relay team of Joe Haight, Hugo Flores, Nick Marcinkus and Isaac Walker. They broke the school record for the third straight time, running 1:27.36 and earning a finals berth for the first time in school history.
"The closer we get to state the more serious we get," Walker said. "This is a great accomplishment and we are going to work so hard and get ready to race again tomorrow."
Lake Zurich, too, will get to race again after a qualifying performance in the 3,200 relay. Matt Pereira, Brian Griffith, Kyle Griffith and Justin Shim ran a season-best 7:52.96 to earn the 11th spot out of 12 into the finals. Griffith also qualified for the finals in the 800 in 1:56.00.
Along with Griffith will be Kansas-bound Mundelein senior Bryce Richards.
Richards, like most distance runners on Friday, battled the heavy air and hot track to earn a spot in the 800.
"I've been working on this race for the last three years and today this race felt really easy," said Richards, who finished second in the 800 as a freshman. "I really feel like I can go much faster tomorrow."
Richards also raced in the 1,600, and while he didn't make the finals, the fast pace benefitted Stevenson senior Sam Oh. He ran a personal best 4:17.26 to become the first Patriots miler to make the finals since Micky Cobrin finished fourth in 2003.
During the morning session in Class 2A, Vernon Hills and Carmel both qualified athletes for the finals. Cougars senior Noah Agnew cruised into the finals in the high jump, clearing the required 6-3.
"I'm confident, feeling good and I just took care of business today," Agnew said. "I'm really excited for tomorrow -- I really want 6-10 or better."
Sophomore Tom Krashevsky also qualified on the track for the Cougars, running 1:58.5.
Carmel senior David Biondo made it look easy in the pole vault clearing the required 13-6 to make his first pole vault finals. Biondo will attempt to become the Corsairs first pole vault medalist in school history, and the first medal winner for Carmel since 2012.