Glenbrook South, Werner, get the job done at sectionals
It was the Class 3A Glenbrook South sectional boys track and field meet, but an energy pulsed in the north end zone of John Davis Stadium last Thursday.
Once Hersey's Filip Kozlowski cleared his first try at a state-qualifying 1.90 meters (6 feet, 3 inches), a wave of high jumpers and boys at the adjacent long jump pit caught the fever.
Titans junior Noah Shapiro followed Kozlowski. His short approach provided the needed hang time. Up next, Evanston's Matt Cless also punched his ticket to next Saturday's 3A state meet in Charleston. Shouts and applause sounded on repeat.
"I was just happy for him," Shapiro said of Kozlowski's jump. "I don't know, track's such an easy sport to be happy for your competitors. And I always jump better when I'm happy, so it felt great."
Over at long jump, Shapiro's twin brother, Nathan, was jumping last as the top seed. On their second attempts the Lake Forest duo of Wyatt Horvat and Jahari Scott each surpassed the qualifying mark of 6.75 meters (22-2).
Nathan Shapiro, coaxing the most out of a testy right ankle, felt the energy.
"Oh, absolutely. At the long jump just before I'm taking my jump I kind of felt some pressure, because I was expecting to be the best jumper, the first qualifier. I kind of felt some pressure, but you know, (I) got the job done," he said.
In addition to a monster distance double by Loyola's Spencer Werner, Glenbrook South got the job done en masse. Headed by Class 3A qualifiers Nathan (long jump, 300-meter hurdles) and Noah (high jump, 200-meter dash) Shapiro, Ryan Faut (discus, shot put), Stefan West (triple jump) and Brian Hiltebrand (800 meters), the Titans won their first boys track sectional in school history.
"It's a great feeling," coach Kurt Hasenstein said. "But knowing what these kids have done in the last year, and I'm sure a lot of coaches can speak to that, I really thought our kids were dedicated to the point where I was getting phone calls last year, like, 'Hey, get the Glenbrook South kids off this track and that track because they're hopping fences and training and doing stuff.'"
Faut could do stuff in Charleston. He recorded the fourth-best 3A sectional mark (16.86 meters/55-4) in shot, fifth-best in discus (49.30 meters/161-9).
"I did my job, pretty much," said the South Alabama recruit.
There was a lot of that going around. Nathan Shapiro and West have both dealt with injuries that in West's case began in February when he landed hard on his left heel. The Central Suburban League South champ competed the entire season on it and got the job done when it mattered most.
"I was kind of iffy going into it. It's been a constant problem throughout the season, but thankfully today it didn't hurt that much at the start and I got some good jumps in," said West, second to Loyola's Clinton Ofosu, seeded fourth but winning at 13.26 meters/43-5.
The last time Nathan Shapiro tried the 300 hurdles, on May 21, he withdrew after clearing the first hurdle, bothered by the ankle he tweaked earlier in practice.
"I kind of had some nerves going into that very same hurdle," he said last Thursday.
"I'm just so happy I could finish today and qualify for state. It feels great -- and I'm exhausted," said Shapiro, whose time of 39.21 seconds sits fourth entering state. Evanston superstar Kalil Johnson, who won both hurdles races at Glenbrook South, led all at 38.61 seconds.
The 400-meter run is exhausting, a full-on sprint around the track. But when Glenbrook North senior Graham Paterson launched himself across the finish line .02 seconds ahead of Loyola's Austin Cabanban, he exorcised three years of mental fatigue.
As a freshman, Paterson declined a coach's offer to run downstate in the 3,200-meter relay.
"I was like, I don't deserve this -- I didn't work for this, I'm not good enough. So I said no. I was kind of a wussy. Now I just wanted to come out to prove to myself and prove to all my teammates and my coaches who have been with me all these four years that I deserve to be back downstate," Paterson said.
That job done, he was swarmed by those same teammates and coaches.
"Yeah, it definitely did nag at me for years and now, finally, I am satisfied -- but I've still got a lot ahead of me," said Paterson, to be joined in Charleston by Spartans pole vaulter Connor McHugh.
The pole vault winner, Maine East's Edison De La Pena, was a reluctant champion. His height of 13-2 fell short of the 13-8 that earned him the Central Suburban League North title.
Asked how he felt being Maine East's downstate representative, De La Pena's response was bittersweet: "I don't really feel like I should be a good representative of it, but if I have to take that position I'll gladly take it."
"I just don't believe in myself enough. I should though," he said.
Belief, along with guts and guile, powered New Trier's Patrick Jamieson to the 800-meter sectional title over fellow qualifier Brian Hiltebrand of Glenbrook South. Jousting from start to finish, overcoming a paper-thin deficit with 200 meters left, down the stretch Jamieson held off the Titans junior, who lost form and tumbled to the track fortunately across the finish line.
"It's pretty cheesy," said Jamieson, a junior, "but it just took believing in myself and saying, 'OK, you've got to do this now,' and then just going for it."
That was Werner's operating principle in winning both the 1,600 and the 3,200 meters.
In the 3,200 the Loyola junior used his trademark kick with 250 meters left to leave New Trier stars Charlie Siebert and Nick Falk and Rolling Meadows' Stephen Barretto, all of whom qualified. Werner's time of 9:11.24 leads all 3A sectional times.
"I'm just so excited for state next week because I think I've got a shot at winning," Werner said.
Though spent after that race, two hours later Werner removed all drama in the 1,600. At the 500 mark he took the lead from Hersey's Luis Vasquez. At 800 he extended it to 10 meters, with New Trier qualifiers George Cahill and Andrew Flynn in pursuit.
By the time Werner won at 4:16.74 -- third among state-bound 3A runners -- he held a 40-meter lead. He sounded fresh as a daisy.
"I just had it that last two laps, just felt good and I'm ready to pick which (race) I want to do at state. We'll see, but that was really impressive for me, and I'm really excited," he said.
"I could do both, but it's going to be hotter down there. It's nighttime right now. I knew I had it in me. I was a little worried at the start -- I ate a little too much and I drank a lot, and I didn't want to have any problems with that. But you know, 800 in, we were like 2:08, I felt good, and I just said, 'Go for it,' you know what I mean? I'm in great shape and I'm ready for state."