All Hoffman Estates junior Declan Rustay could do was watch.
But as the 1,600-meter relay began to take shape, Rustay, who Hawks coach Tyrone Jones calls his "horse," liked what he saw more and more.
Prior to the final race of the night at the Mid-Suburban League boys track and field championships at Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates and defending champion Prospect were separated by only 3.5 points, with the Knights ahead.
The Hawks relay team of Connor Kiley, Dylan Kruezer, Christian Contreras and Daniel Banahan not only erased a Barrington lead in the race, it also eliminated the deficit that Prospect had built.
More importantly, when Banahan crossed the finish line, the Hawks had erased 19 years of history.
Hoffman Estates tallied 161 points to hold off the Knights (156.5).
Fremd sent out retiring head coach Jim Aikens with a solid third-place finish, scoring 110 points to 107 for Barrington.
For the Hawks, it broke a drought that Banahan referred to as their own private curse.
"When we were freshmen, by the time we hit the junior class our goal was to break the curse here at Hoffman and we did that," Banahan said. "We did it in football getting back to the playoffs this year and tonight we ended it by winning our first conference title in 19 years."
Banahan was part of two Hawks relay wins. The aforementioned 1,600-meter relay ran a season best 3:23.01 to capture that event. He also teamed with Nigel Jones, Eric Delaney and Kreuzer to win the 800 relay in a quick 1:30.36.
The Hawks' horse was indeed a workhorse on the track.
Rustay captured individual conference titles in the 100 (10.64), the 200 (21.94) and in the 400, where he ran a season best 48.76 to hold off a hard charging Louis Cossio of Barrington (48.84). Rustay started the meet by running the third leg on the winning 400 relay (42.46). The team also included Jones, Kreuzer, and Delaney in a race featured four teams that all run under 43 seconds.
"There is no doubt, he is our horse," coach Jones said of Rustay. "He is a special talent who has the unique ability to pick everyone up."
Jones also couldn't contain his emotions at the end, joining a wild scene of Hawks shortly after Banahan crossed the finish line and the conference crown had been solidified.
"I guess it hit me with the last 150 -- just a flood of emotions," Jones said. "Just chills down my spine and tears of joy for these kids and everything that have gone through to get to this point. It was so rewarding to see them accomplish this."
The night nearly came crashing down for the Hawks after the 1,600-meter run.
With a second and third-place finish from Prospect, the Knights began to pull away.
Sean Sagahan and Nate Cozine ran season bests in their finish behind conference champion Danny Peterson of Fremd (4:19.41). The finish was emblematic of a very well-played night for the Knights.
Prospect earned conference titles in the discus from senior Billy Matzek (165-10) and James Estrella III in the pole vault, where a clearance of 14-7 was a personal best. Senior James Riordan earned the Knights lone title on the track with an impressive 1:54.86 clocking to win the 800.
"The kids ran well, threw well, and jumped well so we feel really good about our performances today and the kids really stepped up," said Prospect coach Jay Renaud. "We scored points where we weren't supposed to score points so that's all we could really ask for."
For Missouri-bound Fremd senior Ethan Hanson, the night turned out to be a learning experience.
Though he did win the conference title with a top effort of 61-4.5, Hanson has much bigger goals still to accomplish.
"I didn't like how I released the shot," Hanson said. "I felt a little rushed today and I guess I can take and learn from that."
Hanson was proud of one moment: he is the final conference champion for coach Aikens, who will be stepping down following the season after 30 years at Fremd.
"I want to go out, win the state championship and send him out on a good note," Hanson said.
Fremd was also victorious in the first event of the day on the track -- the 3,200 relay.
Jack Buban, Ed Worthem, Luke Vogelgasang and Peterson won the event in 7:53.14.
Other conference champions included, Lawrence Knish of Wheeling in the high jump (6-7), Dimitri Lomnick of Buffalo Grove in the long jump (22-3), Nick Laning of Barrington in the 3,200 (9:19.18), Victor Olaitan of the host Saxons who took top honors in the 110 high hurdles (14.92), Jaden Jackson of Fremd who held off John Elischer of Palatine to win the 300 hurdles in 39.13, and Marshall Davis of Hoffman who took the top spot in the triple jump (45-1).