Boys track and field: Ellis, Thormo finish on top
CHARLESTON -- Disappointed that Jason Thormo, his friend since they shared the same baby sitter as 2-year-olds, did not go out for track freshman year, Grant runner Bobby Cayet contacted someone of influence.
"I ended up texting his mom and saying, 'You're bringing him to the track camp this summer after freshman year,' " said Cayet, a junior. "So she made him come."
Thormo went out for track his sophomore year, only to have his promising 2017 season cut short by mono.
So Saturday was about making up for lost time and, for the second day in a row, executing on the biggest stage. After clocking the fastest 400-meters time in Friday's preliminaries of the state meet, Thormo again sped his one lap faster than anyone. The Grant junior captured the Class 3A 400 championship at Eastern Illinois University's O'Brien Field, running 48.18 to best a group that included runner-up Brandon Adams of Minooka (48.56) and St. Charles East's Charlie Wade (48.97, third).
And Thormo wasn't the only champion from Lake County.
Warren senior Branden Ellis headed home with a pair of medals, including one in the high jump, which he won by clearing a personal-best 6 feet, 10 inches.
"Probably the best form I've had all high school," Ellis said. "That's really a good way to go out senior year -- last event at state."
While Ellis says he was feeling confident after finishing seventh in the triple jump (46-0½), Thormo acknowledged he was scared going into the 400 final.
"I knew my opponents and I knew what they were going to bring to the table," Thormo said. "All of them are exceptional runners and capable of beating me. That's why I was scared most of the race."
But the cross country runner rode the adrenaline that also helped him clock a 47.84 on Friday. Thormo caught Adams with about 70 meters left and overtook him in the last 30.
"Just redeeming myself for missing (the opportunity to qualify for state) last year," Thormo said.
Ellis' title was also close. He and McHenry senior Maki Mohr each cleared 6-10 and then tried 6-11. After three failed attempts by each, Ellis was declared the winner. With the high bar at 6-7, Ellis had made his first attempt, while Mohr had made it on his second try. They then each missed the same number of tries up to 6-11.
"I feel good," said Ellis, the Lynn University-bound basketball player. "I messed up my heel at triple jump, so I was coming over here (to the high jump area) just trying to see how it felt. As it kept going, and (Mohr) kept making them and I kept making them, adrenaline took over. I didn't really feel (the heel injury)."
In a show of good sportsmanship, Mohr and Ellis cheered each other on as they tried to clear 6-11.
"I've been stuck at 6-7 for two years now," Ellis said. "I felt good to finally get up to 6-10. My coach kept telling me that over 6-7, I got inches and inches. My second attempt at 6-11, I was over (the bar) by probably a couple of inches. But it's all about finishing the jump, and I didn't do it."
Mundelein senior Bobby Nuzzo came up shy in his pair of chances to win a state title, but he had no regrets.
Running multiple races at state for the first time in his four-year career, Nuzzo earned medals in the 100 (fourth, 10.63) and 200 (fifth, 21.95). He briefly led the 100, a race in which he placed seventh at state last year.
"I got out very well in the 100," Nuzzo said. "I'm happy with fourth, and I'm happy with fifth in the 200, too. Once I hit the bottom of the curve (in the 200), I just couldn't keep it going. I was tired."
Nuzzo will head to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville satisfied with a career that was cut short his sophomore year due to an achy right Achilles.
"Ran a good time yesterday, ran a good time today," Nuzzo said. "Good building blocks for next year in college. Just a bunch of fun today."
Grant's Cayet earned the ninth-place medal in the 300 hurdles, but he fell on the second-to-last hurdle. He did a full somersault in his lane and finished in 42.03. He thought he was in the mix to win it.
"I'm disgusted," Cayet said. "I haven't ran that time since freshman year."
Stevenson's 800 relay took seventh (1:28.72) with sophomores Jaheel Perrin and Shane Johnson, freshman anchor David Smolensky and senior Ahmad Dinkins.
"I'm insanely happy," Dinkins said. "To be able to do this with these underclassmen is the best thing in the world. I couldn't ask for a better group."
Antioch junior Chase Becker won a medal too, finishing eighth in the discus (162-02).
Libertyville senior Alex Tam just missed medaling in both of his races, finishing 10th in the 3,200 (9:17.76) and 10th in the 1,600 (4:20.36).
In the wheelchair division, Libertyville sophomore Ethan Burkhart won the 800 (1:58.72), 400 (57.76) and 200 (30.89). He also placed second in the 100 (16.61). Wauconda sophomore Juan Rodarte placed third in the 800 (2:28.27), and was fourth in the 100 (17.94), 400 (1:08.40) and 200 (36.53).