Boys track and field: Neuqua Valley puts all the pieces together
CHARLESTON -- Donovan Turner had already performed yeoman duties for the Neuqua Valley boys track and field team Saturday afternoon at Eastern Illinois University.
But the Wildcats' junior had one last chore: the anchor leg of the final event of the Class 3A finals at O'Brien Stadium, the 1,600-meter relay.
Neuqua Valley trailed Homewood-Flossmoor -- which did not have an entry -- but Turner came home in 3 minutes, 21.04 seconds to give the quartet third place.
The resulting 7 points for Neuqua Valley translated into a 52-48 victory over H-F and the first state championship in program history.
The Wildcats' 2009 and 2015 editions were both runners-up.
"We met in April," Neuqua Valley coach Mike Kennedy said. "We started putting the pieces together. We might not have a superstar anywhere, but we are a strong, strong team."
It showed with Turner's finish in the 1,600 relay.
"All I said to myself was, 'Don't let the pressure get to you,'" Turner said. "'You have to run the race exactly how you need to run it.' We were getting the feeling that we would have this (state championship)."
Neuqua Valley had four second-place finishes to cement its title.
Tyler Bombacino, Ryan Kennedy, Danny Winek and Dakota Getty just missed defending the Wildcats' 3,200 relay title, but the second-place finish to Sandburg began the championship run on the track.
Moments later, Zach Kinne had a potential title in the 3,200 run slip over the waning meters to Lyons Twp. reigning state cross country champion Danny Kilrea. But it was 8 more invaluable points for Neuqua Valley.
"With 1,200 meters to go, I felt pretty strong," Kinne said. "I tried to push as hard as any (previous race) as I could. I am very happy with my time."
Turner, who later finished sixth in the 300 intermediate hurdles, was runner-up to Batavia senior Sam Conger in the 110 highs in 14.2 seconds.
Earlier in the long jump, West Aurora senior Camron Donatlan won his third state title when he supplanted the Wildcats' Ife Oketona.
McKenzie Mitchell (sixth in the triple jump), Myles Gascon (sixth in the 100 dash) and Winek (ninth in the 1,600) rounded out the Wildcats' scoring.
There were no DuPage County individual or relay state champions in any of the three classes.
In the Class 3A pole vault Lake Park senior Tommy Paprocki had the misfortune of having to try and deny Bloomington senior Zack Bradford a third consecutive state championship.
"It was crazy," said Paprocki, who went out 6 inches lower than Bradford in claiming second at 17 feet. "I think he got around 18 feet in indoor (season). I was at about 14-4 at the time. In the last three meets I had PRs ever single meet in a row."
Charlie Kern had designs on an 800 title for York. But the Dukes' senior could not match Eisenhower senior Josh English down the stretch, finishing second in 1:52.64.
"I am happy with the race I ran," Kern said. "I ran to the best of my ability today. I would have liked to get the win today, but English ran an amazing race."
There were also several Class 3A events featuring multiple all-state performances from local athletes.
Ohio State-bound Waubonsie Valley senior Wes York was third in the 800; Ryan Birkmeier (Downers North), Cameron Benes (Glenbard West) and Joey Simon (Wheaton North) all placed as well.
In the 3,200 relay Glenbard West, which tied for ninth in the team standings with 19 points, ran fourth. York and Naperville Central were sixth and ninth in the event.
Thomas Shilgalis took third in the 1,600 run for Naperville Central. Downers North senior Jake Ridderhoff and WW South senior Sean Maison were fifth and seventh in the event.
Timothy Christian senior Xavier Ross had his eyes on the top prize in the Class 1A 400. But Ross faltered at the very end in placing third.
"I got out a little too fast and didn't have anything left," the Elmhurst resident said.