Boys track and field: A doubly special day for Naperville Central's Shilgalis
CHARLESTON -- Thomas Shilgalis was pressed into a difficult decision.
Which of the Naperville Central senior's titles was more satisfying?
"Man, it's tough," Shilgalis said after he anchored the Redhawks' winning Class 3A 3,200-meter relay and returned to win the 800 run with a typical kick in Saturday's boys track and field state finals at Eastern Illinois University.
In the relay the lead shuffled from Lane Tech to York to Batavia to St. Charles East, though Naperville Central's Seth Klein-Collins, Patrick Julian and Thomas Codo were hot on the trail.
Around the bell lap, 400 meters left, Shilgalis edged ahead and kept going to a school-record time of 7 minutes, 45.03 seconds.
"It was in our head the entire season," Julian said, "knowing that we're one of the best teams in the state, and coming out here and proving it is absolutely amazing.
"That school record actually had my uncle (Dan Nolan) on it," he added. "So it's really cool to knock him off and my name (goes) up there."
A couple hours later Shilgalis returned for the 800. He was in eighth place after 400 meters. He surged to fifth with 300 left, into third with 190 left and overcame Glenbard West standout Will O'Brien down the straightaway to win in 1:54.86 to O'Brien's 1:55.65.
"The four-by-eight, just having my teammates around me and knowing it was a team effort and we all put in the effort together, it was just really exciting to be around the guys and we were all really happy. It was such a good time," Shilgalis said.
"But then for the 800, it was a different type of happiness because I won my last race and I just had another one that was more individual. I was really happy with myself, kind of. A lot of my friends are in the race and it was a good moment."
Shilgalis ran the 1,600 "for the heck of it" but was spent. Wheaton Warrenville South's Sean Maison placed fourth in 4:18.89 to help the Tigers place fifth in the Class 3A standings. Crete-Monee's 66 points led Homewood-Flossmoor and Oak Park. Catlin won Class 1A and East St. Louis won Class 2A.
The Michigan-bound Shilgalis' favorite title was a tie: "I get to walk away with two championships. I'm really glad about that."
Lake Park soared to its seventh state pole vault title when junior Zach Frye outlasted Marmion's Andrew Saloga to win at 15 feet, 3 inches. Neither vaulter cleared 15-6, but Frye gained the edge when he cleared 15-3 on his first try and Saloga needed two.
WW South's Jake MacConnachie finished fourth, York's Brendan Hill sixth. In Class 1A, Westmont's Gavin Carr extended his school record three times, ending at 14-3.
"That was probably the hardest win all year," said Frye, whose performance gave Lancers vault coach Doug Juraska the most vault medals in state history. "All the way up to 15-3 I took two attempts at each height. At 15-3 I knew I had to get it on my first to beat someone out, so I just competed and I got 15-3."
Metea Valley's Eden Sweeney, Temi Osobamiro, Nikola Maric and Virgil Steward finished eighth in the 800-meter relay, but Mustangs high jumper Pryce Giwa-Osagie earned the school's highest finish in its brief history, fourth place at 6-5. The second-year track athlete entered the state meet nervous but relaxed in the finals.
"Coming in today I was like, you know, let me have fun, I've already qualified. I'm just going to do the best I can. I came in, killed it, did the best I could," said Giwa-Osagie, who will continue at College of DuPage.
Along with all-state finishes in the 3,200 and 1,600 relays and Donovan Turner's top-nine runs in the 110 and 300 hurdles, junior thrower Matt Appel helped Neuqua Valley to a sixth-place tie in Class 3A. Appel's school-record shot put throw of 58-9 stood for fourth, his 176-9 discus mark third.
"It was kind of getting frustrating during the middle of the season because I didn't see much improvement," Appel said. "But then, I don't know, everything just started to click and things just kept progressively getting better and better, which gave me a lot more confidence. It just made me want to get out there more and then just keep on improving."
The West Suburban Gold duo of Hinsdale South senior Kamron Lipscomb and Downers Grove South junior Jayden Lambert ended triple jump finals as they ended Friday's preliminaries, second and third, respectively. Lambert had a big opening leap of 47-8 to approach Lipscomb's 47-9¾.
"I was the only participant to make it downstate out of my team so I didn't want to disappoint, so I came to compete. And I'm glad I made a name for myself and my school," Lipscomb said.
"We had a lot of fun together, competing with each other, talking mess and all that," Lambert said after his second straight third-place finish.
Wheaton North senior Josh James finished sixth in the 110 hurdles, then joined classmate Eli Odell one last time in the 300s. Odell placed fourth, James sixth.
"Always pushing each other to go further, faster. I wouldn't have it any other way," James said from under his usual floppy hat.
"He's been a blessing," Odell said. "He's such a great competitor, he's pushed me to do my best. And it's nice, as he said, to start and finish together right next to the podium with each other."
Naperville North's Nick Trattner and Jake Allen ran to top-seven, all-state finishes in the 3,200 run, while WW South's Cedric Rowzee, Glenbard West's Tyquan Cox and Glenbard North's Xavier Curtis placed no lower than eighth in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. Counting Saturday's 400 relay, Cox finished with five all-state medals overall, the most of any Hilltopper.
"It's awesome to be a part of something special," he said.
Rowzee thought so, too.
"I put it all on my teammates, they push me every day at practice," the senior Tiger said. "Coming to practice, being able to see them everyday, building brotherships that will last forever, I'll never forget this moment, or them."
Timothy Christian's Danardo Jones placed fourth in Class 1A triple jump. In Class 2A St. Francis sent retiring track coach Scott Nelson out right, Jon Aquino finishing fifth in the 800, Dan Weizeorick eighth in the 1,600 and fifth in the 3,200 relay.
Nelson and his wife, Julie, enjoyed a tearful embrace outside of O'Brien Field one last time, then headed home.