Boys track and field: Hersey relay team defies odds at sectional
Teams that are seeded fourth aren't supposed to win sectional relay events.
Nobody told Hersey.
The Huskies' 4 x 800 relay team of Connor Oiler, Michael Renner, Luis Vazquez and Remy Jankusky bettered their personal record in the event by over 10 seconds, edging top seed Prospect at Thursday's Class 3A Glenbrook South boys track and field sectional.
Both Hersey and the Knights will move on to next week's state meet at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
"The kids ran great -- it's all about them," said Huskies coach Ken Blazek. "They did an awesome job and our distance coach, Kevin Young, did a great job in preparing them this week and making them believe they could do what he thought they could do."
Hersey, which won the 4 x 800 at John Davis Titan Stadium in Glenview in the time of 8:03.62, trailed early on but took the lead on the third leg, run by Vazquez.
Anchor runner Jankusky held off a strong challenge from Prospect in the final 100 meters, crossing the finish line just .92 seconds in front of his Knights counterpart and collapsing in a mix of joy and exhaustion.
"I was hearing voices that he was gaining on me," said Jankusky, "and I said to myself 'no -- I've put in too much work for someone to get me now'. I wanted to make sure my team was definitely going downstate. Some of the guys have been waiting (a long time) for this moment."
Glenbrook South won the sectional team title with 101 points while Loyola was next best at 74 points.
The Prospect foursome of Tommy Park, Sean Beihoffer, Matt Raitano and Reece Greenwald had more success later in the 4 x 200, winning in the time of 1:30.28. The Knights also moved on to Eastern Illinois in the 4 x 400.
Sophomore Filip Kozlowski from Hersey and junior Noah Shapiro of Glenbrook South each jumped 1.90 meters in the high jump to tie for second and move on to state, while Nathan Shapiro of the Titans exceeded the qualifying time in the long jump and also was runner up in the 300 hurdles.
Stefan West of Glenbrook South was second in the triple jump, while Ryan Faut of Glenbrook South triumphed in the shot put and discus.
Other qualifiers included the Prospect 4 x 100 relay team; Stephen Barretto of Rolling Meadows in the 3,200; Will Stewart of Fremd (11:05), second in the 100-meter dash; and Brian Hiltebrand of Glenbrook South, second in the 800m.
Graham Paterson of Glenbrook North won the 400 m in the time of 50.22; Michael Campbell of Rolling Meadows exceeded the qualifying time in the 110 m hurdles; Stewart of the Vikings won the 200 m in the time of 22.66 while Noah Shapiro of the Titans finished second.
Senior Edison De La Pena of Maine East won the pole vault with a mark of 4.01m (13 feet, 1.75 inches), with Connor McHugh of Glenbrook North second.
De La Pena, who took up the pole vault as a freshman, said that when he found out that there would be a track and field season in 2021, he wanted kick it into a higher gear.
"I never expected to ever make it to state," said the senior, "but here I am. Last year, COVID hit us really bad, and (this year) we got desperate, thinking we might not have a track season. When we found out we did, I said to myself that I really had to step it up, we barely were going to have half a season. I really had to push the pedal and work my butt off."
That De La Pena won the sectional title came as no surprise to Maine East coach Chris Peters.
"He's an extremely hard working, terrific kid," said Peters, "who puts in the work both athletically and in the classroom -- he's an AP level student."