Boys track and field: Matuch carries the load for Cougars
It was a heavy load.
But starting in middle school, Hunter Matuch wasn't carrying just books in his school backpack.
"Every single day, I'd also carry a shot put, and a discus, and after school, I'd go out and throw, even during the winter in the snow and I really went up (in distance)," said Matuch, a senior thrower for the Vernon Hills boys track team. "My back started hurting a little bit from carrying that backpack. But it was well worth it."
That heavy backpack all those years ago was the precursor for a dominating performance by Matuch on Thursday night at the Grayslake Central Class 3A boys sectional track meet.
He destroyed both the field and the qualifying marks in the shot put and the discus to not only win the sectional championship in both events but to qualify for the state meet in both as well.
Matuch threw an 18.67 meters in the shot put and the state qualifying mark was 15.97. In discus, Matuch finished with a 55.10 and the qualifying mark was 46.71.
"Both of those were PR's for him, too," Vernon Hills throws coach Ross Caton said of Matuch. "I think he just thrives off of pressure and the energy of a sectional meet."
Matuch also did some extra preparation for the sectional meet.
"I came out here on Tuesday (to Grayslake Central) at night, just to get familiar with the rings," said Matuch, who qualified with Palatine's Jhermari Mabri (15.84 meters) in the shot put and with Libertyville's Ethan Richter (49.30 meters) and Lake Zurich's Charles DiCanio 46.83) in the discus. "Before a sectional meet, I'll go to the school by myself to get a practice in, to get familiar with the atmosphere.
"It really helps because for the next two days leading up to the meet, I can just go through it in my head and imagine the whole thing."
In pole vault, Marcus Mittelstadt of Grayslake Central and Collin Kao of Lakes left little to the imagination, or to interpretation. They both hit the qualifying mark of 4.16 meters to punch their ticket to the state meet.
Kao was especially happy with his mark since he is coming off a back injury that he has been dealing with since last spring.
"I only vaulted qualifying today because of the injury so I know I can go higher," Kao said. "I think at state, when I attempt more (higher marks), instead of vaulting minimally, I'll go further. I think I have a chance to win it.
"It was frustrating not to go higher today because I'm trying to be careful with my injury. But I know I have it in me to go higher."
Kao fractured a vertebrae when practicing pole vault last spring and he slid off the mat. That has healed but he still has some muscular soreness.
"I took a break and I didn't compete last winter at my club meets," Kao said. "There's still pain, but I'm just trying to survive and advance."
In long jump, Dominik Ball of Palatine won with a 6.68 meters and qualified for state along with Tommy Spiegelman (6.61 meters) of Buffalo Grove.
Wauconda's Kosta Zografos won the high jump with a 1.90 meters and qualified along with Mark Hellwig of Stevenson (1.85 meters).
Kaiden Miller (13.51 meters) and Tyler McManus of Round Lake (12.89) qualified for the triple jump.
In the distance events, Luke Wiley of Warren qualified in the 3200 meters (9:27.61), good for first place, and the 1,600 meters (4:17.15), which was second place. Cody Arenas of Round Lake (9:55.01) also qualified in the 3200 while Jacob Myers of Lake Zurich won the 1600 meters with a 4:13.95.
Buffalo Grove's Mario Torres won the 800 meters (2:01.08) and Patrick McClanahan of Palatine also qualified for the state meet with a 2:01.16.
In the 400, Marc Michelotto of Libertyville took first place with a 49.99 and Sushi Suresh of Grayslake Central also qualified with a second-place finish of 50.21.
Round Lake's Alejandro Gomez qualified for both the 110 hurdles (15.42) and the 300 hurdles (40.79).
Palatine's Josh Brown won the 110 hurdles at 15.30 and Ryan Kim of Vernon Hills won the 300 hurdles (40.16)
Wauconda's Javerius McGuinn swept the 100 meters (10.67) and the 200 meters (21.86). Jalen Duffie of Warren also qualified in the 200 (22.18) and Diontre Smith of Zion also qualified in the 100 (10.94).