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Many impressive moves at 3A Deerfield boys track and field sectional

Glenbrook South's James Hiltebrand added to the family legacy at the Class 3A Deerfield boys track and field sectional on May 18.

Fifteen 800-meter runners at the sectional had broken the landmark 2-minute barrier this spring, so many that Hiltebrand, teammate Ryan Jack and three others ran in the second of three heats of the event.

Glenbrook North's John Ihrke led the third heat - the so-called "fast heat." The 800 was the deepest event at Deerfield.

Jack courageously took out the second heat and ran the first 400 meters in 57 seconds. The second half of the race, though, saw Hiltebrand surpassing Deerfield's Dane Brown to win the heat in 1 minute, 59.24 seconds to Brown's 1:59.34 - both under the Class 3A qualifying standard of 1:59.36.

"I felt like I owed it to myself to qualify for state as a senior," said Hiltebrand, who will compete in Friday's Class 3A preliminaries for a spot in Saturday's 800-meter finals at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.

Hiltebrand's older brother, Brian, now on Creighton's cross country team, was a three-time all-stater for the Titans, twice placing fifth in the Class 3A 800.

  Prospect's Mark Hanson, left, and Glenbrook South's Thomas Zambianchi head for the finish line in the 400-meter relay during the Deerfield Class 3A boys track sectional May 18. Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@dailyherald.com

Qualifying for the state meet outside of the top group rarely happens - Titans coach Kurt Hasenstein couldn't recall ever seeing it. At Deerfield it happened only in the 800, which advanced a meet-high eight athletes including New Trier's Sam Teppo, Loyola's Will Simon, and Ihrke, who led the field at 1:55.26.

"I knew before that there was a lot of good guys in our sectional and I was a little frustrated at the start, but I knew that with all those good guys I still had a great and legitimate shot at making state in the second heat. And talking to all the other guys out there, they thought so as well," Hiltebrand said.

He wished Jack could run with him in Charleston.

  Glenbrook South's Tyrone Cotton clears the bar while competing in high jump during the Deerfield Class 3A boys track sectional May 18. Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@dailyherald.com

"Ryan and I are actually close friends off the track as well," Hiltebrand said. "We were planning to do this together. Despite that not happening I'm really glad I got to run the race with him."

Ihrke qualifying was no surprise and neither was the Spartans' 1600-meter relay he anchored for Brian Pekala, Trevor Bowles and a real spark for the Spartans, Makoto Majoros.

Glenbrook North's 3200 relay was a surprise. Getting major time drops by Alan Sung and Ryan Shanahan to go with Majoros, "they made the job easy for me," said Ihrke, who brought it home in the anchor spot.

Simon, Teppo and New Trier 1600 qualifier Oscar Dueno-Alda also led 3200 relays to qualification. Loyola qualified all four relays, New Trier three and the Glenbrooks two apiece.

Prospect won its first sectional title since 2019 with 96 points, upending two-time defending champion Glenbrook South (69). New Trier (60), Hersey (55), Evanston (52) and Highland Park (51) rounded out the top six in the 16-team field.

  Glenbrook South's Ryan Schaefer clears the high jump bar during the Deerfield Class 3A boys track sectional May 18. Schaefer shared the lead in high jump with Evanston's Oliver Hassard at 1.90 meters (6-3). Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@dailyherald.com

Glenbrook South's Ryan Schaefer accounted for 31.5 points. He won long jump at 6.81 meters (22 feet, 4¼ inches), shared the lead in high jump with Evanston's Oliver Hassard at 1.90 meters (6-3), won the 300 hurdles in 38.37 seconds, and joined Caleb Jung, Ben Freidinger and Thomas Zambianchi on a winning 400 relay.

The 300 hurdles contained the meet's sole controversy. Schaefer and Evanston's Miles Granjean, who previously won the 110 hurdles, battled down the stretch. Granjean crossed the finish line first but was disqualified. Late in the race he'd hit a hurdle, lost balance, and finished the race in Schaefer's lane.

The disqualification opened up a spot in Charleston for third-place finisher Henry Hartsfield of Loyola, a gamer all season.

Earlier that day, the Titans' Freidinger had received several awards at Glenbrook South's Honors & Awards Assembly, including the Parents Association Outstanding Senior Award.

"It put me in a good mood for the meet," said Freidinger. Like Zambianchi, he ran on the Titans' 2022 all-state 400 relay.

  Glenbrook South anchor Thomas Zambianchi crosses the finish line as the Titans win the 400-meter relay during the Deerfield Class 3A boys track sectional May 18. Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@dailyherald.com

Loyola horizontal jumps coach Dario Tainer has a budding dynasty in triple jump. Junior Enoch Appiah-Kubi's sectional victory was the third straight by a Rambler, following Clinton Ofosu in 2021 and 2022.

The school's indoor record-holder, four of Appiah-Kubi's five attempts surpassed the state-qualifying mark, including his winning jump of 13.66 meters (44 feet, 9¾ inches). He's three inches from the school outdoor record.

"The good thing is, this whole series was very consistent," Appiah-Kubi said. "It hasn't been like that this whole season, so daylight is here."

Loyola's J.T. Kurtzweil ran on three qualifying relays - the 1600 and the duplicate 400 and 800 units with Johnny McGuire, Emmanuel Ofosu and Nick Arogundade.

  New Trier's Ben Crane has the lead on his way to winning the 3,200-meter run during the Deerfield Class 3A boys track sectional May 18. Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@dailyherald.com

After New Trier won the Central Suburban League South title the week before, seeing Teppo and three relays qualify, then watching sophomore Ben Crane lead the 3200, relinquish it, and rally to win in 9:21.62, Trevians coach Andrew Schmitt was beaming.

"Last year was my first year, we just wanted to win some things, and we got some things going," Schmitt said. "This year we won conference, we won at all levels. We wanted to get relays down to the state meet. All these guys in the (800 relay) and the (1600 relay), almost all of them are underclassmen. We've got a really bright future."

Several athletes competing at Deerfield said the sectional is where the pressure is. If fortunate to reach Charleston, like Glenbrook South's Schaefer, the rest is gravy.

"Next week I suppose it's my chance to hopefully win a state title, so of course I'm going to lock in for that. But I'll just have fun with my team for one last time," Schaefer said.