Leading the way for the Oregon track and field team at the IHSA Class 1A meet in Charleston this weekend will be a No. 1 seeded 1,600-meter relay and pole vaulter Mark Schmidt.
The relay looks to contend for a state title with the likes of Lena-Winslow, Eureka and Deer Creek Mackinaw. The Hawks’ time of 3:25 is a second better than those three teams. Lurking at 3:27 is Sterling Newman.
“I saw potential at the beginning of the year, “ Oregon coach Jim Spratt said. “It’s starting to bear out.”
Schmidt, a senior, hopes to cap off an outstanding state series by advancing to Saturday’s pole vault finals as an individual for the third straight year.
The only other individuals in Oregon history to accomplish this were Sherman Landers (1914-16) and Mark Myers (1983-85). His path to an elusive state medal will be extremely difficult because of the influx of quality 1A vaulters that receive specialized training at the Flying Dragons pole vault club in central Illinois.
For examples, one of their prized pupils is Adam Coulon from Downs-Tri Valley, who has a freshman national-best vault of 16-feet. Additionally, the 1A vault has the same number (6) of qualifiers over 14-feet as Class 2A and 3A.
“Holy moley, the vault could be the toughest event in 1A,” Spratt said.
A surprise No. 2 seed for Oregon is the 3,200 relay. After struggling during the regular season, the group knocked eight second off its PR with an 8:15, second only to the 8:13 by Byron.
“We needed a fourth guy to come through and Austin Burkhart was it,” Spratt said.
Even with a bad handoff at the sectional, the 800 relay comes in with the No. 7 seed. The 400 relay’s time of 44.14 is seeded 14th. Last year, Oregon qualified for the finals in both events and has most of the same runners back.
“I think we can medal in all four relays, even going top five in all of them,” Spratt said.
Only one other time (2003) in school history did the Hawks medal in all four relays. That same year, they scored 31 points and placed fourth as a team.
“You never know what could happen. If things go our way, we could be up towards the top of the team standings,” Spratt said, Garrett Newman is at No. 12 in the 400 meters and Jake Kleveland No. 14 in the triple jump. However, Kleveland (42-3) is only a foot behind the No. 5 seed.
“And, I think Garrett has a better run in him than what he ran at the sectional,” Spratt said.
Danny Daniels (discus) and Jake Adams (high jump) are seeded towards the middle of the pack.
Sterling Newman, which has the top times in the sprints, looks to be the meet favorite. Other challengers will be Eureka, Champaign St. Thomas, Pleasant Plains, Monmouth Roseville and Neoga.