One of the greatest athletes to come out of this area closed out his high-school career with a state track & field meet to remember.
Forreston-Polo’s AJ Christensen got his long-awaited championships in the 110 and 300 hurdles at the IHSA 1A meet on Saturday.
“I felt great. I’ve been striving for this since my freshman year,” Christensen said. “Today, I focused on just what I’m doing, not anyone else.”
On a hot and humid day on the campus of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, there was no one else even in the picture except Christensen, as he crushed the competition in both races.
“That’s four years of hard work paying off,” F-P coach Bob Wagner said.
Finishing second in the 110s was Mason Barr from Colfax-Ridgeview, who missed the call for the 300 hurdle prelims and wasn’t able to defend his 300 title.
“I was going for low 37s. It would have been a great race,” said Barr of team champion Colfax.
Christensen led from start to finish in both races, showing near-perfect form in the 110 highs. In the 300s, Riley Baker of St. Joe-Ogden made a late charge and closed the gap a bit, but it was Christensen going under 38 seconds for the third time this year, while Baker came in at 38.55.
“Two state titles - that feels amazing,” said Christensen, who had a faster time in the 300s than everyone in the state except for Jaden Johnson (37.73) of 3A Palantine Fremd.
With F-P in the 1,600 relay, his day wasn’t done yet. Joining Brady Webb, Evan Kelsey and Cailean Davids, Christensen anchored his team to a 3:29, good for a ninth-place medal.
“It sucks losing AJ. We’ll miss him,” Davids said. “But, we have enough depth to come back even stronger. Down here, it’s insane with all the PRs you see from the rest of the teams. You get everyone’s best.”
Other than Christensen, the remainders of medalists from F-P were juniors or sophomores.
Webb had a near identical performance from last year and getting off a good first jump and seeing it hold up for a place, This time it was 21-9, good for sixth.
“It wasn’t necessarily the results I wanted,” said Webb, who placed fifth last year at 21-10. “I need to change something. My steps were off all year.”
Sophomore Jace Coffey had a dream state meet with personal bests in the discus twice - in the prelims and finals. Both came on first throws, indicating his mental and physical preparation.
“I’m a very happy kid,” Coffey said. “I would have been happy even if I didn’t get a medal. Everything felt smooth.”
His 150-9 in Saturday’s finals left him in eighth place. Not bad for someone out the first six weeks of the season due to injury and the No. 17 seed coming in to the state meet.
“Steve Christensen does a great job with our throwers,” Wagner said. “I think we’ll get Ethan Phillips (discus) down next year.”
F-P finished seventh as a team with 27 points. Colfax had 50 points and RC 44.
For Oregon, it was all about senior Ian Hussung, who is leaving the track program as one of the elite ever to run middle distances at the school.
In a highly-anticipated 800 run, Riley Wells of Rockford Christian beat a star-studded field that included Hussung, with a time of 1:53.72, below the 1:52 he ran as a sophomore, but still pleasing to him, as those 10 points were enough to lift RC to a state runner-up trophy.
“I’m ecstatic. We need team points,” Wells said. “My plan was to sit in top three and make my move with 300 to go.”
Hussung was sixth at 1:56.57. Hussung, as is his style went out fast and briefly led in the first part of the race.
“I got boxed in on the second lap,” said Hussung, who is accustomed to running well out in front of everyone else. “It was a lot of competition and I loved it.”
Already the holder of Oregon’s 800 record, Hussung went after the school 1,600 record. He came up short, but took fifth with a 4:26 clocking.
Arthur’s Logan Hall, the state cross-country runner-up, won the race over champ Wyatt McIntyre of Athens, 4:22.45 to 4:22.93. What was impressive about Hussung is that he was the only 1,600 runner attempting to compete after having just done the 800.
“The fatigue set in on the second lap. I tried to stay up with those guys,” Hussung said.
“Ian’s gone from a 2:30 half-miler to a school record holder,” coach Jim Spratt said. “He loves track. What he did today is a testament to his desire to be a great runner. He wasn’t content with just being good.”
His double medal performance will also go down in school history as one of the top efforts by a track athlete.
“It feels really good to be bringing two medal back to Oregon,” Hussung said.