Forreston-Polo's track & field program continues on a multi-year journey of dominance, with Hinders Field its latest stop.
F-P defended its 2018 team title with a 158.5-127 win over second-place Rock Falls in the 10-team Rock Falls Invitational on April 19.
"Coach [Bob] Wagner said we had a target on our backs," said 400-meter and 4x400-relay winner Cailean Davids of Forreston-Polo. "He said we really need to get ready and be at 100 percent or somebody is going to take it from us."
After setting a Polo school record of 172-3 in the discus earlier in the week, Jace Coffey was disappointed to "only" throw 149-3 in winning his speciality. Still, the returning state-placer is excited where he's at in the season.
"Two or three weeks ago, I hit a nice one and starting feeling better and better. I could tell a breakout throw was coming," said Coffey, who doubled as shot put champ (44-6). "When I threw the 172, the wind helped, but the real difference this year is Steve's [Christensen] coaching. He [ticks] me off with drills, but it helps. All our guys wouldn't be where they are at without him."
F-P picked up 36 points in the throws, with Garret Badertscher second in the shot and Ethan Phillips the same in the discus. Phillips was a model of consistency with 136-0, 136-2 and 136-5. He also showed his versatility with seconds in the long and triple jumps.
F-P's other returning state placer, Brady Webb, won the long jump with a 21-2 on his final attempt. It was a tough go in the 20-30 mph crosswinds. He also took second in the 100 to Marshall Walk of Hall, 11.57-11.67.
"I don't like this, but it's the same for everyone," said Webb, who has accepted an offer to jump at EIU.
In the 400, it was freshman Matthew Marcum of Rock Falls, whom coach Eric Bontz calls "up-and-coming," giving chase to Davids of F-P. Davids led from start to finish, as both runners broke 54 seconds (53.11-53.94).
Replacing hurdle state champ AJ Christensen is nearly impossible, but F-P sophomore Bennett Soltow is starting to be noticed. He had a 16.27-16.33 win in the 110 highs over the Rockets' Keyon Wolber.
"Oh, you're not going to replace AJ," Wagner said. "What Bennett is doing is impressive, though. He ran a 15.44 at our place."
Hall set meet records in the 4x100 relay (43.94) and 4x200 relay (1:31.34), with F-P close on the Red Devils' heels in both. Evan Kelsey, Davids, Jordan Neuschwander and Webb ran 44.24 in the 4x100, and with Dom Christensen instead of Davids in the 4x200, it was a 1:31.94 clocking for F-P.
"We ran well, but our handoffs need improvement. It cost us the 400 relay," Wagner said.
Joining Davids on the winning 4x400 relay was Shelton, Neuschwander and Christensen. Their time of 3:35 was well ahead of runner-up Riverdale.
Rock Falls' Dawson Smith (10:04) and Newman's Shay Hafner (10:09) ran even in the 3,200 run until Smith pulled away on the seventh lap and cruised to an easy victory.
"I never get tired of running against Newman. It's good competition," Smith said. "With the Palatine Distance Night coming up tomorrow, I wanted to save energy. I'd like to run in the low 9:00s."
Smith, who has a PR of 9:28, is seeded with the second flight of 3,200 runners at Palatine, a gathering of elite boys and girls distance runners. For an encore Friday, Smith used a strong finishing kick to also win the 1,600 (4:35.89).
The Rockets got a huge boost in the triple jump from Adrian Ibarra, who crushed the opposition by over 3 feet with a 42-2 mark. Ibarra came close to winning the long jump, but scratched at close to 22 feet.
"It was his first time triple jumping since indoors because of a banged-up heel," Bontz said. "To come out and get a lifetime best is nice. We can't look at the scratch, but it was a great long jump. He also ran a heck of a leg on 4x2, having our fastest split."
In the 300 hurdles, Wolber took an early lead against Soltow and held off a charge around the curve for a 42.46-43.19 win. Wolber (5-9) and Jalen Johnson (5-7) took the top two places in the high jump.
"The biggest thing for Keyon is being able to post a good time on a crummy night," said RF hurdling coach Tom DePasquale. "He's a very easy athlete to work with. Keyon accepts the challenge and works with it."
Newman's 4x800 relay of Connor Simpson, Ben Sheats, Noah Welty and Spencer Mauch placed first at 8:59. Rock Falls, which sat out three of its top four runners, had a 5-meter lead on the anchor handoff before Mauch ran away from Cameron Matejka.
"Even with the wind, that was our best time of the year," Comet distance coach Pat Warkins said. "I didn't know what to expect. I think those kids suprised themselves."
In some stiff competition from Hall in all the sprints, Newman's Connor McBride managed a second in the 200 with a time of 23.51, and a third in the 200 at 11.86. Overall, the Comets placed third with 68 points.
"We're young, with only two seniors," Newman coach Andy Accardi said. "In the 1,600 relay, that was three freshmen."
Jake Mennen of Oregon won the pole vault, with his biggest struggle trying to locate lost poles this week. It wasn't until the night before the meet that he messaged E-P's Kyle Kruthoff on Facebook and asked if he knew of their whereabouts, since both were at the same meet in Rochelle.
The mystery was finally solved when it was determined Kyle's father inadvertently picked up the stray poles and put them in his son's pole bag. A trip to Erie on Friday afternoon got them back just in time for the meet.
Mennen settled for a pedestrian effort of 12-6, well below his PR of 14-3, and off the 13-0 meet record.
"I haven't set any kind of record in high school yet, and thought it would be neat to get one, and 13 feet isn't that high," Mennen said. "Between the crosswinds and a sore hamstring, I figured it was better to listen to my head instead of heart and quit before something bad happened."
Amboy got its lone win from Tom Stamberger in the 800. Stamberger (2:03.84) edged F-P's Cayden Shelton of Newman's Mauch.
"He hasn't been pushed outdoors yet because of weather and stuff," Amboy coach Jeramey Wittenauer said. "He finally had some competition tonight. Every time, he wants to go out and break 2 minutes, but that isn't going to happen."
Oregon finished fifth with 35.5 points. Besides the championship by Mennen, the throws picked up four places.
Senior Bobby Youngren is getting close to the state-qualifying mark of 140-8 in the discus. Youngren threw for 135-9 in taking third place.
He also earned fourth in the shot put with a 40-4 effort. Teammate Carson Sweeney was third in the shot put (41-5) and sixth in the discus (121-10).
Austin Ebert ran 17.56 for fourth place in the 110 high hurdles and missed by one place of medaling in the 300 hurdles.
Another sophomore, Ryan Hussung, also missed by one spot in both the 800 and 1,600 of placing.
The Hawks had success in the sprint relays with Jackson Buck, Jacob Hoyle, Calvin Sullivan and newcomer Brigham Finch running 46.89 for fifth in the 400 relay and 1:37.85 for fourth in the 800 relay.
Top 3 teams
1. Forreston-Polo 158.5, 2. Rock Falls 127, 3. Newman 68