Five things to watch in the 117th boys state track meet at Charleston Thursday through Saturday.
1. Can the Bloomington-based Flying Dragons Pole Vault Club win two of the three pole vault titles as it did in the girls state meet? During the indoor season, Olympia’s Tyler Ginger vaulted 15 feet, the same height cleared by Farmington’s Mark McMahill to lead all Class 1A sectional marks. Ginger’s outdoor best of 14-6 makes him the No. 3 sophomore in Pantagraph area history behind Streator’s Logan Pflibsen (15-3) and Olympia’s Alex Freshour (15-1). Normal Community West junior Eric Gordon has a career best of 15-0, a height only Highland Park’s David Berk and Lake Park’s Zach Ziemek cleared in the Class 3A sectionals.
2. Can senior James Leigh live up to his No. 1 seeding in the Class 1A 800 and become Fieldcrest’s second state champion? Leigh lowered his school record to 1:56.71 in the sectional. Leigh wowed last year with a 1:55.0 split as his 3,200 relay placed fifth in 8:03.46. The No. 2 seed in Thursday’s prelims is Britt Henderson of Chicago Latin at 1:56.97. Reigning champion Griffin Nykaza of Beecher, who ran 1:58.85 in the sectional, has a season best of 1:54.80.
3. Bloomington has produced three boys state champions in its history. Long jumper Torre Harrell hopes to become the fourth. The only jumper to exceed Harrell’s sectional leap of 23-0.25 was Oak Forest’s Tevin Coleman (23-5), the 2010 state runner-up. The state’s best 2A jump this season came from Cahokia’s LaDerrick Ward (24-6), who was sixth a year ago. Harrell, fifth in 2010, has a career best of 23-7.5, which shares the No. 2 mark in area history. His season best is 23-2.25.
4. Will Normal Community’s 1972 school record of 3:19.6 in the 1,600 relay survive the weekend? In the sectional, the Ironmen sped 3:21.75, the No. 7 time in Pantagraph area history and No. 3 time in school history, thanks to Aaron Hanson (51.5), Ryan Everly (50.6), Jared Cross (49.0) and Ahmad Williams (50.3). NCHS coach Tom Patten said, “We really think that with good weather they could scare the record.” In the sectional, Cross and Everly ran in the 800 relay prior to the four-by-400, but that won’t be the case in Friday’s prelims. Zach Lemke, who has run 51.55 in the open 400, will replace Hanson Friday. If the 17th-seeded Ironmen can make Saturday’s nine-team final Hanson will return to the lineup.
5. Among area No. 2 seeds looking to move up are Normal Community West’s Bryce Basting in the 3A 800 (1:54.13), Eureka’s Josh Prosser in the 1A high jump (6-6), Dwight’s Brian Scoggin in the 1A 1,600 (4:27.71) and Mahomet-Seymour’s Austin Armetta in the 2A pole vault (14-3). Basting’s school-record 1:54.13 ranks fourth in area history.