CHARLESTON — Overnight dreams of state championships may echo inside the heads of Torre Harrell, C.J. Hamilton and Colton Fender before they wake up Saturday.
All three posted the No. 2 qualifying marks in their events in the Class 2A preliminaries of the 117th state track meet at O’Brien Stadium on Friday. They are among nine Pantagraph area individuals and two relays to qualify for Saturday’s 10 a.m. finals.
Bloomington’s Harrell, fifth in the long jump last year, ignored 50-degree chill to leap 22 feet, 7¼ inches. Only 2010 runner-up Tevin Coleman of Oak Forest at 23-¼ went farther.
“I got all the butterflies out last year,” said Harrell, who could fly into first if he can duplicate his lifetime best of 23-7½ on Saturday. “I was on the (takeoff) board today. That’s what changed from last year. Last year, I couldn’t even get on the board.”
University High’s top-seeded Hamilton eased to victory in his 800-meter heat in 1 minute, 56.38 seconds, not far off his school record of 1:55.07. The top qualifier was Belvidere North’s Will Crocker in 1:56.08.
“Coach (Lester Hampton) told me not to lead (early) because it was just the prelims and he was right,” said Hamilton, passed halfway in 56.5 and didn’t take the lead until the final 100. “I wouldn’t say it felt easy, but it definitely didn’t feel like that 1:55.”
Hamilton will join U High’s 3,200 relay Saturday after it advanced eighth without him in 8:10.22. His 50.0 anchor leg was unsuccessful at advancing U High’s 1,600 relay, which ranked 14th at 3:26.46. He will have about 3 hours of rest between the 3,200 relay and open 800 on Saturday.
“We’ve got a lot more time tomorrow so I do feel better about my rest, but if I had to pick one event to do better in, it would probably be the four-by-800 because that’s winning your whole team some glory as opposed to just yourself,” Hamilton said.
Putting U High into the final were Jace Mortimer (2:01.3), Alex Parlette (2:03.3), Stephen Husk (2:05.4) and Brent Emmerson (2:00.1).
Mahomet-Seymour’s Fender, whose team has six scoring opportunities Saturday (only five schools have more), zipped across the 300 intermediate hurdles in a personal best of 39.40 to win his heat. The top time of 39.26 came from Tinley Park’s Mike McCullough.
“The first hurdle, I stuttered a bit, but I made it up on the curve,” said Fender, who hopes to break Grant Brewer’s 2005 school record of 39.24 (converted from a 39.0 manual time) Saturday. “The last 100 meters, all I said was go. If you die, you die, but just win this heat.”
The mohawk-coifed Fender also qualified eighth in the 110 high hurdles in 14.93, a bit off his school record of 14.77.
“My first three or four hurdles I hit with my knee,” said Fender, third in his heat. “I just ran with the guys ahead of me.”
Mahomet-Seymour junior shot putters Derek Bunch and Luke Roush advanced fourth (54-¼) and 10th (50-2), respectively. Springfield Lanphier’s Kevin Farley leads with a meet record 59-9¾.
The No. 12-seeded Bunch, who has a season best of 55-5, only managed 50-1 in the sectional.
“Sectional was just not a good day,” he said. “Today I was conservative, but still not too conservative.”
Roush could move into fifth by duplicating his season best of 52-9.
The area also had two qualifiers in the triple jump as Streator’s Ray Fisher bounded a school-record 44-8½ to rank fifth and Mahomet-Seymour’s Zach McClughen skipped a school-recod 44-7¼ to rank sixth.
“I extended my second jump,” Fisher said. “Usually I jump too high on my first jump so my second jump is kind of flat because I can’t pop back up.”
McClughen, a senior out for track for the first time, barely scratched on his best jump.
“I’m a little disappointed,” he said. “I wanted to get 45.”
U High’s Ryan Rutherford, the No. 6 seed in Saturday’s 3,200, qualified eighth in the 1,600 in a school-record 4:21.08. The old record of 4:20.9, which converts to a fully automatic time of 4:21.14, was set by Chris George in 2004.
“I’m really, really happy with what I did today,” said Rutherford, who ran his last 800 in 2:04.9 and his last lap in 61.0. “I felt great that whole race.”
Pontiac pole vaulter Mark Panno felt pretty good after clearing 13-6 to make the 10-man final.
“I was pretty far over 13-6,” said Panno, whose best is 13-9. “I don’t think I’ve felt this good all season.”
Mahomet-Seymour didn’t feel good about its 8:12.25 in the 3,200 relay after running 8:03.73 in the sectional, but it was happy to advance in 10th. The unit included Eli Johnson (2:00.8), Cale McCormick (2:03.6), John Prillaman (2:01.1) and Matt Moxley (2:06.6).