BLOOMINGTON — With his feet firmly back on the ground after taking a short ride on the shoulders of his exuberant team members, Central Catholic High School boys track coach DeWayne Griffin took a moment to reflect on the Saints’ overall victory in Friday’s Class 1A sectional at Bill Hundman Field.
“This was a big goal for us all year long and they responded,” Griffin said. “This is a senior group that worked so hard. (The ride) was a little uncomfortable, but it felt exciting to have them lift me up and celebrate as a team.”
The Saints compiled 87 points to outdistance second-place Olympia (67). Eureka gave the Corn Belt Conference a sweep of the top three spots with 66 points.
Lewistown (54) and Heart of Illinois Conference champion Deer Creek-Mackinaw (53) rounded out the top five.
Central Catholic, which won only the second sectional title in school history and its first since 2007, will be sending three qualifiers from individual events to next weekend’s state meet in Charleston, none of them as event winners.
Michael Bleichner recorded a second-place finish in the long jump while Michael Billington also posted a runner-up finish in the 110 hurdles. Rob McNeil also qualified with a time of 11.9 seconds in the 100-meter dash, good for third.
The Saints’ relay teams turned in an impressive performance with the 800-meter squad of Bleichner, McNeil, Oliver Moews and Kevin Rollins nipping an Olympia unit by eight-tenths.
The 400 and 3,200 relay teams also qualified for state.
Central piled up a sufficient number of third- through sixth-place finishes for the team title.
“It’s all about one through six — it’s not always about just one and two,” Griffin said. “We pointed in a lot of events that we expected to, but the 3,200-meter run with Matthew Schlenker getting third was a huge surprise, as was Will Waldron (fourth) in the discus.”
Olympia was paced by sophomore sensation Tyler Ginger, who won the pole vault with a leap of 14 feet. Eureka’s Kolton Merritt also qualified with a jump of 12-6.
With the title in hand, Ginger attempted to clear the 15-foot mark in hopes of getting a better seed at next weekend’s state meet, but came up short. He cleared 15-feet in a meet in Reno, Nev., in January and believes he can do it again at state.
“The past couple of weeks I’ve been jumping really, really well and I think I have a 15 or a 15-6 in me,” said Ginger, who added a sectional crown in the 110 hurdles.
Zach Quinn of Heyworth and Conner Ehnle of Tremont joined Ginger in qualifying for state in two individual events.
Quinn snared victories in the 800 and 1,600. Ehnle captured the top spot in the 3,200 and finished second to Quinn in the 1,600.
Some of the evening’s best competition came in the high jump, which was won by Eureka’s Josh Prosser with a personal-best leap of 6-6.
Prosser returned from an injury, which has sidelined him for the past couple of weeks.
“I’ve been out for a while because of my quad and hip flexor, but now it feels better,” he said. “I’d like to go 6-7 or 6-8 at state, but I really just want to try to beat what I did last year (6-5, seventh place).
LeRoy’s Austin Trease will join Prosser at the state meet, as will Olympia’s Michael Hallstein.
Trease finished second with a jump of 6-5, nearly a foot better than what he was jumping a year ago. Hallstein bowed out of the sectional competition at 6-3, but met the state qualifying standard.
Christian Watson, Prosser’s Eureka teammate, won the 400-meter run. Olympia’s Grant Litwiller was best in the long jump at 21-04. Zach Gulley of Tri-Valley captured the triple jump with LeRoy’s Seth Ward also qualifying for state in that event.
Eureka’s Christian Watson (400) was also an area winner. Eureka also captured the 1,600-meter relay, while Tremont won the 3,200 relay.
Olympia’s grant Litwiller won the long jump.