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CHARLESTON — Bloomington High School had a “roller-coaster day” with sprinter Cary Lockhart and the 1,600-meter relay providing the highs in the Class 3A prelims of the 121st state track meet on Friday.

A few hiccups knocked the Purple Raiders out of trophy contention, but the four-by-400 softened the blow as Carey Ferguson (51.0), Jared Collier (49.8), Joey Matthews (50.5) and J.J. Warren (48.4) sped 3 minutes, 19.61 seconds to break the oldest Pantagraph area record, Normal Community’s 1972 mark of 3:19.84.

That relay advanced with the day’s fifth-best time to Saturday’s 10 a.m. finals along with the sophomore Lockhart, who won his heats of the 100 and 200 in 10.65 and 21.65, marks that ranked sixth and third, respectively.

Among the area’s Class 2A highlights were Pontiac’s Bryan Worby advancing fourth in the long jump at 22 feet, 0 inches and top-seeded Triston Ballinger of Olympia upholding Corn Belt Conference power in the pole vault.

All told, the area advanced four individuals and one relay in 3A along with six individuals and three relays in 2A. University High had hoped to challenge for a 2A trophy, but Coach Lester Hampton doesn’t see that happening with just five scoring opportunities, a total four teams surpassed.

“I would say my assessment overall was we had a fair day,” he said. “We were hoping for a couple other things that we didn’t get.”

A bad hamstring got the best of BHS senior star Christian Neal during a non-qualifying 15.15 in the 110 high hurdles and a limping lead-off leg in the 800 relay. He withdrew from the 300 intermediate hurdles in which he placed sixth a year ago.

“We knew after the high hurdles that it was going to be trouble,” said BHS coach John Szabo of Neal’s bad wheel. “He just didn’t look the same in the four-by-200 so that killed the start of that. But it’s been a heck of a year and we’ve got some good events tomorrow.”

Lockhart will face good competition from Plainfield Central’s Kahmari Montgomery, who posted the top times in the 100 (10.54), 200 (21.26) and 400 (47.19).

“He’s really good. I’ll have to try to keep up with him and hope I have good races tomorrow,” said Lockhart, whose Pantagraph area records are 10.46 and 21.24, respectively. 

“I think his first race he was running a little tight,” Szabo said. “He didn’t run the four-by-100. That is always a good thing to loosen him up.”

The BHS 1,600 relay cut loose to break its 2007 school record of 3:20.89. Warren led on the anchor leg until two teams passed the final 20 meters.

“I tried as best as I could,” he said. “We are blessed to make the finals.”

Despite a hip injury, Normal West sophomore Ryan Ashenbremer pole vaulted 14-3 to make the 12-man final in 3A. He made first-attempt clearances at two heights.

“I hope I’ll be all right,” said Ashenbremer, who thinks 14-6 could place. “(The injury) isn’t that bad right now.”

BHS senior Garret Lyle advanced 10th in the triple jump at 45-1½. Improving to his season best of 45-10½ would put him seventh.

“He needs more speed on the runway,” said BHS jumps coach Chip Mosley.

Normal West discus thrower Keith Brigham needed a miracle on his last throw and got it, advancing 10th with a career best of 160-0, the area’s top mark this year.

“On that throw I really relaxed,” he said. “My first two throws were kind of timid.”

Wichita State recruit Connor Stine of Olympia, the top seed in the 2A 800, boldly won his prelim in 1:58.20 to advance fifth. He hopes to drop his career best of 1:54.44 under Troy Weaver’s 1993 school record of 1:53.8.

“If I get a school record and I win (the final),” he said, “it would be a dream come true.”

Besides qualifying in the long jump, Pontiac’s Worby helped his 800 relay and 1,600 relay both advance ninth.

“I didn’t have any pop to any of my jumps today,” he said, “but if I would have had pop on that first one today, it would have been way out there.”

Worby was happy to see defending champion Jamari Ward of Cahokia jump a meet record 25-0¼ before taking the triple jump lead at 50-6. The long jump record of 24-6¼ set by Alton’s Oscar Wallace in 1969 was the meet’s oldest.

“Everything he does is just mesmerizing,” Worby said. “I knew as soon as he jumped that (25-0¼), I’m like, ‘all right, this is a competition for second.’ ”

Worby’s 800 relay clocked a school record 1:29.99 with help from Xaviaer DuRousseau, Michael Hones and Jacob Tolbert.

“I thought all four of us performed well today,” said Worby, who contributed a 51.1 leg to the Indians’ 3:25.14 in the 1,600 relay, which included Hones (51.7), Zach Lee (52.0) and DuRousseau (50.4). Lee gave DuRousseau the lead.

“It was a lot of pressure,” he said.

Technical turmoil didn’t stop Olympia’s Ballinger from vaulting 13-6 to make the 12-man final along with Corn Belt rivals Joe Bevilacqua of Central Catholic and Michael Rariden of U High.

“I need to work some things out,” Ballinger said. “My pole drop was a little late. I’m definitely shooting for top three (and) hopefully get the win.”

His league rivals want to get happy.

“This is my go-to fun sport,” Bevilacqua said. “The more fun I have, the higher I’ll go.”

Rariden can identify.

“I’ve been struggling with the mental game with the pole vault since the beginning (in seventh grade),” he said. “This year has been really rough and I just want to have fun with it. I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had.”

U High’s No. 2-seeded 3,200 relay had fun winning its heat in 8:11.25 to advance sixth in 8:11.25. The unit included Duncan Terry (2:02.4), Jared Schuckman (2:00.6), Andrew Walch (2:10.1) and Alexander Bruno (1:58.3).

“We did get the job done, but that was mostly due to Bruno being awesome on the last leg,” said Terry, who watched Bruno fend off Geneseo (8:11.29) at the line.

Bruno qualified fourth in the 1,600 in 4:24.96. In the final, he’ll try to stick with the leaders.

“I trust my kick enough to where I think I’m just as good with my last 400 as anybody else in the state is in 2A,” he said.

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Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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