2A boys track and field: La Salle-Peru’s Ricardo Santiago leads region with discus title at Pontiac Sectional

Coal City, Morris, Streator also sending standouts to state

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PONTIAC – Coal City sophomore Julian Micetich had hopes of advancing to the IHSA Boys Track and Field State Meet his freshman year, but the Coalers hurdler had those hopes dashed when he was diagnosed midseason with Type 1 diabetes, shutting down his season.

A year later with a treatment plan set and his goal still the same, Micetich realized it Wednesday at the Class 2A Pontiac Sectional. He didn’t place in the top two of the 110-meter hurdles to earn an automatic berth, but he advanced all the same with a qualifying time of 15.19 seconds, almost half a second under the statewide cutoff.

Julian Micetich

“I was walking into this thing with a [personal record] of 15.93, and I was like, ‘I just have to shave off 0.3 [of a second],’ " Micetich said. “I ended up shaving off 0.8, and I’m heading down to Charleston.

“Absolutely I’m pumped, but honestly my first thought was, ‘I’ve got another week of practice?’ I wasn’t thinking I was going to be here, but I’m super proud of myself and everyone else who’s been along the way with me.

“I’m just so thankful I get this opportunity.”

He wasn’t the only one from the extended area to earn such a chance.

Morris’ Colin Zierman finished right behind Micetich in the 110 hurdles in 15:49, 0.12 of a second below Class 2A’s qualifying standard. He then added a second qualifying time with his third-place 40.25-second run in the 300 hurdles.

Among them was La Salle-Peru junior thrower Ricardo Santiago, who will be making his second consecutive trip down to Charleston, where the Class 2A preliminaries will be held May 24 on the campus of Eastern Illinois University ahead of Saturday’s finals for all classes. Santiago dominated the field in the discus with a sectional championship toss of 44.23 meters, almost a meter and a half better than runner-up Amare Curtiss of Pontiac.

With a little experience under his belt, Santiago is expecting big things downstate.

Ricardo Santiago

“Well, I came in expecting to win [the sectional],” Santiago said, “but I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous to begin with and scratched a couple throws. But in the end I walked in and hit the qualifying number, and I’m excited to see what we do at state.

“Last year I was really nervous, and I didn’t do as well as I thought I was going to do. But this year I feel more more ready, and I’m kind of expecting what’s going to happen.”

Santiago’s teammate, Cavaliers sophomore Griffin Hammers, had a long wait until he found out his official time in the 800, 2:00.14, was good enough for advancement despite his third-place finish.

Griffin Hammers

“I’ve been trying to work at it all year, and it was a goal I wanted to accomplish, going to state,” Hammers said just seconds after hearing his name announced as a state qualifier. “My goal was to stay behind the guy from Lincoln [800 runner-up Ben Crombie] at the very start ... but then I got put in a really bad spot, and it really messed me up.

“I was so nervous, but when we got the first 300 on the curve I tried to pass because I knew on the straightaway everyone was going to try to pick it up, so I tried catching the guy in second, and he gave me a dirty look, but it got me there.”

Streator speedster Isaiah Brown just missed the state-qualifying time in the 100-meter dash with his fourth-place 11.23. A couple of hours later the junior made sure he didn’t miss, flying to a second-place finish of 22.56 seconds in the 200 and earning the trip to Charleston along with event champion Jayvon Irwin of Mahomet-Seymour.

Isaiah Brown

“It feels great,” said Brown, who will be making his first individual trip to Charleston after advancing as part of a relay team in 2023. “It took me awhile to get warmed up. In the 100, I got off [the starting line] bad. I did start to pick it up, but the 200 is my thing, and now I get to keep it going.

“My strategy is usually to get out, attack the curve, catch the first few people in front of me, and then just cruise.”

Also for Morris, freshman distance ace Cuyler Swanson capped his first high school sectional by earning a state berth in the 1,600 (fifth place, 4:32.98) after already advancing with his second-place run of 9:35.32 in the 3,200.

Cuyler Swanson

“[Eureka’s Andrew Perry, who won in a blazing quick 9:25.98] is really fast,” Swanson said, “and today I planned on not getting first. I planned on getting third, but second? That’s a nice bonus. I’ll take that.

“I just tried to stay behind him as long as I could, and he eventually lost me the last two laps, but it felt good to have him carry me through it, get a PR and get to state.”

Mahomet-Seymour (120 team points) edged Eureka (112) for the team title. Morris (51) was seventh, Streator (29) 10th, La Salle-Peru (18) 11th, Coal City (16) 13th, Reed-Custer (2) 14th and Peotone (1) tied for 15th in the 16-school field.

J.T. Pedelty

J.T. Pedelty

J.T. is a graduate of Streator High School, Illinois Valley Community College and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale who is some 25 years into an award-winning sports journalism career.