MORRIS — Kaden Welch and Matt Clark have seemingly been joined at the hip since before the 2021-22 school year even began.
Welch and Clark - both members of the Morris boys cross country and track and field teams - have trained and run together the entire school year. It was only fitting, then, that they finished 1-2 in the 1600-meter run at last weekend’s Class 2A Geneseo Sectional and advanced to this weekend’s state meet at O’Brien Stadium on the campus of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
Welch, a junior, qualified for the state meet last year, but this will be Clark’s first state appearance. Welch qualified with a time of 4:35.72, with Clark right behind in 4:36.39. Both were personal-best times, and the duo hopes to improve on them this weekend.
“It’s awesome to be going to state,” Clark said. “My last high school race is going to be in the state meet. That’s cool.”
Not only will the pair be together at the state meet, they will also run in the same heat.
“It will be good for us to be together,” Welch said. “We push each other to be better. We just want to go down there and set another PR.”
“If I run my best time, I will be happy,” Clark said.
Welch also had some advice for first-time state qualifier Clark.
“Run fast,” he said. “It’s a lot different than a regular track meet. There are so many fans in the stands and everyone is yelling and screaming. You have to try to take all that energy and put it into your running, but you don’t want to be too amped up and go out too fast.”
Going out fast will be a benefit for the other Morris state qualifier.
Senior Myles Johnston qualfied in both the 100 and 200-meter dashes. He has the second-fastest qualifying time in the 100 meters with 10.62 seconds. He is seeded 18th with a time of 22.51 in the 200 meters.
Not bad for someone who hasn’t participated in the sport since sixth grade.
“I was going to run last year, but that was the crazy year,” Johnston said. “I wanted to get faster for football [Johnston will play football at Western Illinois next season]. I guess I did. I didn’t think when the season started that I’d go to state, let alone have the second-fastest time.
“It’s exciting. I have never been to a state track meet before. I am hoping that the level of competition down there will make me run even faster.”
Morris coach Ryan Battersby likes his runners’ chances.
“I think Myles has a chance to be in the final race and get a medal,” he said. “Kaden and Matt have kept improving their times all year. If they can cut a few seconds off this week, they might be able to sneak in for a medal, too.”