On a day when he secured his place among the fastest runners in the state, Ford turned in a sizzling time in the Class 2A 100 meters to place fourth, but was disappointed he didn’t finish higher. Meanwhile, Stoeger battled his way through an energy drain halfway through the 1A 1600 meters, and after two strong laps faded to end up a respectable seventh place in that event.
The state finalist most happy with his performances was Seneca’s Josh Doloski, who finished second in the wheelchair division’s 100- and 200-meter dashes.
For Ford, his effort of 10.82 seconds was actually an improvement over his time of the 11.00 he recorded in the Friday preliminaries. Still, he had his heart set on the title that went instead to Herrin’s Chris Nelson with a 10.70 clocking — a mere .12 of a second faster than the Bulldogs junior.
“I just wanted first so bad,” Ford said. “I came in pretty confident, because I felt I could run the fastest time, but I’ve been struggling with my block starts all week, and it really showed today. It wasn’t what I was hoping for. I guess I was just too worried about it.
“It was really nice to be here and the whole experience. I wish I had more time to explore around here, but I was too busy thinking. That kind of messed me up too, thinking too much and not just doing it.”
Stoeger in the 1600 began running third behind Pinckneyville’s Isaac Teel and Harvest Christian’s Daniel Winkleman through each of the first two times around the track, but then dropped back to seventh on the third and just couldn’t find the energy to catch up to the lead pack of a fast field.
He ended up with a 4.28.29, fractions better than his prelim of 4:28.32 he posted Thursday and just .62 behind the sixth-place 4:26.67 turned in by Chicago Latin’s Ryan Hardiman, the prelim leader with a 4:18.96 two days before.
“I was hoping for the 4:23 range, because I know I have that in me,” Stoeger said, “but I just ran out of gas in the tank pretty early, and I didn’t have the kick that I normally have. I should have been able to respond stronger. It’s kind of been going like that all year. I’ve hard a hard time coming back from races and had a hard time doubling [1600 and 3200] at meets.
“Just to make the finals, I’m happy. I didn’t do better than I did last year (6th in 1A in 4:27.35), which is kind of upsetting, but the future is bright considering I’ve had considerably lower mileage this season. … This is a good ending to my career, and I’m glad I finished my high school career on the same track I’ll be running on when I start my college career [at Eastern Illinois University], but I just wish it had been better.”
Doloski was one of three competitors in the 100, seeing his time of 24.10 earn him second place to the first-place time of 21.66 posted by Grayslake Central’s Brannon Duffin. In the 200, the Irish sophomore set a personal record with a 48.06, but finished second to Duffin’s 39.85.
“Before the 100, my coach [Terry Maxwell] said I was still as a statue because I was waiting and nervous,” Doloski said, “but after the 100, I felt good. All those nerves just left. … I came in not wanting to finish last, and I didn’t in the 100. The 200 had only two of us, so I’ll count that as a win-win, I guess.
“I’m not 100% sure I want to try this again next year, but I might. This was a great experience.”