St. Bede senior Zach Roebuck has been waiting for more than two years for his shot to run the 300-meter hurdles at the IHSA Class 1A State Meet.
As a sophomore in 2019, Roebuck was leading the 300 hurdles race at the sectional before he fell over a hurdle and finished third — just six one hundreths of a second behind second place and a state berth.
In 2020, the season was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, Roebuck will get his chance Thursday.
“He’s had a couple years to scratch that itch from his sophomore year when he was in the lead or right at the lead at the sectional and he fell on the fifth or sixth hurdle on the curve, and since then he’s just been waiting for a chance to go down to state and he got it,” St. Bede coach Marty Makransky said. “I know he’s just totally pumped for it.”
Roebuck is seeded 10th, within range of placing in the top nine and earning a medal.
Roebuck’s seed time is 41.87 seconds, while No. 6 seed Cole Fuller of Chicago Latin is at 41.16.
“Between sixth and 10th, they’re all in that 41 second timeframe,” Makransky said. “He is less than a second from being in the top six. I don’t know if the individuals (ahead of him) were challenged in their sectional races or not. Zach was so he did run a season best. I’m expecting him to run even better down at state.”
Because he’s seeded 10th, Roebuck won’t run in the fastest heat.
“He needs to win the race,” Makransky said. “He’s well aware of that. Not only does he have to win, but he has to not let up because he might be winning. He has to go a little extra hard to get through it and get a better time. I think he’s ready for that.
“He’s running his best at this time. He’s in a good spot. He runs really well in warm weather, so I expect him to do really well.”
Roebuck isn’t the only area athlete looking for redemption at the state meet.
Junior teammate Duncan Lawler is returning to state in the high jump. As a freshman in 2019, he did not clear the opening height.
“I think he might have gotten a little nervous being a freshman and he didn’t make the starting height,” Makransky said. “So he’s really ready. He’s much more mature as a junior. He’s much more physically ready to go down there and compete with those guys.”
Lawler is seeded 26 among the 34 jumpers after clearing 5 feet, 10 ¾ inches at the sectional. His season best is 6-2 at the Three Rivers Conference Meet.
“Duncan jumps his best in the best competition,” Makransky said. “He did well at conference. He made 6-2. He didn’t win, but lost to a really good jumper. At the sectional he did what he needed to win. I really expect him to jump at or near his best because he always does when the competition is harder.”
Amboy co-op junior Brock Loftus is looking to improve on his freshman year state performance as well.
In 2019, Loftus ran an 11:18.99 in the 3,200 at state and placed last among 31 runners.
His seed time this year is more than a minute better at 10:11.62 — which ranks 19th — and his personal best is 10:05.17.
“Our expectation is to drop his time significantly from (the sectional),” Amboy coach Jeramey Wittenauer said. “He didn’t have his best race (at the sectional, but he did what he needed to do to get to state. We have a plan. We think he’s going to be in the slow heat. He’ll need to be in the top of that heat and try to get sub 10 minutes to have a chance at a medal.
“He’s trained really hard up to this point, but those last two or three laps it’s going to be mind over matter just gutting out a good time.”
A pair of area runners will compete at state for the first time in Hall junior Caleb Savitch in the pole vault and Fieldcrest junior Mason Stoeger in the 1,600.
Savitch is seeded 21st among 29 vaulters after clearing 10-8 at the sectional. His personal best is 11 feet.
“I expect him to go down there and do his best and get that experience,” Hall coach Rob Malerk said. “He’s been working hard this year. He’s been working down in Bloomington to get some extra experience. He’s improved greatly. I’m excited to see what he can do when he gets down there.”
Stoeger is the only area athlete in 1A who enters the state meet seeded to bring home a medal as he sits ninth at 4:33.97. His personal best is 4:27.37 at the McLean County Meet on May 27.
“We’re looking for hopefully a top five finish,” Fieldcrest coach Carol Bauer said. “He’s really like to come home with Brian Peterson’s school record (4:24.65). He did say (Tuesday) morning as competitive as the field looks, if he comes home with a medal he’ll be happy, but you always shoot for a little bit higher.”
Bauer said Stoeger will have fresh legs since he’s not running the 3,200 relay like he has throughout the season.
“We talked about probably going out around 65 seconds for the first lap then mentally being tough the middle two,” Bauer said. “Everybody kicks that last little bit. We talked about with 300 meters to go moving into position then slingshoting off the curve and really setting up his kick well. You can talk about race strategy but until you’re in it, you don’t really know what will happen.”