Forreston-Polo second at 1A Winnebago Sectional

Forreston's Lucas Nelson (left) and Eli Ferris (right) race to the finish line of the 110 hurdles at the 1A Winnebago Sectional on Friday, May 17, 2024 in Winnebago. Nelson took first in 16.32 seconds  and Ferris second in 16.34. Both advanced to the state finals in Charleston.

WINNEBAGO – At the 17-team Winnebago 1A boys track & field sectional May 17, Forreston-Polo tied Rockford Christian for second place with 96 points. Next in the team standings was Oregon with 75. The host school won the title with 145 points.

“We started to meet as well as we could have,” F-P coach Tony Hardin said. “We used that energy to transfer over to the rest of the meet. In the events we thought we’d hit, we hit them very well.”

And, boy did F-P finish strong with Micah Nelson, Hayden Vinnege, Brock Soltow and Noah Dewey clocking a 3:27.45 in the 1,600-meter relay for the fifth best time of all 1A sectionals. Nelson, Soltow and Dewey return after placing fourth last year with McKeon Crase.

“I think this group is better than last year’s (3:26.85),” Hardin said. “I’d still like them to get our schools record of 3:26.4, which had been on the books since the 70s.”

Rockford Christian had their two best distance runners on legs 3 and 4, but could not catch F-P, which led from start to finish. F-P also qualified by taking second the 400 and 800 relays. De’Angelo Fernandez and Jonathan Milnes joined Dewey and Soltow in the 400, while Fernandez, Soltow, Nelson and Dewey ran the 800.

With Supreme Muhammad leading ‘Bago, the Indians won both sprint relays, 42.81 to 43.88 and 1:28.51 to 1:30.96. However, F-P’s times would have placed downstate last year.

“That time in the 800 was huge for us. We dropped 2 seconds. It sure helps when you have Winnebago to chase,” Hardin said.

In the 100 hurdles, F-P got a 1-2 finish from Lucas Nelson and Eli Ferris at 16.32 and 16.34. Ferris tacked on two more qualifications by winning the 300 hurdles in 43.44 and making 6-1 in the high jump.

“That’s a good day for a freshman,” Hardin said. “He’s made 6 feet before, but never 6-1 and it took him a third attempt.”

Senior Peyton Crase jump-started with team with a PR of over 41 feet on his second attempt in the triple jump, which met state qualifying standards. From then on, F-P continued to roll.

After having a disappointing 2023 sectional with only one qualifier, Oregon will be sending five individuals downstate. Leading the way were champs Leo Cardenas and Briggs Sellers. Cardenas, who won the pole vault at 12-8, was top seeded, but Sellers’ win came as a surprise.

One spot out of state qualifying and down to his final throw, Sellers uncorked a PR of almost 45 feet to move up to first. Teammate Evyn Carreno was close behind in second place to also earn a trip to Charleston.

“I was in second and then a guy from Dakota moved ahead of me,” Sellers said. “I had no choice but to go all out.”

Sophomore Daniel Gonzales ran 2:03 to place second in the 800 meters. Aiden Guida, who was Oregon sole qualifier last year, will be going back downstate in the 200 with a second place to Muhammad, 21.74-22.84. Guida was third in the 100 at 11.62, but missed the SQ mark.

“Five qualifiers is as good as we could have done,” Oregon coach Jim Spratt said. “Briggs coming through was nice and it’s good to have Leo back.”

Cardenas place third in the indoor state meet with a vault over 14 feet and will be Oregon best chance for a state medal.

Oregon's Daniel Gonzalez (center) runs in the 800 meters at the 1A Winnebago Sectional on Friday, May 17, 2024 in Winnebago. He finished second in the race to advance to the state finals at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
Oregon's Leo Cardenas clears 3.85 meters (12' 7.5"" to finish first in the pole vault at the 1A Winnebago Sectional on Friday, May 17, 2024 in Winnebago. He will compete in the event at the state finals at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.

2A Sectional

Bryon and Stillman Valley finished 1 point apart in a very competitive Sycamore 2A sectional, won by the relay-heavy Spartans, 124-117 over Sterling. Byron had 26.5 points to place 10th and SV scored 25.5 for 11th.

“In a meet this tough, our number one goal is to qualify individuals,” said Byron coach Mike McHale, whose team was bumped up from 1A to 2A this year.

The Tigers did come away with two state qualifiers in miler Tim Starwalt and weightman Sam Gentz. Just missing out was Maison Brandt, who was third in the triple jump at 12.45 meters, still good for a personal best.

How tough was the 1,600 meter run at Sycamore?

Taking fifth place at 4:30, Starwalt was one of 11 qualifiers who met the SQ mark of 4:35. Winning the event was Dale Johnson of Sterling, who finished third at the IHSA 2A cross country meet.

Gentz popped a personal best of 48-feet-11 in the shot put to place fifth, but meet the SQ standard. The winner was a sophomore Gavin Mueller from Wheaton St. Francis who went over 55 feet and has already received D-I football offers.

Another close call for making state was Jack Potter in the high jump. Potter cleared 5-11 to take sixth. The 1,600-relay of Liam Conner, Aiden Darby, Carter Conderman and Dylan Springer ran 3:34 to also place sixth.

“A meet like this, you come here to perform and do the best you can,” SV coach Matt McMullen said. “It’s what it is being one the smaller schools.”

The Cardinals had one of their better teams in recent memory, but were unable to advance anyone downstate. The best chances came in the hurdles and high jump, but seniors Jacob Rhodes and Braden Rogers settled for fourth-places, with the top two automatically advancing.

In the 300 hurdles, Rogers had the lead, but clipped a couple hurdles and fell behind for a 42.27 clocking. Rhodes ran 16.08 in the 100 highs and was only .13 away from claiming second. Rhodes added a fourth-place medal in the high jump at 1.80 meters, with 1.85 taking second.

Fourth place seemed to be SV’s calling card, as that is where the team of Memphis Rowe, Tyler Ayotte, Luke Miller and Ethan Szarkowicz finished in the 800-relay at 3:34.