Track and field: Rock Falls boys win 5th straight Princeton Invite

Princeton girls keep Ferris title at home

Rock Falls's Gavin Sands hands teammate Easton Canales the baton in the 4x200 meter relay during the Ferris Invitational on Monday, April 15, 2024 at Princeton High School.

PRINCETON – The Rock Falls Rockets have made a tradition of winning Princeton’s Ferris Invite, and sophomore Adan Oquendo did his best to keep it going Monday.

The Rockets won their fifth straight Ferris championship, topping Kewanee by 41 points, 283.5-242.5, with the host Tigers third at 162.5, Mendota fourth (150) and Hall fifth (102.5).

Oquendo, the Most Outstanding Male Athlete of the meet, had a trifecta for the victorious Rockets, winning the triple jump (11.91 meters), 100 (11.24 seconds) and 200 (22.7 seconds).

(From left) Hall's Joseph Bacidore, Rock Falls's Adan Oquendo, Hall's Caleb Bickett, Princeton's Evan Driscoll and Casey Etheridge compete in the 100 meter dash during the Ferris Invitational on Monday, April 15, 2024 at Princeton High School.

“I just try to get a [personal record], really, in my race,” he said. “I’m still coming. I’m still getting better and better. That’s the goal.”

Oquendo said he’s just doing his part in keeping up the Rockets’ tradition in Princeton’s invite.

“It’s pretty important [to win],” he said. “It’s more important to me that everyone does good. It’s a better feeling to see everyone be happy how they’re performing than winning the meet.”

Rock Falls coach Eric Bontz expected a good battle with Kewanee.

“I knew Kewanee was going to be tough to beat tonight. They always bring good kids. They’re a fantastic team, especially with the numbers they have. And we enjoy the little competition we have against them.

“It’s fun to see what our guys can do, and they responded real well tonight. Pretty happy with them.”

Rock Falls’ Gavin Sands and Christian Hernandez both jumped 6.19m to share top honors in the long jump.

Other Rock Falls winners were Kohle Bradley in the pole vault (3.50m), Brady Root in the 800 (2:05.89), Jeffrey Sommer in the 1,600 (4:50.07) and Ian Finney in the 3,200 (11:04.31).

The Rockets also won the 4x800 with Seth Wade, Gabe Meyer, Jeffrey Sommer and Christian Cid turning in a 9:06.0; the 4x200 in 1:36.23 run by Carson Devers, Easton Canales, Christian Hernandez and Gavin Sands; and the 4x400 (3:39.77) with Christian Hernandez, Sands, Stanton and Root.

Princeton flexed its muscles in the weights with a pair of top-two finishes.

Junior Ian Morris won the discus at 42.89m, with senior Payne Miller second at 42.05m.

Miller stepped up to No. 1 in the shot at 15.92m, with junior Cade Odell second at 14.99m.

“I would still prefer to throw what I’m warming up. That’s what practice is for. We’ll keep building,” Miller said. “In discus, it’s just silly mistakes, little tweaks we’ve got to make. Once we do, hopefully it’ll come out a little better.

“I’m proud of our guys.”

Rock Falls's Gabe Moyer and Jeff Sommer run in the 4x800 relay during the Ferris Invitational on Monday, April 15, 2024 at Princeton High School.

Princeton girls win

After losing out on winning the Ferris Invitational last year, the Princeton girls made sure it kept the championship at home this year.

The Tigresses led throughout the meet, by as much as 20 points, and held off surging Kewanee at the end for a narrow 249-243 victory.

“We really wanted to win, and I think coach [Pat] Hodge set up a good lineup for us to try and win. That’s just what we wanted to do,” said Princeton sophomore Camryn Driscoll, who took part in four wins for the Tigresses. “It’s really nice to get a win at home.”

It was the 17th time the Tigresses won in the 34-year history of the meet.

“It was a super team victory. Everyone made an important contribution to the cause. Several girls were doing events they’ve never done before in order to help out,” Hodge said. “The way we score this meet makes no lead safe. We got up by 20 points with four events left, and Kewanee cut it to three points in the very next event. Even during the last event, Kewanee was in a position to win the meet by one.”

Driscoll swept the sprints, winning the 100 meters with a PR of 13.16 seconds, the 200 in 26.99 and the 400 in 1:01.50.

“It was nice weather today, and I wanted to push hard and get a good workout. That’s what I did,” Driscoll said.

The speedy sophomore also was the leadoff runner in the 4x100 as the Tigresses edged Kewanee, running a 53.28 along with Georgie Fulton, Scarlett Fulton and Miyah Fox.

Princeton senior Morgan Foes came up big for the Princeton girls in her last Ferris Invite. She swept the weights with throws of 35.39 meters in the discus and 11.90 in the shot, earning Most Outstanding Female Athlete of the meet.

“I’m still working on improving. I have a lot of things to work out in practice, but I’d say today was a victory for me, and we’re making strides toward state, which is really the goal,” Foes said.

The day could have been even a little bit better, but Foes scratched on a toss in the shot which would have been a PR.

“That would have been a big one, but at least I know I can throw that,” she said.

Fox, a senior, won the 100 hurdles with a time of 17.25.

The Tigresses also won the 4x200 (2:02.46).

Rock Falls' Hana Ford wins the 800 meter run as teammate Kat Scott finishes runner-up during the Ferris Invitational on Monday, April 15, 2024 at Princeton High School.

Rock Falls got wins from Savannah Bufford in the pole vault (2.44), Hana Ford in the 800 (2:31.44) and Ariel Hernandez in the 1,600 (5:37.77).

The Rockets also won the 4x800 (10:23.50) and 4x400 (4:33.28) relays on the legs of Ford, Kat Scott, Brenna Burlack and Hernandez.

Mendota’s Mariyah Elm won the triple jump (9.3m) and the high jump (1.52m). She also took second in the 100 (13.27).

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Kevin Hieronymus

Kevin Hieronymus

Kevin has been sports editor of the BCR since 1986. He previously was sports editor of the St. Louis Daily News and was a regular contributor for the St. Louis Cardinals' magazine. He is a 2021 inductee into the IBCA Hall of Fame (Media) and a 2023 inductee into the Shaw Media Illinois Valley Hall of Fame as "Distinguished Media."