Boys track and field: Lemont’s Quinton Peterson is the Herald-News Athlete of the Year

Peterson finished 2nd in 110-meter hurdles at state and 3rd in 300 hurdles

Lemont's Quinton Peterson wins the heat in the 300 meter hurdles during the IHSA 3A Sectional track meet  on Friday, May. 17, 2024, at Joliet.

Heading into his senior year, Lemont’s Quinton Peterson wasn’t sure if he’d be running track again.

After not having a freshman season because of COVID-19 and coming up a little short at state his junior year, he wasn’t really sure if his heart was in it. So he told his parents how he felt. They offered him the simple yet profound advice that you hear every time you see a Nike commercial.

“They told me it was my last year, so I should just do it,” he said. “So I decided to go out there and do it, and I’m so happy they convinced me to do it.”

With good reason. Peterson put up easily the best season of his career. He finished second at the state meet in the Class 3A 110-meter hurdles with a time of 14.11 seconds, one-hundredth of a second out of first, to bring home the second-place medal. He also took third in the 300 hurdles at 38 seconds flat. He was voted team MVP and ran the 400 in 52 seconds. Not bad for a guy who almost didn’t run.

In fact, it was good enough that the Herald-News has recognized Peterson as its Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

“I’ve really come a long way,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d be at where I’m at now. I noticed I was getting better as the year went on last year, but I wasn’t at the top. To come back this year and see the improvement and how close I was to being a state champ for hurdles, it just feels great. It’s great to be recognized, and I’m just really grateful and appreciative for all those who have recognized me.”

Peterson was already a successful hurdler before this season. He broke several school records as a junior that he broke again this season. He qualified for state last year in both hurdles events and as part of the 4x200 relay team. It was in that state competition where his testament of character came out.

He was battling illness the week of the state meet and knew he couldn’t run the 110 hurdles and the 300 hurdles while also partaking in the 4x200 relay. He’d have to let one of the events go. Lemont coach Dennis Kennedy said Peterson opted to drop out of the 300 hurdles in order to help the team.

“He’s a really good kid and a really smart student,” Kennedy said. Some of his form wasn’t perfect early, but we didn’t want to mess with it too much early because he had a ton of success with it. He made adjustments on his own and figured it all out really quickly.”

Peterson credited most of his success to Kennedy.

“My coach really put in a lot of time with me specifically,” Peterson said. “We’ve really built a good relationship. He’s basically become another friend. He’s been telling me at all my races what I need to do to get better and keep winning. With his help I kept getting better, so I just have to thank him for all his help and seeing that talent in me.”

Peterson is heading to Illinois State for college in the fall. Right now, he’s not sure if he’ll keep running, although he says he’s considering speaking to the coaches about walking on once he gets there. For a kid who nearly didn’t run his senior year, that’s pretty impressive.

“I knew I was good at sports here and there but never thought I’d be competing in college,” he said. “Knowing that I’m capable of maybe getting that opportunity as a hurdler would be shocking and amazing if it happens.”

As for the Lemont track team, he noted how much growth it has shown over the years. He says it’s capable of reaching the same renown that the softball and baseball team have. As for future aspiring Athletes of the Year, he offers them the same advice that his parents gave him.

“Just do it,” he said. “Even if you’re not at the top, you never know what can happen. My dad says every race is different. You never know what your ability is until you got out there and do it, so just do it.”