Mac Melto of Northside Prep made it look so easy as he navigated the gentle turns of the Shirk Center track. But inside, he was more of a nervous wreck.
“All I want to do right now is fall down,” he said holding his head after the race. “I don’t like to tell people this, but if I were a 100 or 200 runner, my life would be fantastic. The 400 is so stressful, but that is one of the thing that pushes it over the edge. I get that adrenaline. I think about that race and when I hit that breakline, I knew I was not going to let a single person pass me.”
Melto’s race was impressive. He won by over a second and a half over Brendon Penrod of Troy Triad. His 49.25 time is the best 400 time indoors in the state. With that effort, he was named the Class AA Boys Athlete of the Meet during Saturday morning's session of the Illinois Prep Top Times Classic.
“Every expectation I had I broke,” he continued. If I was not sweating so hard, I would cry. But that will come later.”
One of his expectations was running against Cahokia 400 standouts Kenny Ball and Marlin Brady. “I was looking forward to racing against the,m as well as dreading it.” But Ball finished 18th and Brady was disqualified because of a lane violation. These three runners will get a chance to run each other again at the end of May in Charleston.
Probably the most anticipated race on the 2A boys schedule for this meet was the 1600. Will Brewster of Grayslake Central had run 4:14 solo last week and all eyes were on him. Michael Clevenger of Decatur MacArthur has run some fast 1600s in the last two weeks and was looking for one more. Luke Zygmunt of Grayslake Central had finished 2nd to Clevenger outdoors last spring and was looking for a chance to race. Expectations were high. A fast time was on the docket considering the participants involved in this race.
Those expectations hit the floor of the Shirk Center like a thud. Zygmunt took the lead immediately and slowed the pace down. “That was our plan,” Zygmunt said after the race. “We have done that before working together.”
Part of that had to do with the fact that this was Brewster’s third race of the day. He had earlier run the 3200 and the 4 x 800. The pack covered the first 2 laps in 69 seconds.
The pace picked up a little as they passed the 800 in 2:15.
Jamison Dale of Jones College Prep surprised the pack in taking off right after the halfway point. Clevenger, Zygmunt, and Brewster followed suit. The four passed the 1200 in 3:17, a 62 400. Zygmunt tried to pass before the finish line, but Dale refused to give up the lead. Meanwhile, Clevenger was waiting to make his move.
Right before the bell lap, Zygmunt made his move, which Clevenger followed. Down the back stretch, Clevenger tried to pass Zygmunt, but that was not happening. On the curve, Clevenger reached down and found another gear. Clevenger crossed the finish in 4:16.35. Zygmunt was a second back. Clevenger had covered his last 200 in 28.7.
“I think racing against Garrett (Sweat) the last couple of weeks has helped me,” he said. “With that race experience, it has given me the opportunity to adjust to every type of race.”
Speaking of Brewster, he had a busy day on the track. He opened up with the 3,200. With 600 to go in the race, Brewster took command, running the final 3 laps in 1:35.3 to win with a PR of 9:19.67. K.J. Matuszak of Carmel finished second in a PR of 9:25.64. Marc Maton of Chatham-Glenwood also ran a PR finishing third in 9:28.94.
Joseph Jones of Plano looked like he injured his leg as he finished the prelims of the 55 hurdles. He shook off the pain as he headed to the finals. He took the lead from Spencer Allen of Mt. Vernon on the second hurdle and won in a then-state leading time of 7.42.
Jonathan Boey of Decatur MacArthur showed that he would be the man to beat in the short sprints this spring. Saturday, he won the 55 in 6.45, just one hundredth of a second off of his PR and the fastest in all three classes.
The closest race of the afternoon was in the 800. Darren Payton of Cahokia ran down Burlington Central’s Mike Gulik in the last 20 meters. It looked like it would be a photo finish as they crossed the finish line. And it was. Both were given the same time of 1:57.40. When they looked at the photo, it was Payton winning by seven-thousandths of a second.
It was not all bad for Gulik. Earlier in the afternoon, he was a part of Burlington Central’s winning 4 x 800. His teammate Clint Kleim ran a brilliant 1:56 anchor to give the Rockets a six-second win over Aurora Central Catholic. In the last event in the Class 2A schedule, Gulik anchored Burlington Central to a second place finish in the 4 x 400.
Chad Weaver of Providence Catholic was given a strong challenge from Stanford Olympia’s Tyler Ginger in the pole vault. It was Weaver’s 15-0 clearance that was the difference as Ginger cleared 14-6.
Derek Bunch of Mahomet-Seymour had not competed so far this season. In his first meet on Saturday, Bunch stamped himself as the favorite outdoors by winning the shot in a PR of 56-5.
Cahokia captured the two other relays of the day. They took command early in both the 4 x 2 and 4 x 4 relays and ran away with wins in both. Their 1:32.27 was more than a second ahead of a surprising Princeton quartet. Two 51.5 opening legs in the mile relay broke the Comanches away from the pack early as they won in 3:25.18.