CHARLESTON – The 4x800-meter relay teams from Crystal Lake Central and McHenry used the same strategy and saw nearly the same results.
Both teams used their top distance runners – Central’s Alex Baker and McHenry’s Jesse Reiser – in Friday’s Class 3A preliminary heats at the IHSA Boys Track and Field State Meet to ensure their spots in the 12-team finals’ field.
Neither Baker nor Reiser will run in Saturday’s 4x800 finals at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium, as Baker will concentrate on the 1,600 meters and Reiser will run in the 3,200 finals. Each team hopes to finish ahead of three others to earn medals.
Cary-Grove’s Ricky Hurley and Huntley’s Justin Herbert qualified in the Class 3A discus, with Hurley also advancing in the shot put. Other area qualifiers were Central’s Isaiah Mosher (100) and McHenry’s Will Ford in the pole vault.
Baker passed on the 3,200 at last week’s Huntley Sectional to help the 4x800 team qualify for state. The Tigers’ Nick Amato, Ryan Pitner and Mark Talarico paid him back in the best way possible Friday.
“We wanted to put Baker in a spot where he didn’t have to go 100 percent,” Talarico said. “Our goal was to make it to Day 2 with Baker, then see what we can do without him.”
Sophomore Michael Penza will replace Baker in the 4x800 in the finals. Amato and Pitner put the Tigers in good position in the first half of the race. Talarico handed off to Baker in third place and the Tigers finished in 7:51.66, the fourth-fastest qualifying time.
“Since I was next to the [first-place] guy, I knew Mark would stay with him,” Pitner said. “And then Baker would do something incredible.”
McHenry used Reiser to lead off its 4x800, with Calvin Quarterman, Evan Hying and John Konstantelos after him. The Warriors ran 7:52.65, the fifth-fastest qualifying time.
“That got the jitters out,” Quarterman said. “That’s a confidence boost to get second in our heat and know we’re here to play and make a dent on the medals stand.”
The Warriors were in third when Hying got the baton and Konstantelos moved up a spot.
“We wanted to increase our chances with Jesse, one of the best runners in the state,” Konstantelos said.
McHenry ran a 7:52.38, its best time this season, to win the Fox Valley Conference 4x800 in record time with Nick Shawler-Clapper instead of Reiser.
“We’re not losing anything with Nick,” Quarterman said.
Hurley, a sophomore, threw his career-best shot put (55 feet, 3 1/4 inches) and stands in fifth place heading into the finals. His discus attempt of 163-3 also has him in fifth.
“I could have done better, but I still got to the finals in both,” Hurley said. “I want to throw 60 feet in the shot and 180 in the discus, set those goals high.”
Herbert, at 151-1, is in 10th place and needs to move up to make the finals.
Mosher figured he would make the long jump finals before the 100, but things worked out differently. He thought his final long jump attempt, a scratch, would have qualified for the finals at around 22-8. Instead, he ran 10.91, his second-fastest time ever to grab the last qualifying spot in the 100.
“After the long jump, I talked to [Central head coach Brian] Seaver,” Mosher said. “He said I had a look on the last jump and to take that with me to the 100. He said to have that mindset that I belong here. The scariest thing was looking at the times on the board.”
Mosher was fourth in the second heat, but he was faster than everyone in the first heat. He waited through the third heat to learn the good news.
Baker also had a few anxious moments after the second heat of the 1,600, where he ran 4:17.23. He made it with the ninth-best time in the 12-competitor field.
“It was great competition, but I didn’t have my best race,” Baker said. “I could have gone sooner, but I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough left at the end.”