CHARLESTON – Richmond-Burton junior James Kaht came to Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium like so many athletes just hoping to make the finals.
Kaht adjusted his expectations after seeing the Class 2A results from Friday’s 1,600 meters preliminary heats at the IHSA Boys Track and Field State Meet.
“I knew after I ran 4:23 I could be in the top five,” Kaht said.
He was better than that Saturday; he was even the best in school history. Kaht could not match the kick of Mascoutah’s Chris Miller, but he ran his fastest race (4:21.35) for second place. R-B’s previous best state finish was Dave Derdeyn taking third in the Class A two-mile run in 1976.
The area’s two best distance runners all year capped their track seasons with Class 3A medals. Crystal Lake Central senior Alex Baker was fourth in the 1,600 and McHenry sophomore Jesse Reiser was seventh in the 3,200.
Cary-Grove sophomore Ricky Hurley was the lone area double medalist, as he finished fifth in the Class 3A discus and seventh in the shot put.
McHenry’s Will Ford cleared a career-best 15 feet for fifth in the Class 3A pole vault, and Central’s Isaiah Mosher was eighth in the Class 3A 100. Woodstock’s Tyler Parsons took sixth in the Class 2A 110 high hurdles.
Kaht ran with Miller and Pontiac’s Shawn Milhauser out front for most of the race. Miller took off in the final 300 meters, but Kaht remained comfortably in second place.
“It was amazing. It felt so different in front, I wondered where everybody else was,” Kaht said. “We both started going around 300 meters [remaining] and I couldn’t keep up.”
Baker ran a solid tactical race for the most part, but left wanting a little more. He finished fourth in 4:14.66.
“My only regret is that I should have gone earlier,” Baker said. “It’s a very good place, but I should have reacted faster. I didn’t know if I should have went or saved it. I felt like I had a little left at the end.”
St. Ignatius’ Jack Keelan won the 1,600 in 4:12.11, completing the distance triple crown of Class 3A cross country, 3,200 and 1,600 titles.
Reiser ran his career-best 9:05.40 to take seventh in the 3,200. He also was seventh in Class 3A state cross country.
“I knew it was going to go out crazy,” Reiser said. “I’m very happy with that time, that’s what we were going for.”
Hurley wanted to throw farther in both events, but still earned two medals in his first trip to state. He threw 55-3 1/4 in shot put and 163-3 in discus, both in the preliminaries.
“I’m excited about that,” Hurley said. “I was looking to throw my seed [176-0 in discus].”
Mosher did not qualify for state last year when he was bothered by a left knee injury and appreciated his state experience.
“These guys are extremely talented runners, and this was my first time here as an individual,” Mosher said. “I wouldn’t trade anything here. It’s all part of the learning experience.”
Parsons said he just tried to keep thinking about fundamentals of driving his left (hurdle) leg, sprinting between hurdles and snapping his trail arm. He ran 15.12 to place sixth.
“It’s still not in the 14s, but I’m really happy,” Parsons said. “I finally placed in state. It was sixth. I’d have been happy with ninth today, so I’m more than happy with that.”