Johnsburg takes Ed Reeves Invite title

MARENGO – Johnsburg junior Sam Blankenship was thrilled at going 3 for 3 in his individual events at Saturday’s Ed Reeves Invitational Track and Field Meet, but his gratification hardly was personal.

“It’s really great to come out here and do this, not for me, but for my team,” Blankenship said.

Blankenship won the 110-meter high hurdles, then the 200 and 400 meters, to lead the Skyhawks to something that has been a long time coming – a first-place finish in an invitational meet.

Johnsburg finished with 148 points, well ahead of second-place Marengo at 96, to win the Reeves Invitational at Rod Poppe Fields. Skyhawks coach Chris Setzler thinks it has been close to 10 years since they won a bigger meet.

“It was back when we had Chris Leathers, Shaun Jozwiak, Nick Savitsky, Dave Rigby, Tyler Kammer and Brian Lane, around 2004 in there," Setzler said. "That was our last really solid team. These guys are excited to be able to get out and compete. They’re working hard and they’re being successful. Mentally, that’s good for them.”

McHenry won the girls meet with 156 points and junior distance runner Lauren Opatrny was part of two meet records in the 4x800 relay and the 1,600 meters. Woodstock was second with 149 points, led by Maura Beattie’s 3,200 meet record and runner-up finish to Opatrny in the 1,600.

Woodstock won the combined title for boys and girls with 211 points, followed by Marengo at 203 1/4.

Johnsburg got a big performance out of Sandro Magradze, who won the 300 intermediate hurdles and was third in the high hurdles and led off the winning 4x400 relay. The Skyhawks also won the 4x800 and 4x200 relays.

“I knew Sam [Blankenship] would do well in the hurdles, but what’s shocked me is how well he’s run in the 400 and 200,” Setzler said. “He’s close to state-qualifying times in the 400, so that’s going to be our main focus for state now. Sandro is really focused, more than I’ve ever seen from him. We have a lot of good pieces.”

Richmond-Burton’s James Kaht swept the 3,200 and 1,600.

Opatrny and Beattie expected a fast 1,600, with Marengo’s Allie Sprague and Kitty Allen, also in the race. Opatrny found out she had run 4:59.85 to break Erin Boland’s 23-year-old school record (5:03.7) and break Sprague’s 2-year-old meet record (5:12).

Opatrny, Rachel Irwin, Ellie Gioia and Katie Purich set a meet record with a 9:46.06 in the 4x800 relay. Irwin also won the high jump.

“I knew it would be fast with Allie and Maura out there, it’s an honor to race with them, they push me so much harder,” Opatrny said. “Coach [Kyle Owens] said to get a good first lap and I wanted to stick with Beattie as long as I could. You just have to leave it all out there.”

Opatrny passed Beattie with about 150 meters remaining and outkicked her the finish, winning by four seconds. Beattie still had the 3,200 meet record and a personal-best time in the 1,600.

“I was all by myself [in the 3,200] and knew I was coming back in the 1,600, so I ran a little conservatively, and I still got the record,” Beattie said. “That’s my best time ever [in the 1,600] so I’m happy with that. I expected it to be close. It helps push me to go faster.”

R-B sophomore sprinter Miranda Halverson won the 200 and 400 to lead the Rockets.

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