Johnsburg relay headed to final

CHARLESTON – Johnsburg junior Sam Blankenship lobbied to run a different race early this spring.

Blankenship formerly was a 110-meter high hurdler and sprinter, but he had another event in mind.

“At the beginning of the season, I joked with coach [Chris Setzler] that I wanted to run in the 4x800 [meter relay],” Blankenship said.

It’s no joke now, however, as Blankenship and the Skyhawks’ 4x800 relay team qualified for the Class 2A finals Friday at the boys track and field state meet at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium.

Blankenship, Matt Stelmasek, Mark Gaura and Noah Miller ran 8:03.71, a school-record time for their fourth consecutive race and the fifth-fastest qualifying time. Marengo’s Jarrell Jackson (100 meters) and Woodstock North’s Jimmy Krenger (pole vault) were the other local qualifiers for Saturday’s Class 2A finals.

Jackson ran 10.89 seconds in the 100 for the second-fastest qualifying time. Krenger cleared 13 feet without a miss to qualify in the pole vault.

Setzler decided to scratch Blankenship from the 400 so he could conserve his energy for the 4x800, where the Skyhawks can win the first medal for their school since 2009, when Steve Seydel was fifth in the Class 2A 400.

“I think they have it in them to break 8:00,” Setzler said. “That could get them in the top three. They’ve run a personal-best and school record every time they ran that race.”

Johnsburg finished second in the McHenry County Meet the first time that quartet ran together. The Skyhawks took third in the Fox Valley Conference Meet.

“That really helped us [getting Sam],” Gaura said. “That gave us an opportunity.”

The Skyhawks each want to knock another second off in the finals to break 8:00.

“It’d be really cool [to medal], this is what we’ve trained so hard for,” Blankenship said.

Jackson, a sophomore, had hoped to qualify in the 100 and 200, but made it only in the 100 with the third-fastest time behind Sycamore’s Dion Hooker (10.871) and Rich Central’s Franklin Hunt (10.873).

“It was kind of overwhelming, I was really nervous when I walked out here,” Jackson said. “Once the gun went off, I knew I was going to take first. I got out of the blocks well.”

Krenger benefited from some special coaching as former Thunder vaulter Jon Walsh, the 2012 Class 2A state champion, was at the meet and is staying with Krenger’s family.

“He’s coaching me up,” Krenger said. “I feel pretty good. I feel like I can do better. I made 13-0 with no scratches, so I’m pretty confident.”

Richmond-Burton’s James Kaht, the Class 2A 1,600 runner-up last season, was not able to make the finals in that race.

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