by Tony Jones
The big showdown between friendly rivals Edwardsville and Belleville West was supposed to commence February 22, at the Normal West Indoor Invitational. However, that affair was cancelled due to inclement weather. Now fast forward to the first weekend in March, it indeed was the ripe time to knock off a little winter rust at the Champaign Charger Invitational.
There were no team scores kept, but from a naked eye it appeared as though Edwardsville looked to a strong on all three levels. Team strength has a way of building the pieces needed to win a big invitational week after week.
Boey vs. Bennett showdown-
The 60m showdown between the state’s premier sprinters Jonathan Boey (Sr., Decatur MacArthur) and Bennett Gray (Sr., Edwardsville) was supposed to be the featured event of the day. Boey had been burning up the indoor tracks thus far this winter. Gray on the other hand has had a very light schedule to date. But the question is how would things turn out inside the U of I Armory?
The penultimate “B” class final heats provided a good set up for Boey and Gray. Kerry Holmes (Sr., Belleville West) and Aquintis Williams (Sr., Decatur MacArthur) dueled to a solid race 7.21-7.24. Finally, all eyes would be on the “A” race. Boey got in the blocks as did Gray. They were off and speeding down the homestretch and past the throng of fans intensely watching. Boey held a very slim lead on Gray at 30m. It appeared as though he was tight and finally met his match. Boey was able to find that fifth gear in time with 10m remaining and pulled out the victory 7.00-7.09.
Boey got his big victory but he was not thrilled with his overall effort. “I got a bad start,” Boey said shortly afterwards. He was referring to the not-so great transition out of the blocks and into the drive phase. These are little technical issues that if cleaned up, Boey may be unstoppable.
-Distance events was not a slouch-
The Charger Invitational distance arena did not a back seat to any block of event styles. The 3200m featured several of the state’s top long distance runners. Caleb Beck (Sr., Oswego), Johnny Leverenz (Jr., Danville), Dan Lathrop (Jr., Plainfield South), and Keith Meyer (Sr., Bloomington. The race started with this pack opening in 66.5 for the first 400m. The pace wasn’t ultra fast afterwards, but it did separate most of the field before the first half. The 1600m was negotiated in 4:48.0. Lathrop and Meyer fell back by 2k- it was all Beck and Leverenz leading the rotations. Finally, with just about 600m to go, Beck completely put any hope of Leverenz winning out of reach with a big surge. Beck clocked 9:26.57. Leverenz ran 9:39.28 to hold Lathrop for second place 9:42.14.
Leverenz prevented Beck from sweeping the 3200/1600 combo by utilizing a more tactical approach. Leverenz had settled in nicely for the first half that went through in 2:15.6. Things got interesting at the 1200m mark that struck 3:26. Beck tried to pull away on the final lap backstretch but he could not shake Leverenz. It was just near the end of the last curve that Leverenz made a final move that won the race for him. Leverenz clocked 4:29.94. Jake Fitzerald (Sr., Plainfield South) squeezed past Beck as well to earn second in 4:30.39. Beck ran 4:30.45.
-Field events turn heads-
The high jump competition turned out to be a surprisingly good affair that saw four jumpers eclipse 6-4. Devaughn Dix (Sr., Bloomington) came into the competition with a 6-4 personal best, but he was clearly fired up by the favorite Julian Harvey (Sr., Edwardsville). It was just four jumpers remaining in the “A” flight when things really got serious. Dix and Harvey both cleared 6-6 to stand alone to fight it out. Harvey went first at 6-8 and missed cleanly. Dix duplicated the same feat with first attempt at 6-8. They both missed hard on their second attempt as if their legs were tired from competing in other events. The final jump was missed and it forced a jump off. The bar was set at 6-8 and then moved down to 6-6. Dix finally won it at the lower height to all smiles.
Blake Pasley (Sr., Rochester) did not eclipse his season and personal best of 14-6, but he did get his first victory of the season with a 14-0 winner. Palsey beat out Andrew Roney (Sr., Mahomet-Seymour) who the ceiling at 13-6.
Harvey returned later in the event schedule to win the long with a 22-3.5 effort. He just missed his personal best 22-5.
Jamion Nash (Sr., Belleville West) opened his season with an eye-popping IL#2 46-11 and easily won the triple jump by over three feet.
Luke Vaughn (Sr., Champaign Centennial) performed marvelously in the shot put winning with a heavy throw of 58-1.5. Vaughn now is sitting in the IL#3 spot.