CHARLESTON – Only one authority seemingly possessed the power to separate seniors Peter Archibald and Jake Mazanke in the 800 meters.
The IHSA obliged earlier this week, scrambling Friday’s three preliminary heats at the Class 3A boys track and field state meet.
Archibald, of Geneva, and Mazanke, of St. Charles East, staged memorable duels at the county, conference and sectional meets before descending on Eastern Illinois’ O’Brien Stadium. Coaches called their meeting a potential five-round prizefight, though the pay-per-view ultimately blacked out on Round 4.
Both athletes still assured the ultimate bragging rights race with berths in today’s finals. Archibald won his heat in a personal-best 1:52.16, while Mazanke (1:53.14) was second in his own heat.
“Definitely, without him there with me was something new, because I’m not very used to that at all,” Archibald said. “But I’m sure I’ll get to see him tomorrow.”
Archibald and Mazanke never raced in the 800 before the May 4 Kane County Meet at West Aurora. Three weeks later, they have finalized plans to compete together and be roommates at Loyola University Chicago beginning in the fall.
Today, both figure to contend with Duke-bound senior Michal Filipczak of Maine South, who matched his top sectional seed time with Friday’s prelim-best effort of 1:51.93.
Aware of their own personal stakes and an increasingly formidable finals field, Archibald and Mazanke ultimately know the biggest key to success lies within themselves.
“That’s how I’ve looked at it all year,” Mazanke said. “I’m not running for times, I’m not running for places, I’m just running my best.”
Competing in Class 2A, Kaneland led the Kane County Chronicle-area’s Charleston contingent with five entries in today’s finals. The Knights brought just two seniors downstate, but relied heavily on both to soothe a budding crop of sophomores and juniors.
Clayton Brundige (4x800) and Sean Carter (4x100 and 4x200) served as the elder statesmen of their respective relays, helping each set a school record. The 4x800 quartet of Conor Johnson, Nathaniel Kucera, Brundige and Kyle Carter shaved the most from the previous standard – 1.47 seconds – by running in 7:59.97.
Kyle Carter, a sophomore, helped lure his older brother to track two seasons ago after Sean Carter had competed only in football to start his high school career. Now a prospective two-sport athlete at Eastern Illinois – he still is talking with the school’s football and track coaches – Sean Carter is a triple finalist. He also qualified individually in the 200.
“We knew coming in that we lacked experience, but our seniors were huge for those relays,” Knights coach Eric Baron said. “They calmed the younger kids down, got them together and said, ‘This is how we do this.’ ”
Leadership also prevailed in the high jump, as returning state runners-up Oshay Hodges (St. Charles North) and Pete Stefanski (Marmion) cleared the requisite 6 feet 5 inches with ease.
Stefanski faces a new group of competition with Marmion’s shift from 2A to 3A, but a week after clearing a school-record 7-0 at sectionals, he wasn’t sweating much during prelims other than the sweltering weather.
“It’s pretty much like a mental game,” Stefanski said, “just trying to hit [6-5] on the first try.”
Hodges also advanced in the triple jump, where he’ll join fellow double-finalist Ben Rogers of Geneva. A Cornell wide receiver to-be, Rogers took up track to stay in shape for football.
He since has turned the sport into much more than a hobby, and enters the triple jump and long jump finals as at least a top-seven seed.
In 2A, Burlington Central veteran Clint Kliem enjoys a similar luxury. A triple-finalist in the 800 and as part of the 4x800 and 4x400, the senior added intrigue to the Chronicle-area’s signature 2012 race with a 1:56.58 finish in the 800.
That time ranked nearly two seconds behind Cahokia junior Darren Patyon – whose 1:54.85 set a 2A state record – but given his skill set, Kliem especially likes his chances in his lone individual event.
“It’s kind of the transition between you sprinting and getting to more of the mile and the 2-mile mindset,” Kliem said. “It’s kind of a nice race that I like, because I kind of have a little bit of both, just having the speed and the endurance for when the final 250 or 300 meters start.
“I can still get it going to stay with everybody. Make that last move if I have to.”
Those are the operative words for each of today’s finalists.
Whether you’ve faced a foe for years or months, whether they’re a stranger or your future college roommate, the urgency isn’t going anywhere.