HOFFMAN ESTATES – Geneva junior Tim Roels coaxed a smile between deep breaths Friday night, grinning after Vikings coach Gale Gross leaned in to deliver a joke.
Given the emotional high Roels was riding after his victory in the 200 meters, why not jump into the final track event of the 3A Hoffman Estates Boys Track and Field Sectional, the 4x400 relay?
Roels politely declined in the name of catching his wind and wits, but later erupted with teammates when the Vikings learned they had won a surprise sectional title. A healthy Geneva contingent is coming to next week’s state meet at Eastern Illinois’ O’Brien Stadium in Charleston, and Roels, a double-qualifier and blue track newbie, can’t wait.
“I’m excited to run on that blue-lane track,” Roels said. “Obviously, it’s my team colors, so hopefully that’ll give me a little extra boost.”
Four sectional champions highlighted Geneva’s haul of seven qualifiers. Pole vault winner Tim Guthrie established a school record by clearing 14 feet, 11 inches. In the 1,600, Bradley-bound Mike Bianchina continued a spirited climb back from a broken leg suffered during last year’s sectionals to claim his event.
Roels nearly made it five sectional champs for the Vikings, but was officially second in the 100 when Schaumburg’s Shandall Thomas won the virtual tie after the race was taken to hundreths of a second. Both athletes initially crossed at 11.05.
By any count, Geneva will take the momentum. St. Charles North – which finished third Friday – placed ahead of Geneva at last week’s Upstate Eight Conference Meet. Batavia reigned among the league’s River Division teams when that meet was re-scored.
“The kids were absolutely awesome. Absolutely awesome,” Gross said. “I wish I would have saw most of it.”
Like the rest of his counterparts, Gross milled about the Hoffman Estates grounds charting each of the night’s 18 events.
Here’s a look at some other highlights:
• North qualified three of the four relays, winning two.
The 4x400 of Jack Feeney, Connor Larson, Tyler Ingham and Zach Kirby – a quartet that competed at the Penn Relays earlier this season – took second, falling to Larkin by 16 hundreths of a second. Kirby made a stealthy charge down the back-stretch to nearly take the lead.
“As a team, we came in and we wanted to make some noise in this meet, and I thought we did that. We reached that goal,” said Kirby. “We qualified a whole lot of people in a wide variety. Sprints, pole vault. I mean, hurdles, jumps. You name it. We put in a good hit in this thing.”
• Several teammates needled St. Charles East senior Matt Allen for raising his arms as he crossed the finish line with the 300 hurdles title.
Allen happily absorbed the joking after overcoming recent technique issues and delivering a personal-best time of 40.54.
“The last couple meets, I’ve been struggling with the rhythm of the race and I’ve been screwing up about halfway through. At conference, I finished fifth,” Allen said. “But I worked hard this last week on my rhythm and making sure all my steps in between the hurdles were right. And I mean, it worked.”
• Good or bad, Batavia coach Dennis Piron found there were several more talking points from the Bulldogs’ night than their quartet of state-bound entries.
A handful of close calls – including Clayton Siemsen, who was nine hundreths of a second from finishing second and advancing in the 110 hurdles – also were on Piron’s mind.
“You’ve got seniors who it’s their last races, who have been great leaders for you. Like [hurdler] Omar Medina and kids,” he said. “It’s just really an emotional thing, you know. Our kids have all run PRs. Been a great night for our program. Just boy, oh boy. It’s so tough.”
• Marmion senior Jake Ruddy won the long jump in 22-4 in his first attempt of the season.
Ruddy, of Batavia, broke bones in both wrists in February during a basketball accident in PE class. He was hanging on the rim after a dunk and used his hands to brace an awkward fall. There’s still a soft cast on his left arm, but Ruddy and the crowd will see it in Charleston after he made the most of a few days of workouts.
“After Wednesday’s practice, I felt like I hadn’t left the pit,” Ruddy said. “It was all there today and felt great.”