ST. CHARLES – St. Charles East junior Kyle Decker touts aggressiveness as the key to hurdling success.
Still, he's equally adamant about the importance of restraint in the right doses.
Decker knows he must channel both qualities at today's IHSA Class 3A Bartlett Sectional boys track and field meet at Elgin. That's especially true in the 110-meter event, where he's a hybrid of the top seed and last man standing.
The seventh-place finisher in the event at sectionals last spring, Decker watched the six athletes ahead of him graduate.
"Progression-wise, I've felt really well, actually. All my times keep dropping and it's just … I know I'm going to peak at sectionals," he said. "I just feel like I'm ready and the team's ready, so it's going to be fun."
There's plenty of reason for optimism for Decker, and neither he nor anyone else has to dig deep for it.
Competing on the same Elgin track at last week's Upstate Eight Conference meet, he established personal records in the 110s (15.21) and 300s (40.9) en route to a pair of runner-up finishes.
Both times are on the edge of the fully-automated timing qualifying standards for next week's IHSA Class 3A boys state meet at Eastern Illinois in Charleston. The top two athletes in each event advance regardless of time.
"Yeah, it'll be nice running on the same track, because that's where I did my best so far this season," Decker said. "So just hope for the best."
Then, after that, potentially hope some more.
"He should get down [to state], and then it's a crapshoot," Saints coach Chris Bosworth said. "It's insane this year in the 110s. You look, and if you can't break 15 [seconds], you don't stand a shot to get in [finals]. So he's going to have to qualify, and then he's going to have to PR like crazy."
No worries there, as competition fuels Decker, anyway. One likely hurdling mate is Batavia junior Peyton Piron, who won the 300s at conference and placed sixth in the 110s.
Decker keeps a casual rapport with Piron and other conference athletes, saying hello on the infield and in the blocks.
Once the starting gun sounds, though, Decker is off with tunnel vision, ideally with only the finish line in his front view.
"It's more being aggressive, I've found, Decker said. "You can not be timid when you're going after this race. In both hurdles races, you've just got to go after the first hurdle and just glide on through the rest."
Saints senior middle distance runner Charles Hearn has seen Decker and the rest of his teammates handle the beginning of the state series stretch run admirably.
"When it gets to the end, it kind of gets to crunch time, and it seems to run out of time really fast," Hearn said. "But also, each meet adds momentum to our season."
In addition to Decker, Bosworth feels East is in strong position to qualify at least three relays as well as a handful of individual entries.
"I'm just going to get the bus there," Bosworth said. "It's on them. They know what to do. They know what to expect. It's been our goal all season is to get these times in, get these relays in."
Now it's time to compete. And be aggressive.