Most people call them UT. But after Friday night’s performance at the Western Big Six boys track and field meet at Browning Field, maybe United Township should change its initials to UD.
As in Utterly Dominant.
The Panthers were certainly that Friday, cruising seemingly from the moment they got off the bus all the way through their victory lap on the Gene Shipley Track.
The win was UT's fourth straight conference title and ninth in 10 years.
The Panthers won seven of the 18 events, getting double victories from Jean-Luc Soglohun in the long and triple jumps and Dalton Martin in the 1,600 and 3,200. Their final point total was 172, well ahead of second place Moline’s 124.
Panthers coach Evan Holschbach expects top performances from his field events, which start a good 90 minutes before the running finals. But even he got more than expected.
“It’s sort of their job to set the tone for the meet,” he said. “The high jump was really the first one where they popped.
Junior Logan Francis finished first with a jump of 6 feet, 5 inches, and Justin Griser took second at 6-3, both state-qualifying marks.
"Those would be like second and third at our sectional," Holschbach said. "That was really exciting to start with."
UT also performed admirably in the throws after not scoring any points there a year ago. Xavier Wickersham was third in the shot put and fifth in the discus.
Add wins in the 3,200 relay and from Eddie Sierra-Lee in the pole vault, and UT was rolling.
Soglohun winning twice was no surprise, having placed in both jumps at state a year ago. He was especially pleased with his triple jump Friday of 47-04.50.
“Long jump didn’t go as well as I expected but I still stuck with it and got on the board and won the long jump (21-04.75),” he said. “Triple jump my first jump wasn’t the best because I was a little bit sore. After that I started getting some warm-ups in and started to feel a lot warmer and then the rest of my jumps, everything just followed. I was using my hands. My phases were on time and they carried me out.”
Soglohun was far more excited about the team win.
“It feels great,” he said. “You could put people in spots where we need them and they will still score enough points. It’s not even about getting first every time, it’s about those points behind (first). The points add up and at the end of the day we take that trophy home.”
Just as impressive was Martin winning the difficult double of the 1,600 and 3,200.
“It’s pretty tough saying you are going to go win the two-mile, which is a hard race and it was a lot warmer than it’s been (most of the season), so that was a little bit challenging,” he said. “And then to come back in the mile and do it again. It felt pretty good, but it was really hard to do it.”
He, too, was equally pleased with the team title.
“To be a part of it, that means the world to me,” he said. “Knowing that I am going to contribute these points to the team to help us win the title. Whenever we are able to win as a team, it means so much more than just being able to say ‘I won.’”
Moline coach Tauwon Taylor was not surprised by the Panthers' performance.
He did not let that get in the way of his Maroons’ accomplishment, though.
Moline’s second-place finish was the highest the Maroons have gotten in the Big Six in more than a decade. The Maroons got titles from Jon Moore in the 300 hurdles and closed the night by winning the 1,600 relay.
“We had several guys perform well today,” he said, citing Moore, Armani Atwater (third in the 200), the 800 relay (third), the 1,600 relay (first) and Davon Ellis-Hare in the shot put (second) and discus (fourth).
Rock Island took third, but got first-place finishes from Javontae Rush in the shot put, its 400 and 800 relays and its expected double win by sprinter Courtney Lindsey in the 100 and 200.
Alleman took fifth, led by Nathan Graves’ first-place finish in the discus.