The competition was as stiff as the wind at Thursday's Moline Class 3A sectional track and field meet at Browning Field.
Just seven individuals from the Quad-Cities qualified in eight events for the Illinois state boys meet next weekend in Charleston. No relay teams qualified. And only one local athlete qualified in two events — Rock Island sprinter Courtney Lindsey in the 100 and 200.
United Township led the way locally with four qualifiers. Rock Island qualified in three events and Moline one.
“This sectional has been, I think most people would agree, the toughest sectional in the whole state,” said Rock Island coach Ed Lillis, who qualified Casey Commodore in the long jump in addition to Lindsey. “There’s been so many times when six from the 4 x 100 relay or the 100-meter dash (from this sectional) are all in the state finals together,” Lillis added. “The competition is really great.”
Former state power East St. Louis Senior was only good enough to get a distant second place (78 points) to Edwardsville, which totaled 125. The Tigers were led by Iowa football recruit AJ Epenesa, who, as expected, won both the shot put and discus.
The lone local winner from the Quad-Cities contingent was United Township junior Dalton Martin, who won the 3,200.
“The 3,200 was so exciting,” Martin said. “Fun, hard, windy — I loved every bit of it. Every meter I had to fight for it. Coming down the home stretch I was fighting as hard as I could. It kind of came down to that kick, just like last week at conference.”
Panthers coach Evan Holschbach said he wasn’t disappointed, even though the 3,200 was one of the few events the Big Six champion Panthers could say was "just like last week."
“Any time you can get four kids down to state, it’s a good day,” Holschbach said. “We’ve had a streak where it’s 51 straight years where we’ve had a state qualifier, so it’s great to keep that alive. This meet is tremendous. We knew going into it, in addition to our total efforts, we were also going to have to have a little luck. And the swirling wind, that took that luck away.
“It hurt the (400) and (800 relays) pretty substantially. It hurt our approaches, so various jumps got thrown off a little bit. Great efforts by the kids. We still ended up having a lot of top-six finishes, so in this sort of field with 17 of the best teams in the state, that’s awesome.”
The Panthers got a second place from Jean-Luc Soglohun in the triple jump but he missed qualifying in the long jump by an inch.
He then met the state-qualifying standard on his first jump in the triple jump and bettered it in the finals, finishing second with a 46-10.50.
“At first, I was pretty mad,” Soglohun said of not qualifying in the long jump, even though he went 22-feet even. “After that, I didn’t really care about it. I knew the triple jump was my main event and something that I had to go in so I put my all into that.”
The Rocks' Commodore took second in the long jump with a leap of 22-1.5 to qualify for state for the first time in the event.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “My sophomore year I could have gotten it, but I lost getting second place. Last year, I got third. This year I knew I had to go out and get it.”
Lindsey also made it for the Rocks, coming from a ways back with a strong run down the stretch in the 200 to beat state-qualifying time and get third.
“A little bit of clumsiness coming out of the blocks,” said Lindsey, who finished second in the 100. “I picked it up and finished strong. The most important thing is to finish strong.”
UT also qualified Xavier Wickersham in the discus with a toss of 158-10, beating the qualifying mark by over a foot, and Logan Francis, who cleared 6-5 in the high jump to take second and beat the qualifying mark of 6-3.
Moline’s lone qualifier was Jon Moore in the high jump. He cleared 6-3 to take fourth.
“He’s had a very good year,” said Moline coach Tauwon Taylor. “He was on today. Our sectional is very tough.”