The Gene Shipley Invitational may be an event where all levels of competitors on teams get a chance to win while teams work in their depth, but it was plenty clear a number of teams and individuals had their “A” games on Saturday at Browning Field.

With even the 93-year-old master for whom the meet is named attending for the first hour on a sunny day, plenty of local athletes rose to the occasion, utilizing some of the first good weather of the season for outstanding performances.

Western Big Six favorite United Township showed why, winning the Shipley boys event with 306 points, 35.5 ahead of Machesney Park Harlem which totaled 270.5. Moline took third, Rock Island fifth and Alleman seventh in the eight-team field.

Winning two events each in the A division were Rock Island’s Courtney Lindsey in the 100 and 200 and Casey Commodore in the 400 and long jump plus Alleman’s Spencer Smith in the 1,600 and 3,200 runs.

But the day belonged to the Panthers, who filled the stat sheet with plenty of placers plus A champions Eddie Sierra-Lee in the pole vault, Jean-Luc Soglohun in the triple jump, and the 400 and 800 relay teams plus B champs Anton Ranson in the triple jump, Devin Dobbels in the 800, Sawyer Swearingen in the 1,600, Travis Griffith in the 200. James Wright in the 1,600 and Henoc Houedou in the triple jump won C events.

“It’s a great litmus test for where we are at this point in the season,” said United Township coach Evan Holschbach. “We are competing well. That’s the main thing we want to see. Is the effort there? Because the fitness is still a few months away. It’s one of the rare warm days we’ve had so far this spring. It’s nice to see what potential we do have, though.”

He was especially pleased with his 400 relay team of Jacob Bodeen, Soglohun, Travis Griffith, Damariye Carpenter which ran a 43.212.

“That’s the fastest time we have run in five years,” he said. "The 4x200 (Bodeen, Griffith, Ranson, Carpenter with a 1:31) that’s the second fastest we have run in five years. Really nice. State qualifying by (Sierra-Lee) in the pole vault and Jean-Luc (Soglohun) in the triple jump, and some really great races.

“Some great efforts is what we saw today,” he summarized.

He especially liked the work of pole vaulter Sierra-Lee, who has transitioned well from the diving board, where he went to state, to the pole vault, where he surpassed a state qualifying height, reaching 13-7.

“The weather was good,” Sierra-Lee said. “I had my whole team pushing me. So many pieces finally coming together. I just barely missed 14-foot.

“This is my first outdoor meet, my second meet of the year. Hitting it this early makes me wonder what I am capable of this season.

“I am ready to break through barriers and get to the next level.”

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