Back to back 88 Degree Days? Check
Top competition in Illinois? Check
Memories made and bonds forged? CHECK!
It was an exciting and memorable weekend for the Boys Track Team at Eastern Illinois Illinois University for the State Track and Field Finals. The State team of Austin Adams, Daniel Occhipinti, Nate Bermes, Colton Doll, Drew Hahn, Chris Angelotti, Noah Butzman, Max Gagne, Ted Allen, Ben Durbala, Alex Dhom, Cole McMillan, Kyle Angelotti, Porter Conroy, Corey Phillips, and Brandon Roberts departed Thursday from Kaneland on the same mission we go on for every meet: PR, outplace our seed, and let the chips fall as they may.
State Track works with a preliminary round on Friday followed by Finals on Saturday. In the sprint events (100, 200, 400, HH, IH, 4×1, 4×2, 4×4) you must finish in the top 9 during prelims in order to qualify for Finals. In field events and distance (800, 1600, 4×800, LJ, TJ, SP, DT,) you must finish in the top 12 of prelims to qualify for finals. PV and HJ are slightly different in that they could take the top 10 to finals or sometimes as many as 18, depending on how many make certain heights.
Juniors Nate Bermes, Austin Adams, and Daniel Occhipinti all survived on Friday and competed in their first state finals on Saturday.
Nate Bermes started it off for the Knights as 1 of 12 vaulters in the Finals. Nate struggled early with some technical issues on his take-off, but was able to right the ship and cleared his opening height of 13’0. He then made 13’6 and 14’0. Nate gave 14’6 3 great attempts, all with the hip height to clear the bar, but just couldn’t quite get that pop up top to finish clearing the crossbar. He finished 11th overall off of misses. Nate came into the year with a PR of 12’6″. He now ends his junior year as having cleared 14′ three times in a row in the 3 biggest meets (Sectionals, Prelims, Finals) and will be an absolute blast to watch compete next year as a senior. Volunteer Pole Vault Coach and KPV alum Dylan Laux was instrumental in Nate’s development this year. They forged a bond that can never be broken and it was so special to watch my former athlete coach my current athlete. Dylan will be attending medical school at Kansas State after the summer. I always knew he was destined for great things and it was extra special to share these 3 months with him, coaching the sport we love to kids we love. We wish you the best of luck Dylan and the mark you’ve left on myself, Nate, and our whole program will always be there. We love you man!
Austin Adams started in our program as a sprinter freshman year (He’ll tell you he was really fast, but really he was… okay). After a lot of planning by Coach Sterkel, Coach Clarey, and myself, and a LOT of convincing of Austin, we converted Austin to mid-distance, seeing a world of potential in him that we needed him to see in himself. Austin ran Cross Country for the first time this Fall and had a highly successful season. The base mileage he gained and the training he did all winter paid off ten-fold on Saturday. Austin toed the line on Saturday afternoon with his pinstripe shorts and white headband. The gun went off and Austin got out to a great start, sitting in 2nd place after the first 100m. Austin stayed in 2nd through the first lap as the pack came through in 56/57 seconds, exactly where Austin needed to be. It was a highly tactical race as no one went out and took the lead right away. Austin trusted his instincts, didn’t panic, believed in himself, and stayed right up front. With 300m to go, the moves started being made as 4 athletes started surging on the backstretch to the front. Sensing the movement, Austin changed gears and stayed 1/2 a step in front of the surge group, not allowing himself to get boxed in on the curve. With 150m to go, Austin was sitting in 4th place with the chase pack kicking hard behind him. On the homestretch in front of thousands of screaming fans, Austin maintained his “pristine” knee drive and kicked it all the way in to take 4th place in 1:56.48 and the 5th fastest time in school history! Only 1 second separated 3rd place from 8th place. Austin ran one of the gutsiest races I’d ever seen and earned that All-State medal and his picture up on the Wall of Fame. You can shoot dance the rest of the week now Austin!
Our final competitor was Daniel Occhipinti in the 1600. Running back to back 1600s two days in a row in 88 degree temperature can take a huge toll on you physically and mentally. Daniel had 1 thing on his mind though, FINISH TOP 9 AND GET ALL STATE! The gun went off and it was a slow race with the whole pack coming through in 2:13-2:14, Daniel sat in the 8th position. With 750m to go, the leader took off and a group of 5 gave chase. Daniel was now in 9th, but hanging on to the chase pack. As the pack continued around the Track, Daniel maintained his position, now allowing anyone to pass him. With 200m to go, the race turned into an all out kick! Daniel was about 10 meters behind 8th place, but also 10 meters in front of 10th place. If he stayed in that spot, he would finish as an All State Miler! The 10th place runner started to move up on Daniel with 100m to go, but Daniel put his head down and dug deep to kick it in, giving it everything he had to earn that All-State medal. Daniel finished in 9th place and proved to himself that he has what it takes to compete with the State’s best. Daniel finishes as only the 3rd Knight to earn All-State in the 1600 and the 1st Knight to earn it in the highest classification!
Overall, I’d give our state weekend a 14/10. I’m burned to a crisp, slept in a bunk bed, experienced the erratic temperature changes of a dorm shower, heard the Boys sing Old Town Road WAYYYYYYYY to many times to ever hear it again, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!
This team made the 4 months of Track season feel like it was 2 weeks. I will cherish every PR, every celebration, every failure, every learning experience, and every moment of triumph we had this season. This team took on every challenge given to them, outplaced their seed in every meet, won Conference again by 59 points, qualified the largest contingent of Knights to the State meet in the largest classification.
Awards night is this Thursday, May 30th at 5:30 in the Auditorium. All athletes, families, fans and supporters are invited to attend a complete celebration of the largest team in Kaneland History! OGT!