Excellence in action

By on June 5, 2014
Photo by Marshall Farthing

Boys track captures 2nd place in Class 2A State meet; boasts Barnes, Dyer as champs

CHARLESTON, Ill.—It was a group of athletes that rose to the occasion all season long.

One could probably say that about any incarnation of Kaneland boys track, but KHS resembled that remark with a vengeance in 2014.

With 84 team points and 12 finalists, the Knights were just six points behind Cahokia for the Class 2A State Title at O’Brien Stadium in Charleston, Ill., on Saturday. Cahokia won its fourth-straight title by outlasting KHS in the 4×400 m relay.

It marks their highest finish since a second-place, 53-point finish in 2010. KHS finished 16th in 2011, 11th in 2012 and sixth a year ago.

Kaneland also emerged from the Burlington Central Sectional as meet champs with 183 team points.

Burlington Central (38), Carbondale (34) and Chicago’s Dunbar (33) rounded out the top five. Conference rival Sycamore (26), Galesburg (25), Dixon (23), Dunlap (22) and Glenbard South (22) filled in the top 10.

The Knights were also able to boast two individual first-time State champs, with Ben Barnes leaping to the long jump crown with a finals effort of 23 feet, 5 inches. Teammate Nate Dyer heaved his way to the shot put honor at 58-05.25 in the finals.

“They both kept pushing themselves,” KHS coach Eric Baron said. “They both had personal bests on a day when it meant the most. Ben had nothing to lose after his first five jumps and brought more speed into his jump than ever before. Nate had been very consistent in the shot all season. That consistent effort put him in the lead and he then could go even harder with out fear of scratches. It paid off with a huge PR. They both put themselves in a position where they had done what we needed for our team first and then pushed themselves to achieve more.”

More All-State honors came down the pike for KHS, with Dylan Kuipers taking fourth with a 14-09 in the pole vault. Alex Snyder captured fifth in the shot put in 54-5.5, while Dyer came back for a seventh in the discus at 152-04.

Barnes made it to the finals with a 22-2.75 jump on Friday, which was third overall in his heat and trumped Cahokia’s Jamari Ward by 6.5 inches in the final. The junior finished second at the sectional with a 21-09.

The junior was still in awe of the weekend’s events.

“It hasn’t really sunk in, I don’t know if it ever will,” Barnes said.

Barnes went in with something to prove against the 2A field.

“Jamari was the top jumper in the nation and was expected to win,” Barnes said. “I had something to prove and had a third in the prelims. Once he got hurt after his first jump, Baron and I knew I had an opportunity.”

By definition one of the best long jumpers in Illinois already, Barnes went for the prize once the field sorted itself out.

“I knew coming in that I had been doing really well and had made it to State, and I decided to give it everything I had on my last jump and got a PR,” Barnes said.

Barnes will get a chance to defend his 2A crown next year, after attending track camps in Arkansas and at Stanford.

Dyer made it to the shot finals with a 56-09, better by 1-4.5 feet over heat rival Trevor Fox of Dunlap. The senior won sectionals with a 56-02 in the final.

The 4x800m relay finished second at 7:49.33 thanks to the efforts of Austin Kintz, Luis Acosta, Kyle Carter and Nathaniel Kucera.

Kaneland had a double shot in the 110m high hurdles with Brock Robertson finishing sixth at 15.15, followed by Dylan Nauert in seventh at 15.16.

The 4x200m relay had a third-place day with Barnes, Brandon Bishop, Isaac Swithers and Nauert finishing in 1:29.00.

Kucera secured a sixth in the 400m dash by sprinting to a 50.00. Nauert (38.22) and Robertson (39.27) took third and fourth in the 300m intermediate hurdles.

KHS had Robertson, Bishop, Carter and Kucera take second in the 4x400m with a time of 3:18.46, just .80 off the Cahokia pace, and 1.46 ahead of the Burlington Central foursome.

Other finalists included Dan Evers with a ninth in the pole vault at 13-03. The 4x100m relay of Bishop, Brandon Cruz, Nauert and Swithers found themselves disqualified in the finals.

KHS also had a preliminary presence with State qualifier Dalvell Triplett, who jumped a 41-03.5 in the triple jump prelims.

After a successful weekend, the ability to reach for great heights is coming as less and less of a surprise.

“I believe our Kaneland track program is self-sustaining,” Baron said. “I believe we reload each season. We will lose a tremendous class of seniors. We return a great team that will build on the experience that they gained this season. We have built a program that has freshman and sophomores train side by side with seniors. We will pull a talented eighth-grade group into our program. We may not score 84 points, but I guarantee we will have a team that won’t give up.”